Stellenbosch University’s council maintains that it is fully committed to supporting transformation at the institution, despite claims that it is merely pulling the wool over the eyes of its students and staff.
“I want to state unequivocally that the University council fully supports transformation at Stellenbosch University,” Council chairperson George Steyn said on Tuesday.
“As a matter of fact… we have requested management to put the necessary mechanisms in place to ensure that there would not be any exclusion based on language.”
Council had also committed to supporting management if the English offering at the university was to exceed its set target, Steyn said.
“In practice, this means that management would like to provide full support in English to students who have an insufficient command of Afrikaans, without it being to the detriment of the Afrikaans academic offering.”
On Monday, council in a statement said language should never be an obstacle for any student, pursuing studies at the university, who had no command of either Afrikaans or English.
However, it requested that the Afrikaans undergraduate academic offering be increased.
“Council confirms that its multilingual academic offering is considered a strategic asset of SU that should be expanded as a competitive advantage,” it said.
The statement was criticised by student movement Open Stellenbosch, as well as the Student Representative Council.
‘THEY HAVE KEPT STELLENBOSCH AS AN EXCLUSIONARY UNIVERSITY’
Earlier on Tuesday, the SRC expressed concern over council’s decision on the language policy, saying it provided no real solutions.
“We are afraid the motion regarding language implies no real change at the university, ultimately resulting in many students that will stay excluded on this campus,” SRC spokesperson James de Villiers said in a statement.
“We are concerned that council is not acknowledging sentiments of the staff and students that is directly affected by language implementation at this institution.”
Khule Duma, a member of Open Stellenbosch, told News24 on Monday that the reason why students had called for a complete change in the institution’s language policy was because black students were failing as a result of their struggles with Afrikaans, the university’s main language of instruction.
“The reason why we called for an end to this language policy was because it was limiting black students from partaking [in academic activities] because they could not understand what was being said in class.”
He said the fact that council had committed to sticking to the proposed language policy from November 2014, and the fact that it wanted to increase its Afrikaans classes, was a blatant rejection of any opportunities at making transformational progress.
“They have rejected that as council… and kept Stellenbosch as an exclusionary university.
“What we said from the start is we want a new language policy. The language policy at the university needs to change completely to ensure that the gains made [weren’t wasted].” News24