The DA, Afrikaans and the universities

Andricus van der Westhuizen says his party supports Afrikaans as one of the two primary languages at SU

Language policy should be based on inclusivity and increased access to opportunities

The DA believes in building inclusive campuses, where students are not excluded on the basis of language or any other characteristic.

The language policy introduced at Stellenbosch University this year has been met with mixed reactions and there have been concerns raised by some people about the impact it will have on Afrikaans as a language of instruction.

All of the country’s official languages, including Afrikaans, should enjoy equal protection under our Constitution and we support the constitutional principle that every person has the right to be taught in the official language of their choice, where reasonably practicable.

We have long defended multiculturalism and we believe in protecting our diverse cultures, heritages and languages. That is why we support Afrikaans as one of two primary languages at Stellenbosch. The DA does not agree with reducing Afrikaans to a mere support language at the university.

Some think that removing Afrikaans from Stellenbosch is about removing the language from the rest of society because it may be viewed in the light of a language of past oppression. Yet, Afrikaans is not the enemy, and neither are those who speak it.

Afrikaans is a crucial part of the lives of millions of South Africans and should enjoy protection as much as the other ten official languages.

Our campuses must be inclusive and simply replacing Afrikaans with English, or any other language with another, will only be detrimental for students, especially those who prefer to study in this language.

Similarly, those who do not speak the langue should not be discriminated against or excluded as a result. Universities that accept a multi-lingual policy, should be supported financially for the additional costs. The development of Afrikaans as an academic language presents a model which should also be available to other indigenous languages.

The DA will not shy away from issues such as this as we believe tertiary education should be accessible to every qualifying citizen. It is only through inclusivity that we can hope to move forward as a nation and to be successful.

Andricus van der Westhuizen is the DA’s Deputy Shadow Minister of Higher Education.

This article first appeared in Beeld.