Bloemfontein - The University of the Free State has started a discussion on reviewing its language policy, after students suggested that English replace Afrikaans as the language of instruction.
Netwerk24 reported on Thursday that most students felt that teaching in both Afrikaans and English entailed too many disadvantages for both students and lecturers.
Vice chancellor and rector Professor Jonathan Jansen said in his weekly letter to staff that it was clear to him that the current language policy was a problem for most staff and students.
He said his position is that Afrikaans is a precious language and is constitutionally recognised. Jansen added that it is historically inaccurate that Afrikaans is a language of white people, as many black people helped shape the language and still speak it.
Proposals for a single medium teaching language were submitted at a meeting on April 28. There were three main points:
- Having separate classes in English and Afrikaans led to separation of races, as most black students went to classes in English and Afrikaans classes were mostly attended by white students, which is contrary to the university's integration policy;
- The suspicion that students in Afrikaans classes benefit as only the essential information is translated into Afrikaans;
- The repetition of classes in English and Afrikaans doubles the workload of lecturers, who could spend time on research and other academic duties.
Solutions presented at the meeting included having classes taught in English, with simultaneous interpretation into Afrikaans and Sesotho.
Jansen said in his letter it was important that the views of all stakeholders, including staff, students and board, be heard.
In 2013, Jansen caused a stir when he reportedly suggested that exclusively white Afrikaans schools and universities held a danger for race relations in the country. He argued at the time that English could be a language of reconciliation for South Africa, and that teaching pupils in English from their first day of school could be a major solution to the crisis in education.