Judgment reserved in Stellenbosch University language policy case

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Judgment has been reserved in the case brought before the Constitutional Court by civil group, Gelyke Kanse, which means “Equal opportunity,” against the University of Stellenbosch for its new language policy. Gelyke Kanse says that the language policy is unconstitutional and unfair to mother-tongue Afrikaans speakers.

The policy stipulates that English and Afrikaans will be used for undergraduate studies, interchangeably.

The group made the submission in the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg as part of its application for leave to appeal against a High Court judgment that dismissed their opposition of the University’s 2016 language document.

Jan Heunis, advocate for the Gelyke Kanse, argues that this has resulted in the diminishing of Afrikaans in favour for English.

“Then as far as first years are concerned, there’s a full offering in English. There are summaries in Afrikaans and there can be translation to Afrikaans. If the lecturer cannot speak Afrikaans, well then it will only be in English. There are a lot of bases that show that English is a full blown language of tuition at the University of Stellenbosch.”

Counsel for the university, Advocate Jeremy Muller opposed the application. He argued that the policy has ensured that black non-Afrikaans speaking students aren’t excluded from the academic programme.

“The majority of black African students could not learn effectively in Afrikaans. The live time translations were not effective and were stigmatising of black students. It had become clear that the 2014 policy discriminated against English speakers and discriminated directly against black African students.”