StudentePlein rejects the new Language Policy that was approved by the Council of Stellenbosch University on 2 December 2021. It represents a continuation of an English university with Afrikaans and Xhosa decorations on top, which was brought about by the 2016 language policy.
StudentePlein represents Afrikaans members in 9 of SU’s faculties and extensively responded to the new Language Policy twice this year when it still existed in its draft form. However, none of StudentePlein’s proposals manifest in the Language Policy that was eventually approved.
The normative commitments to an Afrikaans offer in the preamble to the new Language Policy do not manifest at all in its operational terms, which are still largely based on student demand, staff availability and available resources. Language implementation is also made subject to what is “reasonably practicable” in 16 different places in the new policy – but only when it comes to Afrikaans and Xhosa. When it comes to English, there are no qualifications.
It also appears that the SU management is still refraining from abandoning the offending definition of indigenous language, in which Afrikaans is not included, in an act of ethical protest, and is choosing to abide by Blade Nzimande’s questionable word games instead.
The new Language Policy, such as its predecessor, also fails to make provision for proper accountability mechanisms when it comes to language implementation. Since SU has ignored its 2016 language policy on several occasions with damaging decisions on the abolition of Afrikaans, StudentePlein is currently approaching the High Court along with the DA for an order to direct SU to comply with the terms of its new Language Policy. Although the new Language Policy does not bring about a fair language dispensation for Afrikaans students, it is still important that SU complies with the terms of its Language Policy.
The experiences of Afrikaans students, who also came under siege in residences this year when Afrikaans was used in private spaces, will remain unchanged if it depends on the new Language Policy. Therefore, StudentePlein will significantly expand its meta-campus model next year thanks to investments from the Afrikaans community.
There is nothing in the new Language Policy for StudentePlein members and other Afrikaans students (and prospective students) to look forward to. Operationally, nothing has changed. StudentePlein, who already provides Afrikaans study material in five faculties and more than 40 modules at SU, will significantly expand this supply in 2022.