AfriForum Youth launches petition against compulsory first-year module at Kovsies
AfriForum Youth Kovsies this week launches a petition against the module known as UFS101, and will use focus groups to get the students' opinion on this module, which was initiated at the University of the Free State (UFS) by the rector, Prof. Jonathan Jansen. In the module, aspects about, among others faith, politics and history are discussed within the South African context, with some parts of the course dealing with the existence of God and the guilt young whites must carry for apartheid.
‘Students feel that their human dignity is violated and that they are discriminated against on the grounds of their faith, language and association with Afrikaners as a minority group,' Anné Calitz, chairperson of AfriForum Youth Kovsies, said.
UFS101 is a compulsory year module all first year students have to pass for degree purposes. It is only presented in English. In the overview of the module, it is mentioned that in this course the use of Afrikaans is not allowed in order to "promote social cohesion". Moreover, students are not allowed to answer questions in Afrikaans.
Prof. Dolf Britz, who addressed the students as a guest lecturer for the UFS101 module, made a comparison between the Battle of Blood River and Sharpeville, and offered an apology for his history on behalf of Afrikaners, because Afrikaners had blood on their hands, and should therefore beg for the forgiveness of black people. In his response, the Rev. Sukdaven accepted the apology on behalf of other South Africans.
Scenarios in which a black student obtained three distinctions in matric, in contrast to a white student who obtained eight, are also presented to students as part of the course, and students then have to explain why merit should not be used as criterion for admission.
‘The Afrikaner is portrayed as evil, while the other groups are portrayed as unblemished heroes. Students furthermore take offence at the way in which doubt is cast on their Christianity, and are offended by the way in which they are forced to adopt uniform opinions. Students are simply being indoctrinated by a one-sided and prejudiced version of South Africa, with the module aiming to create acceptance for the principle that one group's prosperity must be forged by an injustice done to another,' Calitz said.
Students in the focus group indicated that "they do not want to be trapped in the past of previous generations, but want to move on". Students also mentioned that they get penalised if they answer their exam papers in Afrikaans, and that they are humiliated when they do not share the lecturer's opinion. Calitz added that the module is causing racial tension on campus, while mutual recognition and respect among students is what should be pursued.
‘Students want to co-exist peacefully and with mutual respect want to find solutions for their own generation. If the UFS101 has as aim to develop critical thinking, then it should still engage with history in an honest and balanced way,' Calitz says.
The petition aims to have some of the units in the module amended to also embody the opinions of minority groups and to have the subject offered in Afrikaans too.
Statement issued by Anné Calitz, Chairperson: AfriForum Youth Kovsies, August 16 2012
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