Organisations ready to defend UFS students' language rights

AfriForum says high court emphasised that the university has an obligation to provide multilingual education

AfriForum, AfriForum Youth and Solidarity ready to defend Kovsie students’ language rights

18 August 2016  

The legal team from AfriForum, AfriForum Youth and Solidarity is ready to defend the language rights of Afrikaans students at the University of the Free State (UFS) with any legal action that may further be required. On 21 July 2016 the high court in Bloemfontein returned a favourable verdict for the three organisations, against the University’s newly accepted language policy which marginalises Afrikaans as language of instruction at the University. University management has indicated that it would apply to oppose the verdict in both the appeal court and/or constitutional court.

According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, the high court emphasised in a very comprehensive and clear verdict that the University has an obligation to provide multilingual education and that, in addition, it is necessary and practically feasible to continue with Afrikaans education. The verdict also underlines that it is in the community’s interest that students must one day be able to deliver service in their mother tongue in their respective careers, and not just in English.

“In a time where universities stand before financial challenges and make representations for more funding on various platforms, it is tragic that resources are applied in a continuous battle to justify a violation of students’ nationally and internationally recognised language rights. This creates the impression that University management’s battle against Afrikaans has become of so much importance, that it would be carried out at any cost,” said Bailey.

According to Anton van der Bijl, head of Solidarity’s Centre for Fair Labour Practice, it is sad that the UFS – irrespective of the community’s interest, right and demands for multilingual education – continues to force its one-sided interests upon the community. “While AfriForum, AfriForum Youth and Solidarity focuses on the communal obligation of universities to develop multilingual education, the UFS focuses on terminating Afrikaans as language of instruction. This is not only contradictory to the University’s constitutional obligations, but also contradictory to the interests of every Afrikaans student who feels more comfortable with being educated in their mother tongue,” adds Van der Bijl.

Van der Bijl continued to say that the UFS’s wishes to terminate Afrikaans at the University will make an enormous impact on employees at the University, and more specifically on lecturers at the University.

Further directive from the constitutional court is awaited, to determine what the further legal processes would entail. The legal team of the three organisations is ready to accordingly continue the process of protecting the rights of students and prospective students. In the interim, preparation is taking place for an urgent application against the implementation of the 2017 policy.

Issued by Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO, AfriForum, 18 August 2016