Higher Education: Language imperialism in name of inclusion – FF Plus

Wynand Boshoff says Minister's argument is founded on premise that every campus must be representative of country's population

Higher Education policy is nothing but language imperialism in the name of inclusion 

16 October 2019

In response to a written question by the FF Plus, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, stated that universities have moved away from institutions and campuses that use only Afrikaans.

According to Nzimande, the Constitutional Court found that this move is in line with the Constitution and although the government does not implement language policies at institutions, it does support it. He added, furthermore, that institutions may not implement language policies that hinder students' access and success and he also warned private higher education institutions that it also applies to them.

This response confirms the policy that has been gradually implemented over the last few years that excludes Afrikaans as an academic language.

The Minister's argument is founded on the premise that every campus and every institution for higher education must be representative of the country's population. So, if only ten percent of the country's population speak Afrikaans, then it means that Afrikaans-speaking students will always comprise just a small minority on every campus and that they will not be able to use their language on an academic level.

While the Minister is claiming that Afrikaans is being misused as an excuse for exclusion, he is misusing the principle of inclusion as an excuse to exclude Afrikaans.

Ironically enough, with this statement Dr Nzimande sides himself with fascist leaders like Mussolini of Italy and Franco of Spain who also oppressed and disregarded minority languages. In stark contrast, even Stalin of the Soviet Union recognised the cultural diversity within his country's borders.

Throughout the world's history, countries approached cultural diversity in either one of two ways: disregard or recognition. Disregard leads to frustration, exclusion and even civil wars, while proper recognition can defuse these very situations.

One of the best examples of this is when the war-torn Ethiopia became a peaceful country when it converted from a unitary state to a cultural federation in the 90s.

In reality, the government's higher education policy proves that the ANC has breached the 1994 agreement. That agreement guaranteed property rights for those who gave up power and it promised that individual rights would make cultural rights superfluous. Currently, however, expropriation without compensation is government policy and individual rights are gradually being used to make cultural rights an impossibility.

The biggest irony of it all is that Afrikaans was developed to the highest level in the twentieth century specifically for the sake of inclusivity. English was the only academic language and it excluded a large part of the Afrikaans-speaking community, but they were able to get access by means of their own language. It goes without saying that English as a worldwide academic language continuously played a significant role at Afrikaans universities.

Instead of developing other African languages to ensure access for the speakers of those languages as well, the ANC government is using the false argument that all exclusion is Afrikaans's fault. In this way the government is reinforcing exclusion, while it could have used the experience that Afrikaans as language has to benefit all South Africans.

Issued by Wynand Boshoff, FF Plus MP and chief spokesperson: Higher Education, 16 October 2019