Court dismisses application to overturn Stellenbosch University’s new language policy

2017-10-27 22:31
(Stellenbosch University)

(Stellenbosch University)

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Cape Town - Two Western Cape High Court judges have dismissed an application for the review and setting aside of a Stellenbosch University policy that abandons Afrikaans as a primary language of instruction.

The 2016 policy gives Afrikaans and English equal status as languages of instruction.

Organisation, Gelyk Kanse, took the application to court, along with the president of the Convocation of the Stellenbosch University and six others, arguing that the policy infringed the rights of Afrikaans-speaking students at the university.

The university, on the other hand, countered that the assumption was mistaken.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, Judge Daniel Dlodlo said: “Looking squarely at the 2016 policy, one gathers that it does not reduce the Afrikaans offering at SU. In fact, the expressly stated goal of the policy is to maintain and, if possible, increase the Afrikaans offering, subject to demand and resources.”

The policy adopts a preference for English in certain circumstances in order to advance the university’s goals of equal access, multilingualism, integration, and preserving Afrikaans, the judge pointed out.

ALSO READ: Fewer lectures offered in Afrikaans, Stellenbosch University language policy case hears

He said that the university was accused of cynically “exploiting” or “capitalising” on the bilingualism of Afrikaans students to reduce Afrikaans tuition.

“It is true that SU justifies the 2016 policy on the basis that Afrikaans students are universally bilingual whereas the majority of black (African) students are not. The reality is that Afrikaans students will suffer less harm being required to learn in English than English students will incur if they have to learn in Afrikaans. If SU did not take account of the aforegoing, it would have acted irrationally,” he said.

Judge Dloldo also referred to the argument that the policy violated students’ Constitutional rights to basic education because it excluded access to the university for those who speak Afrikaans.

Afrikaans speakers who cannot obtain Afrikaans tuition at the university will not study there and, if they cannot study in Afrikaans elsewhere, they will forego tertiary education altogether, the applicants argued.

READ: Everyone wins with new language policy – Stellenbosch University

However, Judge Dloldo said that he failed to comprehend that argument.

“The point is, in terms of the 2016 policy, first-year students can learn entirely in Afrikaans. In later years, Afrikaans is used as much as students’ needs demand, within SU’s resources,” he said.

He said that the applicants did not persuade the court that the policy was unconstitutional in any way and dismissed the application with costs.

Judge Kate Savage agreed.

Read more on:    stellenbosch university  |  cape town

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