In June 2016, Stellenbosch University decided that English would be the language of instruction and that Afrikaans should take a subordinate place.
The vote cast by 113 against 10 votes in favor of the resolution is a clear indication that Afrikaans is being rejected by the government and certain opposition parties.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the university’s decision to make English the main language, with Afrikaans in addition, is a “reasonable” decision that should remain so.
Language policy judgement explained
Judge Johan Froneman confirmed the bench’s unanimous decision on Thursday. He explained his reasons for upholding the contentious language policy at Stellenbosch University, reasoning that too many students on campus are unable to learn subject matter when taught in Afrikaans:
“Brown and white speaking first years are able to be taught in English. Conversely though, many are able to be taught in Afrikaans a significant minority cannot.”
“The 2014 policy created an exclusionary hurdle for specifically black students studying at the university. This court finds that the university’s process in adopting 2016 policy was deliberate.”
Judge Johan Froneman
What features in the Stellenbosch University language policy?
The language policy has been a bone of contention since it was first implemented. It forced Stellenbosch University to provide for real-time interpretation, and some classes have even decided on the primary language by taking a vote at the start of the semester. Here’s what else features in their revised rules.
“Stellenbosch University accepted a new Language Policy in 2016. This policy and the language implementation plans that go with it have been in place since 2017. Where Afrikaans and English are used in the same lecture, all information will be conveyed in at least English, with a summary or notes of key points in Afrikaans as well.”
“Furthermore, questions will at least be answered in the language in which they are asked Every faculty compiles its own Language Implementation Plan. The policy and plans will ensure that no student who has yet to master Afrikaans or English on an academic level will be excluded from academic tuition.”
With the ruling, Afrikaans has a very low chance of survival in the universities of the country, and the claim that Afrikaans has an equal status is only temporary in nature, and experts point out that the institution will eventually swing to English-speaking lecturers, that Afrikaans will no longer be heard.