Afrikaans institution 'against our constitution'
A year after its establishment, officials at a tertiary institution specifically targeting Afrikaans speakers have hit back at critics who have labelled the institute as "exclusive".
Akademia, a private institution registered with the Department of Education, was criticised at the weekend over its language policy by the Higher Education Transformation Network.
"Akademia only admits Afrikaans students and thus potentially discriminates against students who wish to study in other languages," said the transformation network's chairman Lucky Thekisho.
The network wants the education authorities to "review the institution's accreditation" and is even willing to take legal steps.
However, Solidarity Movement's Dirk Hermann said: "Even though Akademia teaches in Afrikaans, it does not mean that only Afrikaans students are allowed to attend."
Akademia uses distance learning and is an independent institution within the Solidarity Movement, said Hermann. It is registered with the Department of Education.
It is this registration that the Higher Education Transformation Network now wants to challenge.
"We wish to question the criteria and guidelines utilised by the Umalusi (Council for Quality Assurance in the General and Further Education and Training) and CHE (Council for Higher Education) granting provisional accreditation status to Akademia College."
The transformation network believes Akademia's Afrikaans-only policy is inconsistent with the constitution, the Education White Paper of 1997 and the Higher Education Amendment Act of 2011.
"Contrary to promoting the interests of a unified South African society to advance economic prosperity and fight poverty, Solidarity and Afriforum are playing a very divisive nefarious role in higher education by seeking to entrench the exclusion of blacks from higher education," claimed the network.
But Hermann said that Akademia was founded to make higher education more accessible.
"If South Africa has a higher education landscape that is only English, then it would be exclusive," said Hermann.
The country already has too many institutions teaching exclusively in English, he said.
"The constitution promotes multilingualism and it can only work in practice if there are institutions serving different language communities," Hermann said, adding that the majority of Afrikaans speakers were not white and that Akademia is ideally suited to serve poor communities such as in the Northern Cape.
He said that the Solidarity Movement was willing to engage with other stakeholders to roll out the "Akademia model" for mother- tongue instruction in other African languages.
Higher Education South Africa acting CEO Jeffrey Mabelebele said it would be premature to comment as he had not seen Solidarity's submissions to Umalusi and CHE or the reasons Umalusi gave for supporting the institute's registration.