UFS pays attention to need for mother-language education - AfriForum

University's Academy for Multilingualism proves necessity of studying in home language

UFS’s Academy for Multilingualism proves necessity of mother-language education

6 May 2021 

AfriForum has taken note with appreciation of the establishment of the Academy for Multilingualism at the University of the Free State (UFS). According to a radio interview with Dr Peet van Aardt, the Curator of the Academy, this institution has been created in response to the student community’s need for mother-language education. It aims to be fully functional by 2022, in order to make teaching material and subject-linked glossaries available to students in Afrikaans, Zulu and Sesotho. English will however still be the medium of instruction and examinations.

According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, it is gratifying that this institution pays attention to the need for mother-language education, but it is also ironic as from 2016 onwards, the University in its court cases against AfriForum regarding its monolingual English language policy, had given the assurance that such glossaries and aids for Afrikaans had already been in place and would soon be available for at least Sesotho as well. Clearly, this had not been the case if the Academy is only getting ready to pay attention to it now.

In the abovementioned interview, reference is also made of the fact that the Academy’s multilingual support will answer in the needs of the students for a friendly environment in which they can comfortably express their identity, as well as for the achievement of academic excellence. This is equally ironic, as the UFS argued in the cases in the Free State High Court, Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court that a monolingual English learning environment is essential for harmony on campus and academic excellence.

“It is positive to see that the university is at last acknowledging the need for mother-language education, but it is tragic that it is only taking place four years after the phasing out of Afrikaans as medium of instruction had begun,” says Bailey.

“If the university management had retained Afrikaans as medium of instruction, and rather used the time and legal costs from 2016 onwards for the establishment of such an academy, the position of all three languages at the UFS would probably have been stronger today, with four years’ intake of students who are not first language speakers of English that had benefited from it,” she adds.

According to Bailey, it is essential that students should also be able to complete assignments and examinations in their mother language where viable. She expressed the hope that the UFS would investigate the possibility to make this possible in future, as well as that other universities would learn from the UFS’ example that ideologically-driven decisions on language policies are in nobody’s interest.

The case of AfriForum against the monolingual English language policy of the University of South Africa (Unisa) will be heard in the Constitutional Court on 20 May 2021. AfriForum won the case in the Supreme Court of Appeal, with a ruling in favour of the reinstatement of Afrikaans in modules where the demand for it justifies it, after which Unisa appealed to the Constitutional Court.

Issued by Chante Kelder, Media Relations Officer, AfriForum, 6 May 2021