Ruling regarding Unisa language policy a huge victory – AfriForum

Organisation says court judgment says uni’s language policy had not been adopted “in a constitutionally compliant manner”

Ruling in AfriForum’s case regarding Unisa language policy huge victory for Afrikaans and language rights

22 September 2021

The ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court today in favour of AfriForum in the case for the retention of Afrikaans as a primary language of instruction at the University of South Africa (Unisa), is hailed by AfriForum as a huge victory for Afrikaans, Afrikaans-speaking students and language rights in South Africa in general.

The case was heard by this court on 20 May 2021 and judgment was reserved. This followed after the Supreme Court of Appeal had ruled in favour of AfriForum on this issue with its judgment in 2020 that Unisa’s language policy had not been adopted “in a constitutionally compliant manner”.

The Constitutional Court upheld the Supreme Court of Appeal’s finding that Unisa’s current language policy, which provides only for English as the primary medium of instruction, is unconstitutional, but allowed more time for the implementation of the ruling. The full ruling is not yet available, but AfriForum has the greatest appreciation for the Constitutional Court’s position on students’ right to mother language education.

According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, this judgment which followed after legal processes spanning more than five years, is of great importance to all Afrikaans-speaking students in the country, but also for the future of Afrikaans as a high-function language.

"This marks the beginning of a new chapter in the empowerment of all who are not first language speakers of English in tertiary education. It is fair to say that private educational institutions have freedom to offer education in any language of their choice, but to be used as the language of instruction at a tertiary institution is of great importance for the survival and continuous development of a language. Therefore, when any language is phased out at an institution, the decision has huge ramifications and the decision cannot be readily accepted. The court today confirmed this point with the ruling and confirmed the right to access to Afrikaans mother-language education at both public and private institutions for students of all income groups,” Bailey adds.

Issued by Chante Kelder, Media Relations Officer, AfriForum, 22 September 2021