Students protest in Stellenbosch over language

By Drum Digital
28 July 2015

"University management has ignored our calls for the transformation of the language policy..."

A protest broke in a lecture hall at the University of Stellenbosch on Monday morning. The protest is said to have emanated from the university's language policy.

According to a video sent to News24 by a student, the protest was led by the Open Stellenbosch movement.

Stellenbosch University rector and vice chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers is reported to have slammed the protest.

“Since my inauguration in April I have confirmed the right of students to protest on more than one occasion, but provided that they comply with the processes and procedures applicable to all university entities,” said De Villiers.

“Students do not, however, have the right to disrupt any academic activities, infringe on the rights of other students to study or disrupt administrative processes.”

The university is reported to have earlier this month announced it would focus on the “consistent and possible accelerated implementation” of its approved Language Policy and Language Plan.

This “evolutionary process” would include monitoring and corrective measures, and give appropriate attention to the needs of students who maintain that language implementation processes adversely affect their academic performance, the report continued.

In the video, students are seen leaving a third year political science lecture hall at the university's Arts and Social Sciences Building shortly after 09:00 on Monday morning. A handful started chanting.

De Villiers confirmed a sit-in also took place in one of the university’s administrative buildings.

An Office for Transformation is in the process of being established, and a Transformation Committee has been constituted.

On their Facebook page, hours after the protest, Open Stellenbosch called for an end to the t-option - where lessons are given in both English and Afrikaans.

“University management has ignored our calls for the transformation of the language policy, which should cater for the needs of all students at this institution. How are we supposed to get the degrees we are paying for if we don't understand what is being taught?”

De Villiers said the students had no need to resort to mass action.

“Our management team is eager to engage with the student community at round-table discussions.

“I have extended numerous invitations to our students. At the beginning of this semester, various student groups received invitations to such a round-table discussion in August, and we envisage this as the beginning of a regular discussion forum.”

Source: New24

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