Judgment has today been reserved in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein in the appeal of AfriForum against the University of South Africa’s (Unisa’s) monolingual English language policy. This follows after the North Gauteng High Court had ruled on 26 April 2018 in favour of a language policy determining that English is the primary language of instruction at this institution.
Henk Maree, Spokesperson for AfriForum, stated that the appeal is essential as the circumstances of Unisa are unique. In the case of the language policy of the University of the Free State (UFS), the Constitutional Court declared that Afrikaans classes result in segregation. In Unisa’s case, there are no classes.
The management of the University of Pretoria (UP) argued that Afrikaans student numbers had declined dramatically, but in Unisa’s case more than 20 000 of the students are still estimated to be Afrikaans speaking.
Recently, in the case of Stellenbosch University (SU), the Constitutional Court had found that cost considerations should play a role, but for decades Unisa has perfected the ability to offer modules in Afrikaans. Furthermore, as has just been reiterated by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Affairs, Prof. Fernand de Varennes, the costs resulting from students who discontinue studies due to language problems are much higher in the short and long term than the cost of multilingual education.
“With the new policy, Unisa is taking a huge step backwards to monolingualism. It is to the detriment of Afrikaans students, but also all other speakers of indigenous South African languages,” he added.
According to Maree, AfriForum hopes for a favourable ruling, allowing for access to tertiary education to be expanded for speakers of more languages, rather than further benefiting first-language English speakers only and treating the more than 90% of other South Africans as second-class students by forcing them to study through the medium of a second language and denying them their language rights.
Support AfriForum and the protection of language rights: SMS “Unisa” to 38313 (R10).