Status of Afrikaans is being actively threatened – Afrikanerbond

Organisation says it will cooperate with otheres to stop absurd, ill-considered proposals of the DBE

The status of Afrikaans is being actively threatened by language imperialism

14 February 2022  

1) The status of Afrikaans at residences of the University of Pretoria

On the afternoon of Thursday, 10 February 2022, the Afrikanerbond was approached by the concerned and upset parents of a first-year student in a residence of the University of Pretoria. To protect the student, we will neither mention his name nor identify the residence. The boy informed his parents that he and his roommate were forbidden to speak their home language, Afrikaans, in their room. The ban on Afrikaans was ascribed to "English being the official language".

We took up the matter at once, on Friday, 12 February 2022, with the  Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Prof. Tawana Kupe. On that same Friday we received a letter from Prof. Caroline Nicholson, who responded as follows on the instructions of Prof. Kupe:

The University of Pretoria Language Policy  (2016) made provision for English as the Language of tuition and primary language of administration and communication.  This policy was revised in 2021 and from 2022, Afrikaans and Sepedi will be added to the languages of communication and administration.  The implementation of the revised policy will be incremental and an implementation plan has been developed.

The residences and administration staff of the University are encouraged to also make use of other languages in their communications with clients insofar as this is feasible, practicable and affordable.

Nowhere are students or staff banned from making use of their home language and the University is committed to developing a culture of multilingualism on the campuses.  Staff and students are requested not to use languages in group settings in circumstances where the language is not understood by all participants as this may lead to a sense of exclusion.  This really is just a matter of courtesy.

I cannot speak to the specific incident you refer to as you have not given any detailed information.  I have thus copied the Vice Principle: Student  Life and Mr Legari, Director of Residence Affairs and Accommodation.  Mr Legari will be best placed to address you on the policy and practice within the residences and to take the matter up with the Residences.”

We responded immediately with a request that the residences' language policy and their practice in the application of such policy be communicated to us. We also enquired whether the management of residences and other parties were aware of the incident in question or of other similar incidents. Furthermore, we specifically requested that student leadership and senior students be communicated with urgently to avoid similar incidents. 

At residences and campuses where the language environment is characterised by diverse languages, such as in South Africa, one language can and may never be enforced, and certainly never in informal interactions. If house or residence committees of the University of Pretoria were instructed to forbid the informal usage of Afrikaans or other indigenous languages, such an instruction would be unconstitutional.

We have not yet heard back from the University of Pretoria, and we sent a repeat request this morning.

We also brought the matter to the attention of the Afrikaans Language Board.

2) The state and the language policy at schools

The language policy at schools is solely a function of each school’s governing body. With more than 80% of schools being dysfunctional, it would be reasonable to expect the Department to leave the matter of language in the hands of the governing bodies and rather focus on rehabilitating those schools that are in disrepair.

Of course, restoring order at dysfunctional schools would require hard work and creative thinking. That, together with the necessary political will, is lacking, though. It is easier to level the working and functioning schools with those that have already been dismantled through poor management, by attempting to enforce a uniform language policy. It is, of course, mostly Afrikaans schools that function well as islands of excellence, bolstered by involved parent communities, that are in the sights of the minister, the national department and certain provincial political heads in particular.

The Afrikanerbond will cooperate with other organisations and communities to stop the absurd, ill-considered and unworkable proposals of the Department of Education. Language imperialism and anglicisation is NOT the answer, especially not in a country which has language-cultural and religious rights entrenched in its Constitution.

Issued by Jan Bosman, Chief Secretary of the Afrikanerbond, 14 February 2022