Stellenbosch University has conceded to students‘ demands to remove `Afrikaans´ as the medium of instruction. Bongekile Macupe* reports:
STELLENBOSCH, 24 March 2016: Last year, Open Stellenbosch, a group of students, protested over the use of `Afrikaans´ as the medium of instruction. The students were calling for the use of `English´ as medium of instruction but the university-council rejected the proposal.
In its first draft, the university’s new proposed language-policy said it was prepared to advance multilingualism by placing emphasis on the three languages most spoken in Western Cape – `English´, `isiXhosa´ and `Afrikaans´ – at undergraduate level.
„Emphasis is placed on inclusivity, diversity and the effective construction of knowledge which implies that a specific language may not be used to exclude students, staff or other stakeholders,“ reads the language policy.
The proposed language-policy states that `Afrikaans´ and `English´ are the university’s learning and teaching languages.
It further says that for undergraduate-modules up to and including third year, `Afrikaans´ and `English´ will be applied.
„For modules where it is reasonable (in terms of enrolment, resources and staff) and where it is pedagogically sound to divide the students in more than one class-group, parallel-medium teaching is used with lectures in `Afrikaans´ and `English´ for different class-groups.
„However, to prevent language-isolation and to foster tolerance and respect, care is taken by the lecturer(s) to provide opportunities for students from the two language-groups, `Afrikaans´ and `English´, to meet and communicate across languages in academic settings,“ reads the policy.
„In all other class-groups that are not divided, dual-medium teaching is used where all information is conveyed in `English´. Additional support is provided in `Afrikaans´ and/or `English´ in the lecture and/or during auxiliary, facilitated learning-opportunities to assist students‘ understanding of the academic material.
„This will depend on the capabilities of the lecturers and teaching-assistance. Real-time interpreting services from both `English´ to `Afrikaans´ and `Afrikaans´ to `English´ can be offered to students – especially in the initial study-years.“
Podcasts and vodcasts of lectures would be made available in `Afrikaans´, `English´ and, in some cases, `isiXhosa´.
The university insisted it „remains committed to maintaining the status of `Afrikaans´ for academic, administrative and communication purposes „.
Stakeholders were provided with the proposed language-policy on Tuesday and have 30 days to make submissions.
Other former `Afrikaans´-universities (Pretoria and Free State) faced pressure from protesting students demanding that `Afrikaans´ be scrapped with the latter giving in to the demands.
Stellenbosch University hopes to implement the new language-policy from January or „as soon as possible“. Member of Open Stellenbosch Jodi Williams said the movement would only meet next week and it is then that they would say what their stance is regarding the proposed language-policy.
The university declined to comment until „the process has been concluded.
*Bongekile Macupe, Education Reporter, SOWETAN.