AfriForum to appeal court judgement regarding Unisa language policy

Leave was granted to the civil rights organisation AfriForum to appeal against the North Gauteng High Court’s judgement in favour of the University of South Africa’s (Unisa’s) unilingual English language policy. This judgement was delivered on 26 April 2018. 

According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum responsible for language affairs, the organisation and its legal team decided that it is essential to appeal, seeing as the protection of language rights is essential for quality education in the country and also because it directly affects the future stance of the economy. The protection of the rights of Afrikaans speaking students is of extreme importance to AfriForum and the organisation will continue to protect and promote their access to mother tongue education using all possible legal manners.

“This judgement does in our opinion and the national and international research that we have done in the past 12 years regarding the significance of the protection of language rights not fit in with developments in this field,” says Bailey. “The rights which we ask protection for directly affect the speakers of all the official languages.”

Shortly after leave to appeal was granted, AfriForum received good news concerning another language case in which the civil rights organisation is involved. AfriForum is one of the organisations supporting the language rights activist Cerneels Lourens in a case regarding the lack of legislation in all 11 official languages. Currently all legislation is published in English, accompanied by a randomly selected second language. This means that South African legislation is not comprehensibly available in any of the ten native official languages. Lourens and his contributors in 2017 reported the matter at the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN) after all local legal remedies to make multilingual legislation possible were depleted without success. This charge is now at last officially being investigated. Lourens, AfriForum and the other participants in the process are hoping that the UN’s investigation will also contribute to more awareness concerning the necessity of language rights in the country.

“The UN’s earnestness with this matter ought to also show institutions such as Unisa that students cannot simply be deprived of education in their mother tongue,” declares Bailey. AfriForum is thus currently preparing at full steam for the appeal case against Unisa’s unilingual language policy.

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