UFS may implement new language policy, Supreme Court rules

2016-11-17 20:06
The University of the Free State (Andre Damons, Netwerk24)

The University of the Free State (Andre Damons, Netwerk24)

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Bloemfontein – The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Thursday ruled in favour of the University of the Free State to implement its new language policy.  

This after the High Court in Bloemfontein in July ruled in favour of AfriForum and set aside the decision to adopt and approve the new policy.

The SCA said pending the finalisation of the main appeal ruling which is expected next year, the university is entitled to implement the new policy.

AfriForum was ordered to pay the university’s costs.

The university this year decided to make English the primary medium of instruction from 2017, while providing sufficient scope for multilingualism across the university.

The university applied to both the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal.

AfriForum ‘didn’t prove irreparable harm’  

However, in a judgment dated September 21, the Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by the university against the High Court ruling halting implementation of its proposed language policy.

But in its judgement, the Supreme Court ruled that AfriForum had not proven that any of the Afrikaans speaking students whose interests it claimed to represent would suffer irreparable harm if such an order was not made.

“AfriForum did not suggest that any actual harm would befall this small number of potential 2017 first-year Afrikaans students. In fact, AfriForum based its argument on the same premise as before, namely that the foregoing of an opportunity or right to be taught in a language of choice per se constitutes irreparable harm,” the SCA said.
“As recorded earlier, AfriForum had in any event not identified a single student intending to exercise this right in the affected faculties. Nor has any evidence been produced of the harm which may befall any student until final judgment on appeal.”

Expanded tutorial system

AfriForum had initially argued that while Afrikaans might be a barrier to black students, English was a barrier to many coloured students who had been victims of past discrimination.

A move that decreased the Afrikaans offering would negatively affect them, it argued.

The university's council said English would be the primary medium of instruction at undergraduate and postgraduate level on the three campuses in Bloemfontein and QwaQwa.

Multilingualism would be supported by an expanded tutorial system designed for first-year students.
In professional programmes, parallel-medium teaching in English, Afrikaans, Sesotho and isiZulu would continue.

These included teacher education and the training of theology students who wished to enter the ministry in traditional Afrikaans-speaking churches, where there was a clear market need.

Read more on:    ufs  |  afriforum  |  bloemfontein  |  language  |  education

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