Transformationists gunning for Afrikaans at Stellenbosch
FW DE KLERK FOUNDATION REACTS TO PROPOSAL FOR THE ABOLISHMENT OF AFRIKAANS AS LANGUAGE OF TUITION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF STELLENBOSCH'S TYGERBERG CAMPUS
A recent report of the University of Stellenbosch's (US) faculty of Health Sciences proposes that English should become the language of tuition at the US' Tygerberg Campus, as well as the Tygerberg Hospital (see Rapport report).
The report repeatedly singles Afrikaans out as an obstacle to transformation and diversity and goes as far as alleging that should change, in other words changing the faculty to English language one, not take place "the University may fail to attract students with progressive mind-sets and student intake will be limited to those that are more attached to past realities of South African society". Ms Dianna Yach, executive assistant for transformation to the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Jimmy Volmink, compiled the report.
The report comes as one of the latest developments in the continuing language debate at the US. It follows shortly after the university's Convocation overwhelmingly accepted a motion in October last year instructing the Rector and his management team to investigate the situation regarding the proven decline of Afrikaans as academic language at undergraduate level at the US.
According to Ms Yach, the aim of the study was "to determine whether the Faculty of Health Sciences is an inclusive and welcoming environment for students and staff where they can develop their full potential and thus help to promote the optimal health of diverse communities". Ms Yach further stated, "The Faculty of Health Sciences will strive towards recruiting students and staff, and nurturing and employing them, so that the diverse nature of the South African society is reflected.
The faculty also wants to promote an inclusive environment where all can study, do research and work without having to be exposed to discrimination, whether it be obvious or disguised". She confirmed that that the study was testimony based, presenting a qualitative rather than quantitative based study, and that it did not represent scientific research. Professor Volmink also reacted by saying that the study was not a policy document and was not intended as a research report.
The FW de Klerk Foundation takes note of Ms Yach's report and regards the opinions and statements contained in it not only as unfounded, but insensitive - especially in light of the following:
- Ms Yach admits that her study is qualitative rather than quantitative and that it is not scientifically based;
- Ms Yach's proposal is irreconcilable with the US's current language policy which aims at a 60% Afrikaans offering;
- The report creates the offensive impression that students who want to study in Afrikaans are "narrow-minded" and "long for the previous realities of South Africa (apartheid)" - in reality most of these students were born after the demise of apartheid;
- Ms Yach is apparently not interested in creating "a welcoming and inclusive environment" for the province's mainly coloured and white Afrikaans speaking majority;
- It is not clear how the "optimal health of diverse communities" can be promoted by denying them their language rights and imposing a single language on them;
- According to the report the faculty aims to "reflect the diversity of the South African society", but apparently not the diversity of its languages;
- How can the report's aim to "promote an inclusive environment" where nobody is subjected to "discrimination, whether it be obvious or disguised" be reconciled with the proposed obvious discrimination against Afrikaans speaking students?
- The fact that a majority of participants in this report indicated that "they would like the faculty leadership to clarify and reinforce that the faculty is a multilingual environment encouraging the use of Afrikaans, English and Xhosa" and not only English.
The allegations that Afrikaans is an obstacle to transformation and diversity and that Afrikaans causes obvious or disguised discrimination, are unfounded. It is in fact an inclusive language spoken not only by white South Africans, but also by a great many black, coloured and Indian communities.
To further use arguments for the use of English to achieve better service delivery and communication in the context of hospitals, and between doctors and their patients, and doctors and their medical colleagues, is unfair and nothing but a smokescreen. The report focuses on changing the faculty to English and thus ignores the rights and needs of patients in the Western Cape who want to receive medical services in Afrikaans. Furthermore, Ms Latricia Pienaar, spokesperson for the Tygerberg Hospital, confirms in this regard that, whatever the language policies of the US may be, it would not affect work at the hospital, as there are interpreters to address any language problem.
Should the demand to change to English - as espoused by Ms Yach - be implemented, the faculty will fail in its goal to help promote optimal health in diverse communities. Also, to change the faculty to English and do away with Afrikaans is not only discriminatory towards those who are Afrikaans speaking, but goes against the multilingual and multicultural spirit of our Constitution. It also goes against the express wishes of individuals within the faculty for a multilingual environment that is not exclusively English, but where the use of also Afrikaans and Xhosa is encouraged.
Statement issued by Adv. Jacques du Preez, FW de Klerk Foundation, Cape Town, April 3 2012
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