Open Stellenbosch reveals 'progressive' language policy proposal

2015-11-17 21:07


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Cape Town - A “progressive” language policy proposal for Stellenbosch University (SU) has been released by the Open Stellenbosch movement.

“This document is the culmination of more than two decades of struggle for more equitable language practice at SU,” the proposal reads.

“Resistance to progress has largely been driven by a conservative desire to safeguard what is today known as standard Afrikaans.

“Historically, standard Afrikaans was used, by and large, as a vehicle for the marginalisation of South Africans who did not belong to the Afrikaner ethnic minority.”

Open Stellenbosch’s proposal aims to facilitate a “breakaway from the constraints of the historical injustices perpetuated by this institution and a public image that has been characterised overwhelmingly by Afrikaner culture at the expense of inclusivity”.

The movement listed among its policy goals that English be the primary medium of instruction and that substantial learning support be provided in other official languages according to the students’ needs.

It also proposed that leaning material be made available in English and, where feasible and “reasonably practicable”, in other official languages.

Students with special learning needs should be accommodated through the use of aids such as sign language interpretation and the translation of materials into braille and sound recordings, the document reads.

Internal and external communication must be in English, Open Stellenbosch urged, and the university was further encouraged to promote multilingualism by encouraging the use of all eleven languages.

'Bureaucratic stonewalling'

Open Stellenbosch member Emile Engel said the movement believed it was possible for the university to change its language policy by the end of 2015.

“This document can still be tabled - that is possible,” Engel insisted.

But “bureaucratic stonewalling” is standing in the way of its implementation, he said.

University spokesperson Susan van der Merwe on Monday said the university’s language policy cannot be changed before the end of 2015 due to statutory directives, however, it should not be seen as an instrument to disadvantage English-speaking students. 

“This acceleration does not require changes to the current language policy, as expanding both the Afrikaans and the English offering is aligned with the policy which was approved in November 2014. Initially the objective was to have a 75% offering in both English and Afrikaans by 2020, but this year has shown that the interests of our students necessitate a drastic acceleration of improved language implementation mechanisms,” she said.

The statement issued last week by the university management team was issued as a discussion document to indicate their support for measures to improve the learning experience for students who do not have an academic literacy in Afrikaans, Van der Merwe clarified.

Read more on:    stellenbosch university  |  cape town  |  education

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