UFS may not disadvantage Afrikaans speakers - court

2016-07-21 21:02
Constitutional court. (News24)

Constitutional court. (News24)

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Bloemfontein - The University of the Free State (UFS) may not take away the right of Afrikaans speakers to be educated in their mother tongue, the Bloemfontein High Court ruled on Thursday.

The High Court ruled in favour of civil rights group AfriForum’s bid to stop a proposed change to the UFS's language policy.

"The fact that English has been introduced at the UFS, which was a historical Afrikaans university, as a language of instruction, does not mean that Afrikaans must inevitably be replaced by English as dominant language of instruction," said Judge Fouche Jordaan.

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

Jordaan said the UFS council did not consider constitutional issues involved in the decision on the new language policy.

"Had the members of both the UFS Council and Senate taken cognisance of the fact that changing the language policy of the UFS has a bearing on the Afrikaans-speaking segments of the student’s population of the UFS, the results would have been different."


In June, AfriForum told a full bench of judges that the removal of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at the University was in violation of the Constitution.

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, the 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.

The court said, 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.

The university said it would study the judgment.

Read more on:    ufs  |  afriforum  |  language

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