SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITY SWITCHES TO INSTRUCTION IN ENGLISH
(P1) An ELITE South African university wants to drop AFRIKAANS as the language of instruction and teach in English.
(P2) Stellenbosch University management has taken the decision IN THE WAKE OF complaints about the challenges and racism faced by black students.
(P3) Many black students struggle with lessons in Afrikaans, one of the main languages spoken by the white minority in South Africa.
(P4) A student movement that CAMPAIGNED for change said: “The doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all.”
(P5) The university is two-thirds white, more than two decades after the end of APARTHEID.
(P6) Opposition to being taught in Afrikaans helped MOBILISE students.
(P7) “Language should be used in a way that encourages engagement with knowledge in a diverse society and to ensure EQUITABLE access to learning and teaching opportunities for all students,” Stellenbosch University management said in a statement, adding that the change would take place from next year.
(P8) “Since English is the most commonly spoken language in South Africa, all learning should be FACILITATED in English to ensure no exclusion due to language,” the statement said.
(P9) The university would remain committed to the further development of Afrikaans and XHOSA as academic languages, it said.
(P10) In university residences students should use English as the common language, it added.
(P11) These recommendations will be put to the university’s council at its meeting on 30 November, where OBSERVERS say it may face fierce opposition but is likely to be passed.
(P12) This has been warmly received not only by students there but by the rest of the country. Stellenbosch University has always been accused of being one of the most REACTIONARY academic institutions in post-apartheid South Africa, and for decades was regarded as the heart of Afrikanerdom.
(P13) The town itself is the second-oldest European settlement in the Western Cape and was named after Simon van der Stel, who was a governor of the Dutch Cape Colony. WHITE SUPREMACISTS such as John Vorster, a former apartheid prime minister, studied at the university.
(P14) It was a little ENCLAVE protecting the interests of the supporters of apartheid, many of whom spoke Afrikaans as their native language.
(P15) Afrikaans is still spoken by millions but this move will make the many more millions who do not speak it feel welcomed in one of the best academic institutions on the African continent.
(P16) The pro-Afrikaaner civil rights group AfriForum has CONDEMNED the switch, saying that the university “wants to MARGINALISE Afrikaans-speaking students.”
(P17) Afrikaans is spoken mainly by mixed-race, known as coloured, and white South Africans, and was developed from the DESCENDANTS of Dutch, German and French settlers who arrived in the 17th Century.
(P18) Afrikaans is the most commonly spoken language in the PROVINCES of Northern Cape and Western Cape, where Stellenbosch University is based.
(P19) Wim de Villiers, the vice-CHANCELLOR of Stellenbosch University, has defended his decision to switch to English.
(P20) “Why should the University of Stellenbosch carry the responsibility to protect Afrikaans’s survival? We are a FORWARD-LOOKING institution and our PRIMARY function is to create and transfer knowledge,” he said.
(P21) “The university is a national ASSET that STRIVES to be inclusive. Therefore, we cannot have a situation where the choice of instructional language restricts access to teaching and learning for certain students.”
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- In a MULTILINGUAL society, why is the choice of instructional language important?
- South Africa still suffers from racial TENSIONS many years after the apartheid racial-separation policy was ABOLISHED. Are there any racial, ETHNIC, linguistic, or religious tensions in your country?
- Stellenbosch is an elite university. What are the highest-ranked universities in your country?
- When an institution has to make a decision like this, is there any possibility of making everyone happy?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- In the wake of
- White supremacist