Stellenbosch University’s decision to adopt English as its medium of instruction continued, over the weekend, to stir strong emotions from various sectors.
“We welcome this important change to the controversial language policy as a step in the right direction,” the office of the ANC Chief Whip said in a statement.
“It is important to us that such a change is happening at Stellenbosch University, which has for years been regarded as an enclave of white Afrikaner nationalism where racial discrimination, exclusionary policies and resistance to transformation [are the norm].”
This week, the university announced that all learning at the institution would soon be in English as it is the common language in the country. The rector’s management team on the university’s language policy also said in a statement that “substantial academic support” would be provided in other South African languages, according to students’ needs.
However, opposition party Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said that the proposed change in language policy at the university was “short-sighted”.
“Afrikaans 6.8 million speakers is the third largest language in South Africa after Zulu (11.5 million) and Xhosa (8.1 million),” he said in a statement. It is the majority language in the Western Cape, where the university is based.
Mulder also quoted article 29 (2) of the Constitution which states: “Everyone has the right to receive public education institutions teaching in the official language of their choice where that education is reasonably practicable”.
The Afrikanerbond organisation also lambasted the decision, saying that “Anglicisation is the easy way out” and would “takes us back to colonialism”.
Chair Jaco Schoeman said in a statement that it believed the university’s proposed change was borne out of “an effort towards extreme political correctness” that had placed Afrikaans “on the altar for personal survival”.
Meanwhile, rights organisation, Afriforum’s youth division said in a statement that it would be asking Rector Wim de Villiers to hold a meeting whereby “Afrikaans students will also be able to give input on the university’s language policy”. News24