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Stellies ‘unlikely’ to change language policy next year

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It is unlikely that the language of tuition at Stellenbosch University 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,” the executive committee of the university’s council said in a statement.

“This includes wide consultation with all stakeholders with the resultant consolidated document presented to the IF [Institutional Forum] and Senate (via various faculty boards) for their respective inputs.”

The final document would be presented to the council for discussion, alteration or ratification.

Last week the rector’s management team submitted a proposal for the University of Stellenbosch’s new language policy.

It suggested that all learning at the institution be done in English.

The university’s Exco on Monday reiterated that the current management’s document represented a perspective that was based on “their experience of events and consultation with student bodies”.

It said it was a discussion document and not a policy statement.

There were mixed reactions to the proposal.

The Democratic Alliance said it had some concerns about the proposed language policy.

“The change would see English made the primary language of instruction, and this appears to be in contravention of the constitutional principle that every person has the right to be taught in the official language of their choice, where reasonably practicable,” DA MP Belinda Bozzoli said in a statement.

“The constitutional rights of Afrikaans-speaking students, therefore, need to be upheld while those of other students of different backgrounds are also met. That is what inclusiveness means in a multicultural society.”

The DA was also concerned about the consultation process, claiming that it was narrow and may not have taken all views into consideration.

Bozzoli said the party noted that the SA Students Congress was consulted but the Democratic Alliance Student organisation was not.

“Students and academic staff with a wide variety of opinions surely need to be consulted, including many whose views may not accord with those of any political party or movement,” she said.

The African National Congress welcomed the proposal while the Freedom Front Plus called it “short-sighted”.

The office of the ANC Chief Whip said the proposed language policy change was a step in the right direction.

“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].”

FF Plus leader Pieter Mulder said Afrikaans was the majority language in the Western Cape where the university was based.

“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. News24

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