AfriForum calls on Unisa students to indicate their preference for Afrikaans in language preference survey

On 22 September 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the retention of Afrikaans as language of tuition at the University of South Africa (Unisa). AfriForum brought this case against Unisa after the university’s introduction of a new language policy that only provided for English as medium of instruction. In the ruling, the court gave Unisa until 2023 to make the modules that had been available in Afrikaans in 2016, available in it once more, allowing sufficient time for the reintroduction of Afrikaans.

It has just come to AfriForum’s attention that Unisa is currently conducting a survey on language preferences among students. According to one of the students who has already completed this survey, it is introduced with the request: “Help determine students’ perceptions regarding the reintroduction of Afrikaans as a language of teaching, learning and assessment without the parallel introduction of other official languages”.

Alana Bailey, Head of Cultural Affairs at AfriForum, states that this is a leading question that portrays Afrikaans as an enemy of other languages, instead of making it clear to students that Afrikaans education is a constitutional right that could simply have been retained at a minimal cost, with the introduction of parallel teaching in more languages, had this indeed been the aim of Unisa. “The problem is not Afrikaans, but the lack of will at universities to accommodate more languages. The easiest thing for managements to do, is to set up Afrikaans as the scapegoat and then to phase it out as language of tuition. The result is that all students have to try to get by in English, which in fact is the mother language of less than 10% of South Africans,” says Bailey.

Unisa currently faces serious questions about, among other issues, its administrative problems. AfriForum finds it strange that such a survey is now receiving attention, instead of effective service delivery to students and the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s ruling. Bailey believes that this creates the impression that Unisa is trying to find reasons to circumvent the court’s orders.

AfriForum encourages all students who are currently enrolled at Unisa to participate in the survey and to make their support for Afrikaans education clear. “The future of Afrikaans as an academic language must be promoted in all possible ways. If students do not claim the right to mother-language education, it will neither be an option for Afrikaans students in future, nor for students who speak any of the other official languages,” Bailey adds.

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