Appeal Court hears arguments in Free State University language policy dispute
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) will on Friday hear arguments between the University of the Free State (UFS) and Afriforum and trade union Solidarity on whether English should be the "primary" medium of instruction at the institution.
The university has approached the appeals court asking it to set aside the Bloemfontein High Court’s decision‚ which declared the policy unconstitutional.
The policy‚ adopted in March last year‚ replaces Afrikaans and English as parallel mediums of instruction with English as a “primary” medium but with tutorial support in Afrikaans and Sesotho.
In the high court‚ Afriforum‚ which challenged the new policy‚ argued that removing Afrikaans as a medium of instruction was a violation of the constitution.
In papers before the SCA‚ the university argues that the new policy provides for multilingualism by providing tutorial support in Afrikaans and “progressively” in Sesotho.
“It is significant that the policy itself is not suggested to be unconstitutional. Nor is the decision adopting it attacked on any procedural ground‚” the university argues.
The university says that the previous language policy‚ adopted in 2003‚ resulted in racial segregation on campus.
“Whereas the previous policy operated on the premise of parallel language streams which… segregated students along racial lines‚ the new policy creates racial integration by providing a single medium of instruction – but with a dedicated tutorial system which assists students in multilingual contact sessions.”
Afriforum and Solidarity’s argument is based on the premise that the university did not take into account the number of students seeking instruction in Afrikaans.
They argue that the university is more concerned with race.
“UFS failed to take into account that Afrikaans is the first language of 75.8% of coloured persons and 60.8% of white persons…
“It also paid no attention to the fact that one of the communities marginalised under apartheid is the coloured community‚ which is largely Afrikaans‚” the organisations argue.
According to Afriforum and Solidarity‚ the university is depriving a population that has the “lowest levels” of access to tertiary education an opportunity to demand education in their mother tongue.
The organisations will also argue that the university did not take into account the contents of the Higher Education Language Policy‚ which they argue treats Afrikaans as a language to be retained “through the adoption of… parallel instruction in Afrikaans and English”.