The Stellenbosch University council has officially passed its new language policy intended to support multilingualism by extending the use of English, the Times has reported. It has been a subject of much controversy in recent months for the historically Afrikaans institution. The new language policy will give English and Afrikaans equal status.
The decision comes after Open Stellenbosch, a lobby group that protested against the language policy‚ argued that the previous policy ‘safeguards Afrikaner culture’, thus excluding black students. The group originally demanded that English be the main language of instruction.
The announcement of the revised policy was made via the Stellenbosch Student Representative Council’s Twitter feed.
We are happy to announce that the Council of Stellenbosch University has just passed the new language policy.
— Stellenbosch SRc (@StelSRc) June 22, 2016
The new policy also contains a pledge to grow the use of IsiXhosa‚ the Western Cape’s third official language. The proposed date of implementation is 1 January 2017.
‘In certain programmes‚ isiXhosa is already used with a view to facilitating effective learning and teaching‚ especially where the use of isiXhosa may be important for career purposes,’ said a Stellenbosch University statement. ‘SU is committed to increasing the use of isiXhosa‚ to the extent that this is reasonably practicable‚ for example through basic communication skills short courses for staff and students‚ career-specific communication‚ discipline-specific terminology guides (printed and mobile applications) and phrase books.’
Not everyone is on board with the new policy. One council member, Jannie van der Westhuizen, resigned as it was adopted, News24 reported.
George Steyn, SU’s council chair, said in a statement, ‘It is unfortunate that some members of council left the meeting forthwith after the language policy was adopted, although several other agenda points of broad institutional importance were being tabled. During the meeting, I also regrettably received Jannie van der Westhuizen’s resignation with immediate effect. It is a pity, because as a council, we do appreciate diverse opinions, but we respect majority decisions.’
Stellenbosch University aims to increase its black‚ coloured and Indian student numbers to more than 15 000 in the next five years.
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