Universities SA Adopts New Policy On Indigenous Languages

The topic of language policy at the University of South Africa (UNISA) has been widely debated after the Constitutional Court ruled that the Afrikaans language must be reinstated as the medium of instruction at the university. The Civil rights organisation, which fights for the advancement of Afrikaner rights, has called the constitutional court ruling a victory for the Afrikaner nation. 

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It is important that it is eventually acknowledged that access to tertiary education must be extended to not only create room for English first language speakers, but to also accommodate more native languages. 

In its decision, the Concourt said UNISA has failed to demonstrate that it was not reasonably possible to continue with Afrikaans as one of the languages of instruction. 

The Universities South Africa CEO, Ahmed Bawa confirmed the new adoption of the indigenous language policy by higher learning institutions. 

We want the creation of a receptive institutional culture which embraces linguistic diversity and the promotion of a climate where people feel affirmed and empowered to realise their full potential. 

South Africa’s revised Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions commits to the study and development of all official South African languages, especially those which were historically marginalised, Bawa said.  

University students who have a mother tongue other than English should not be at a disadvantage compared to those who do speak English at home. This is why it is important to level the language playing field.

The revised Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions, published in October 2020, excluded Afrikaans from the definition of indigenous languages. The policy only defines languages which belong to the Bantu language family as indigenous. 

One of the arguments advanced by Afri-forum is that Afrikaans was developed in South Africa and that makes it an indigenous language. 

Bawa said the language policy review also meant to decolonise the higher learning educational systems which disadvantaged indigenous languages. 

The efforts are not based at transforming higher learning institution policies but ensuring access to multilingualism within the society, said Bawa. 
 

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