Open Stellenbosch group protests over language policy

Open Stellenbosch says the group will remain in front of the entrance until the meeting is over.

FILE: Students gather at Stellenbosch University during an open dialogue to discuss issues of inclusion and exclusion on 15 April 2015. Picture: iWitness.

CAPE TOWN - A handful of students from Open Stellenbosch are staging a protest in front of the main administrative building at Stellenbosch University this evening.

An extraordinary meeting of council is currently taking place inside one of the administration buildings to discuss the institution's contentious language policy.

Last year, the rector's management team came up with a proposed language policy that would have seen English become the primary language at the historically Afrikaans university.

The idea was swiftly rejected by the institution's council, which instead retained the current language policy, placing the languages on an equal footing.

Open Stellenbosch's Majaletje Matume says the group will remain in front of the entrance until the meeting is over.

"In their council meeting last November, they forced the university to refer back despite the university's management conceding that the language policy is cancelled. A new plan ensures everyone has access to a class in English."


The university's Student Council said last year the current language policy at the institution won't promote inclusivity.

It follows the university council's rejection of management's proposal to make English the primary language.

Many student groups, including the SRC, had over the past few months been calling for a fast-track for transformation at the university applauded management's decision to boost English as the lingua franca at the historically Afrikaans university.

The council decided to maintain the 2014 language policy which gives English and Afrikaans equal status.

The SRC's James de Villiers said the council's decision was disconcerting.

"We see this sentiment as a confirmation the council continue with status quo instead of dealing with the language issue, which ultimately works to exclude many students.

"We really expect council to show leadership in finding innovative solutions to deal with the language issue. Unfortunately they chose to continue with what's already in place."

A delegation from trade union Solidarity promised to present the results of a referendum on the retention of Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University to the institution's council.

The council was faced with a critical decision, whether or not to support a proposal by Rector Wim de Villiers to make English the primary language of communication at the university.

But Solidarity's chief executive Dirk Hermann said the wide support for Afrikaans confirmed that unilateral decisions by university councils would not be accepted lying down.

He said the Afrikaans community was standing together for the preservation and development of the language at tertiary level.