SU administration's war on Afrikaans continues – Leon Schreiber

DA launches petition to protect mother tongue education at the University

DA launches petition to protect mother tongue education at the University of Stellenbosch

22 March 2021

In the spirit of Human Rights Day, the Democratic Alliance (DA) today launched a petition to protect the right to mother tongue education at Stellenbosch University (SU) against persistent attacks by university management.

Support the petition here.

Each signature on this petition also indicates a person who supports the DA's comments on the March 2021 draft policy. The DA will submit the petition, the comments, together with the list of all persons who support it, directly to SU.

The university management's war against mother tongue education has become even more intense over the past few weeks, after first-year students at several residences were banned from speaking Afrikaans in their residence rooms and even on park benches on campus.

The current management, led by Rector Wim de Villiers,'s anti-Afrikaans stance was even further amplified by the university's refusal to act in defense of the students' constitutional right to mother tongue education and to speak their own language. To date, De Villiers has not uttered a single word about the violation of these students' human rights.

On Friday, the university also approved a further departure from the 2016 language policy, which completely eliminates the last bit of Afrikaans decorations in lecture halls. Any person who believes that this English-only policy will be temporary in nature are blind to the persistent attacks by the De Villiers regime on Afrikaans. This was followed yesterday by the publication of the university's new draft language policy, which further dilutes the Afrikaans offer.

Because we regard the right to mother tongue education as just as important as any other human right, the DA has already lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission (HRC). In the complaint, we also request that the HRC investigate the role of the university's 2016 language policy, as this policy has officially given Afrikaans a lesser status which apparently has contributed to the current atmosphere of discrimination against Afrikaans students.

Given the human rights violations committed against Afrikaans students under the 2016 language policy, the DA's petition insists that the language policy be reviewed with the aim of guaranteeing Afrikaans equal status besides English in all aspects of university life. We encourage every South African committed to our Constitutional order to sign this petition.

The petition will be handed over to management, and will also be accompanied by comprehensive proposed amendments to the new draft language policy. Each person signing the petition will therefore also express their support for the proposed amendments. The more people support the DA's comments, the more difficult it will be for the SU management to continue with their plans to make Afrikaans a kitchen language again.

Out of our deep commitment to the language rights and other human rights contained in our country’s Constitution, and due to our concern over the exclusion of millions of impoverished Afrikaans-speaking young people from higher education, we demand that:

1. The first draft of the new March 2021 language policy is rejected because it will result in the further exclusion of Afrikaans students. The SU must restart the review process by immediately arranging a public conference where all stakeholders and members of the public will have an opportunity to discuss the shortcomings of the 2016 language policy with the aim of creating a new policy that guarantees an equal place to Afrikaans;

2. The new language policy must create a fair language dispensation that grants absolutely equal status to Afrikaans and English as primary languages of teaching and student life in all the spaces – including online spaces – of the university;

3. If the university is concerned about the costs involved in this, the SU must commission a comprehensive and independent audit to ascertain how much it would cost to guarantee equal status to Afrikaans and English. It must make the findings of such an audit public and provide donors, the private sector and the community that opportunity to help fundraise to cover the costs;

4. SU must fully exploit the opportunities offered by modern digital communications technologies, including online “speech-to-text” technology, to facilitate accurate translation between languages;

5. Given the way in which the Afrikaans offer was dramatically reduced by the 2016 language policy, the new language policy must explicitly commit to increasing the Afrikaans offer to ensure full access for all deserving students who wish to study in Afrikaans while maintaining access for students who wish to study in English;

6. The new language policy must explicitly and concretely commit the university to providing financial and other support to learners in Afrikaans schools in disadvantaged communities, with the aim of building a pipeline of Afrikaans students from these schools and to dramatically increase the participation and pass rates of disadvantaged Afrikaans students at SU.

Issued byLeon Schreiber,DA Constituency Head: Stellenbosch, 22 March 2021