AfriForum Youth strongly condemns the announcement by Tawana Kupe, the newly-appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pretoria on 21 January 2019 that the university will from this year function in English only. According to AfriForum Youth, this is a violation of the university’s undertaking to already-enrolled students who want to complete their qualifications in Afrikaans.
Ohann Fourie, AfriForum Youth’s National Coordinator for Campuses, says the university was not honest during the change of the language policy and the subsequent court case between the UP and AfriForum.
“The UP undertook that students who have been enrolled to complete their student in their mother tongue Afrikaans would be able to do so. These students now have to change the language in which they study in the middle of their courses – and this adjustment is enormous. It is unfair towards the students, as the university pulled the wool over their eyes. It was emphasised during discussion between AfriForum, AfriForum Youth and the university’s management that the UP indeed wanted to be more multilingual and would go to more trouble to accommodate among other Afrikaans and Sotho. The Vice-Chancellor’s statements make it clear, however, that these undertakings were not serious and that the UP in no way strives to promote mother-tongue education,” Fourie adds.
AfriForum Youth has in 2018 already received complaints from dissatisfied members who were disadvantaged by the university’s stand. There were cases where UP lecturers did not want to provide students with Afrikaans memoranda during perusal of exam papers. The UP’s reaction was that not all lecturers were fluent in Afrikaans. A further implication for students who commenced with their studies in Afrikaans is that classes will now only be offered in English. Students will therefore have to translate course work themselves to understand the work sufficiently to be able pass.
Despite the court rulings of the past year, AfriForum Youth stand by their viewpoint that any educational institution who has their students’ interests at heart will make the effort to offer mother-tongue education.
AfriForum Youth’s viewpoint on mother-tongue education is clear enough: Everyone has the right to mother-tongue education. “Our viewpoint is not to have only Afrikaans classes at universities; we believe there is a national responsibility on universities to develop other African languages into academic languages,” Fourie concludes.