Stellenbosch University says it values the input on its language policy after an Afrikaans lobby group, the DAK Network, marched to the institution demanding the protection of the language.
This follows allegations that Afrikaans is being sidelined in favour of English.
The DAK Network has delivered a memorandum of grievances to the management of Stellenbosch University, demanding the protection of the language. The group also wants students to be taught in their mother tongue.
Chairperson of the DAK Network, Danie van Wyk, says they want Afrikaans to be retained as medium of instruction.
“The reason for our protest today is to place focus on the importance of Afrikaans as a highly developed scientific language and we feel that this university was built for the past 100 years was built through and with Afrikaans to decide at this very late stage now to waiver with the language we fell is very much unjust and that is our main objection,” says Van Wyk.
Education student, George Jonker, says the language debate seems a difficult act to balance as some will feel left out.
“As soon as one is given an advantage over the other, it’s very difficult for the suppressed done of actually show their concern about it as I think as soon as Afrikaans is given a better chance to be given as a language of instruction at Stellenbosch, people are going to feel that they are oppressed as well from their home language,” says Jonker.
University Spokesperson, Leslie van Rooi, says a consultative process on the matter will continue until July.
“We must understand that Afrikaans as a language in our country and a language that belongs here must be read and understood in relation to other languages and other language communities. So, we hope through the engagement and public participation that indeed the Afrikaans community will take its place and engage in matters that, not only link and relate to the language, but also its place in relation to other language communities in South Africa,” says Van Rooi.
The university says a probe into allegations that students have been prevented from speaking Afrikaans in various public spaces on campus, is under way. The Human Rights Commission is also investigating the matter.
Stellenbosch University adopted a new language policy in 2016, making English its official medium of instruction in bid to ensure access to non-Afrikaans speaking students as well as promote diversity. The matter was challenged in court and the institution won.
Court rules on the official medium of instruction at Stellenbosch University: