No cam­pus is an is­land

Ef­forts to change the lan­guage pol­icy of the last re­main­ing pre­dom­i­nantly Afrikaans cam­pus is proof of a racist con­tempt for Afrikan­ers, writes Kal­lie Kriel It is sur­pris­ing that in to­day’s SA, there is still such op­po­si­tion from mi­nor­ity groups to breaki

CityPress - - Voices - Kriel is CEO of Afrifo­rum Nk­wanyana is the spokesper­son for the min­is­ter of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing

The rain­bow na­tion is dead. Fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing, it has been smoth­ered by the ANC’s pol­icy of “trans­for­ma­tion” – which calls for the com­po­si­tion of all in­sti­tu­tions to be “rep­re­sen­ta­tive” of the coun­try’s racial de­mo­graph­ics. This pol­icy de­stroys the di­ver­sity in the coun­try to which the rain­bow metaphor refers.

You do not have to be a math­e­ma­ti­cian to re­alise that “trans­for­ma­tion” will re­sult in all in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try be­ing pre­dom­i­nantly black, with English as the lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This is ex­actly what Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande wants to hap­pen to the Potchef­stroom cam­pus at North­West Univer­sity.

De­spite this, the ANC has suc­ceeded over the past 20 years in es­tab­lish­ing the pol­icy of ‘trans­for­ma­tion’. No­body dares take an open stand against it, de­spite the fact that the word ap­pears nowhere in the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tion.

The strat­egy for si­lenc­ing po­ten­tial op­po­nents of this pol­icy is sim­ple: Ac­cuse them falsely of racism, say that they os­ten­si­bly do not want to pro­mote di­ver­sity and also do not care for poor, black peo­ple. How­ever, the op­po­site is true. Sup­port­ers of this pol­icy use the term “trans­for­ma­tion” as a con­ve­nient cover be­hind which they live out their racist con­tempt of mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties like Afrikan­ers, and through which a small, elite group prof­its at the ex­pense of the poor masses.

The ad­vo­cates of the “trans­for­ma­tion” of the Potchef­stroom cam­pus still use the ar­gu­ment that the in­clu­sion of English as the lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion on this cam­pus will not harm Afrikaans and will pro­mote di­ver­sity on the cam­pus. This while the in­sis­tence on “trans­form­ing” the Potchef­stroom cam­pus shows no his­tor­i­cal aware­ness of the de­struc­tive ef­fect this pol­icy has had on Afrikaans as a lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion at uni­ver­si­ties and other in­sti­tu­tions over the past 20 years. At the for­mer Rand Afrikaans Univer­sity, which was es­tab­lished in part with funds raised by the Afrikaans com­mu­nity, the “trans­for­ma­tion process” started in the same way as that which is now be­ing pro­posed at the Potchef­stroom cam­pus, namely that English should be in­tro­duced as a full sec­ond lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion to pro­mote ac­cess and di­ver­sity. To­day, the re­sult is ob­vi­ous: a pre­dom­i­nantly black cam­pus with English as the lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The same process is be­ing car­ried out at the other for­mer Afrikaans uni­ver­si­ties.

In a coun­try where 37 of the 38 univer­sity cam­puses mostly use English as a lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and only one cam­pus is still pri­mar­ily Afrikaans, it is dif­fi­cult to ac­cept that the cre­ation of op­por­tu­ni­ties and ac­cess for stu­dents who pre­fer English as a medium of in­struc­tion is the true mo­tive for the in­sis­tence that the Potchef­stroom cam­pus’ lan­guage pol­icy be changed. Tar­get­ing the last Afrikaans cam­pus is proof of a racist con­tempt for Afrikan­ers.

While the po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gists cal­cu­late what the racial com­po­si­tion of in­sti­tu­tions and sports teams should be, they for­get that peo­ple are in­volved, rather than cold sta­tis­tics. The com­plaints AfriFo­rum has re­ceived from many par­ents of “born-frees” who are left out of provin­cial school sports teams be­cause of their skin colour cre­ate a sad pic­ture of young peo­ple whose dreams are de­stroyed un­der the pre­text of “trans­for­ma­tion”.

Sup­port­ers of “trans­for­ma­tion” are quick to ar­gue that Afrikan­ers are thriv­ing eco­nom­i­cally, and that there is noth­ing to com­plain about. This type of ar­gu­ment does not take into ac­count that pros­per­ity in­volves much more than eco­nomic po­si­tion, and that Afrikan­ers still per­form well eco­nom­i­cally be­cause of in­ven­tive­ness – in spite of the ob­sta­cles that “trans­for­ma­tion” throws their way. How­ever, money can­not buy resti­tu­tion for a child whose dig­nity and dreams of the fu­ture have been im­paired by their skin colour.

