A group of more than 220 academics and professional support services staff at Stellenbosch University have come out in support of the proposal to have English as the primary language of instruction at the institution.
“The choice of English as the primary language of instruction with augmented support for Afrikaans and IsiXhosa is based on the principles of social justice and inclusivity,” they said in a statement.
“This decision will provide the university the opportunity to become a truly South African university that is open and accessible to all our country’s students and staff as well as from other parts of Africa and beyond.”
The statement, which bore 226 names, said there was concern about talks of backlash to the proposals.
“This backlash effectively celebrates the ‘exclusivity’ of Afrikaans and closes the door on the university’s ability to embrace different people from a wide range of cultures and language groups.
“We call on council not to stand in the way of ensuring that the university is a genuinely inclusive educational environment for all its students and staff.”
They said the decision to make English the language of meetings, documents and university business enables the institution to effectively move beyond its political past.
The rector’s management team on the university said last week that all learning at the university must be done in English.
“Since English is the common language in South Africa, all learning at Stellenbosch University will be facilitated in English, and substantial academic support will be provided in other South African languages, according to students’ needs,” it said in a statement.
It would discuss this with the university’s council on November 30, for a revised language policy.
This week the executive committee of the university’s council said it was unlikely that the language of tuition will be changed to English next year.
This is after the university’s executive committee said in a statement that the language implementation plan for next year had already been approved. It also said the minimum offering in each language would remain in place.
“Any possible future changes in the language policy/plan shall follow the statutory route,” it said in a statement.
University spokesperson Susan van der Merwe said on Monday that 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 plan has been criticised by the FF Plus and the DA. News24