Opin­ion mixed at news all Stel­len­bosch lec­tures avail­able in English next year

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NOLOYISO MTEMBU

MIXED re­ac­tions met the an­nounce­ment by Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity man­age­ment that all classes will be avail­able in English from as early as Jan­uary.

This in­cluded crit­i­cism the institution had “no ap­pre­ci­a­tion for and ded­i­ca­tion to­wards Afrikaans ed­u­ca­tion”.

The univer­sity has seen pro­tracted stu­dent protests over its lan­guage pol­icy since ear­lier this year and on Thurs­day night an­nounced that “since English is the com­mon lan­guage in South Africa, all learn­ing at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity will be fa­cil­i­tated in English”.

Par­al­lel- medium teach­ing ( sep­a­rate English and Afrikaans classes) for mod­ules with large en­rol­ment num­bers, as en­vi­sioned in the cur­rent lan­guage plan, would be dras­ti­cally ac­cel­er­ated next year, the univer­sity said. It ac­knowl­edged that the stu­dent and staff ac­tivist group Open Stel­len­bosch Col­lec­tive had been in­stru­men­tal in the de­ci­sion.

It fur­ther an­nounced com­mu­ni­ca­tion at stu­dent res­i­dences as well as ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing meet­ings, of­fi­cial doc­u­ments, and ser­vices at re­cep­tion desks and the call cen­tre, would be in English.

The Afrikaans ad­vo­cacy group AfriFo­rum was not im­pressed, with deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive Alana Bai­ley declar­ing the an­nounce­ment was proof of the univer­sity’s lack of com­mit­ment to the Afrikaans lan­guage.

Bai­ley ac­cused the univer­sity man­age­ment of “ex­treme ide­o­log­i­cal oblig­ing­ness, or se­ri­ous ig­no­rance”.

“In­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised best prac­tices prove that mother tongue ed­u­ca­tion is the best op­tion for stu­dents and fur­ther also sup­ports the pre­sen­ta­tion of ed­u­ca­tion in high func­tion lan­guages that are used in the vicin­ity of a ter­tiary institution,” she said.

She called on the univer­sity’s alumni, donors and “any­one feel­ing strongly about the pro­mo­tion of Afrikaans as high func­tion and ed­u­ca­tion lan­guage, must take note of man­age­ment’s point of view and ask them­selves if they can con­tinue sup­port­ing man­age­ment”.

But James de Villiers, the SRC’s head of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, coun­tered it was not a univer­sity’s job to pro­tect any lan­guage, “but rather to en­sure the best ed­u­ca­tion for its stu­dents”.

“We be­lieve this move by man­age­ment tries to achieve this. This de­ci­sion isn’t about the marginal­i­sa­tion of any group, but rather about en­sur­ing that all stu­dents are on an equal foot­ing when they ar­rive at this univer­sity.”

De Villiers said the SRC was con­cerned about the sen­ti­ments raised by mem­bers of the con­vo­ca­tion about the an­nounce­ment on the use of English.

“We trust that the coun­cil and the con­vo­ca­tion will not stand in the way of a more in­clu­sive univer­sity, and that they will re­alise the huge role the amended lan­guage pol­icy will play in achiev­ing this.

“We also en­cour­age them not to see this as an at­tack on Afrikaans, but rather as a way for­ward in terms of be­com­ing a more ac­ces­si­ble, world-class univer­sity.”

The an­nounce­ment will be on the univer­sity coun­cil’s agenda when it meets on Mon­day, Novem­ber 30.

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