Court affirms University of Pretoria decision to drop Afrikaans as a medium of instruction

University of Pretoria Picture Credit: Gallo Images
University of Pretoria Picture Credit: Gallo Images

“A blow to South African language rights‚” is how AfriForum‚ AfriForum Youth and Solidarity have described the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling in their language case against the University of Pretoria (UP).

The university will phase out Afrikaans as medium of tuition as of 2017. The case was heard on 1 December 2016 and the court announced today (Thursday 15 December) that it rejects the application with costs.

“The case not only applies to the continuation of the rights of Afrikaans students‚ but to the protection and promotion of the principles of mother-tongue education and multilingualism versus monolingual English education‚ which is increasingly being adopted and enforced by institutions. This at the cost of approximately 90% of South Africans whose mother tongue is not English‚” the three groups said in a statement.

Management‚ in a short statement‚ said the university “welcomes the High Court’s decision to uphold the resolution passed by the UP Council earlier this year to implement a new language policy‚ and to dismiss with costs the case brought by AfriForum and Solidarity“.

UP added: “We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the new language policy is implemented with the least possible disruption and in the interest of all students and other members of the University.”

The lobby groups said their legal team will study the judgment in detail to decide whether or not to appeal.

Their statement said they “remain convinced that the University’s new language policy amounts to a gross violation of the constitutionally recognised language rights of Afrikaans students“.

The three organisations added they will take any possible steps to protect and preserve the rights of Afrikaans students to study in their mother tongue‚ but did not specify what this could entail.

First adopted in September 1932‚ Afrikaans was the only language of instruction until 1993 when English was introduced.

During the court hearing‚ lawyers for the university argued that AfriForum sought to “ignore that there is linkage between race and language in the context of the country’s history”.

The court also heard that only 18% of the university’s population was Afrikaans-speaking.

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