By op­pos­ing the ANC’s “trans­for­ma­tion” pol­icy, we can help to build a so­ci­ety that works to com­bat poverty and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties with­out de­stroy­ing di­ver­sity.

In his bud­get vote speech two weeks ago, Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande said that “racist or ex­clu­sion­ary prac­tices have of­ten been de­fended on the ba­sis of tra­di­tion and cul­ture. While they may have been ac­cept­able un­der apartheid, I want to em­pha­sise that we no longer have Afrikaans or Zulu or Tswana uni­ver­si­ties. All our uni­ver­si­ties are South African uni­ver­si­ties and must serve all the peo­ple of this coun­try. No univer­sity can be com­pla­cent in this re­gard as dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices take many forms, in­clud­ing some that are quite sub­tle but harm­ful just the same.” It is sur­pris­ing and very dis­ap­point­ing that some have found this state­ment of­fen­sive and seen it as a death knell for Afrikaans at South African uni­ver­si­ties.

It is more dis­ap­point­ing to see the youth, the fu­ture of our coun­try, who may have no ex­pe­ri­ence of our racially di­vided past, chal­leng­ing the trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme of our higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. The Ed­u­ca­tion White Pa­per 3: A Pro­gramme for Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Trans­for­ma­tion pro­vides clear guid­ance on how lan­guage pol­icy should be dealt with in the higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor and there should be no di­ver­sion from its pre­scripts. In line with the Con­sti­tu­tion, it states that “mul­ti­lin­gual­ism is a prime ob­jec­tive of na­tional lan­guage pol­icy” and higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions are ex­pected to have their lan­guage poli­cies in line with this ob­jec­tive. The de­part­ment sup­ports the sec­tor, for ex­am­ple, through fa­cil­i­tat­ing na­tional ini­tia­tives to de­velop aca­demic ter­mi­nol­ogy in all of­fi­cial lan­guages and the com­pe­tency of aca­demic staff and stu­dents to work ef­fec­tively in mul­ti­lin­gual en­vi­ron­ments.

Afrikaans is an African lan­guage that was ad­van­taged over oth­ers in apartheid South Africa. So, pro­vid­ing for other African lan­guages that were un­der­de­vel­oped is the essence of trans­for­ma­tion as far as lan­guages are con­cerned. Do­ing away with trans­for­ma­tion in re­la­tion to mul­ti­lin­gual­ism means re­vert­ing to the past and, in ef­fect, pre­serv­ing cer­tain uni­ver­si­ties for some lan­guage groups. This is un­ac­cept­able as it goes against the grain of so­cial in­clu­sion and the con­struc­tion of a rain­bow na­tion guided by our Con­sti­tu­tion.

Mak­ing uni­ver­si­ties ac­ces­si­ble to all South Africans was never meant to en­tail the elim­i­na­tion of Afrikaans in the sys­tem. In fact, the coun­cils of uni­ver­si­ties are man­dated to de­ter­mine the of­fi­cial lan­guages of their in­sti­tu­tions. They do so un­der the guid­ance of the Con­sti­tu­tion and we should not di­vert from it. This man­date al­lows a few in­sti­tu­tions to con­tinue to con­duct aca­demic ac­tiv­i­ties in Afrikaans: there is noth­ing wrong with this as long as it is un­der­taken in the con­text of the de­lib­er­ate and ef­fec­tive devel­op­ment of other lan­guages and care­ful at­ten­tion to en­sure that un­fair pref­er­ence is not given to Afrikaans over other lan­guages. No lan­guage should be used as a bar­rier to ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion.

The white pa­per clearly states that the lan­guage poli­cies of higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions should bear in mind “the fun­da­men­tal right of per­sons to re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion in the of­fi­cial lan­guage or lan­guages of their choice in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, where it is rea­son­ably prac­ti­ca­ble to do so, and the duty of the state to en­sure ef­fec­tive ac­cess to and im­ple­men­ta­tion of this right [sec­tion 29(2) of the Con­sti­tu­tion]”.

The pa­per also puts the onus on our higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions to de­velop all our of­fi­cial lan­guages, in­clud­ing sign lan­guage. This is in line with our Con­sti­tu­tion. The de­part­ment’s poli­cies and re­sourc­ing of uni­ver­si­ties has never di­verted from the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The min­is­ter has said that if we are to sus­tain the devel­op­ment of African lan­guages, there are im­por­tant lessons to be learnt from how Afrikaans was de­vel­oped to the level of it be­ing an aca­demic lan­guage. It can­not be that the lan­guage is be­ing de­stroyed by govern­ment.

Those who per­ceive this could be con­sid­ered to be ma­li­cious and out of touch with the de­vel­op­ments in the higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.



Most stu­dents at North-West Univer­sity in Potchef­stroom are op­posed to the pro­posed lan­guage re­form pol­icy

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