AfriForum: Dropping Afrikaans as a language of instruction at UFS is unconstitutional

The removal of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at the University of Free State (UFS) was a violation of the Constitution, the Bloemfontein High Court heard on Monday.

“Afrikaans has a right to survive. This matter is about the supremacy of the Constitution,” Johan du Toit SC, representing AfriForum, told a full bench of judges.

In March, the university reached a unanimous decision to make English the primary medium of instruction from 2017.

The university’s council said English would be the primary medium of instruction at undergraduate and postgraduate level on the three campuses situated in Bloemfontein and QwaQwa.

The council also said that multilingualism would be supported by an expanded tutorial system especially designed for first-year students.

The council said that in professional programmes – such as teacher education and the training of theology students who wished to enter the ministry in traditional Afrikaans-speaking churches, where there was a clear market need the parallel-medium teaching in English-Afrikaans and Sesotho and Zulu would continue.

It also added that the primary formal language of the university administration would be English, but with sufficient flexibility of multilingualism across the university.

However, soon after the decision was taken, AfriForum approached the High Court for an interdict against the university.

Advocate Greta Engelbrecht, also representing AfriForum, argued that the language policy decision taken by the university was unconstitutional.

“There is a Constitutional issue at stake,” she said.

“We should consider Law students who might want to offer their services in Afrikaans… and most of the students studying Theology preferred Afrikaans.

“They [university] wish to shackle Afrikaans in its historical notion of oppression.”

However, Jeremy Gauntlett SC, representing the university, said language had become a surrogate for colour segregation in classes.

“The university has to adopt a position for what is best for its function – and [it] needs to do what is best for the community,” he said.

Gauntlett also argued that there was a high demand for English and that, through the implementation of the policy, there would be no job losses at the university.

Judgment was reserved in the matter. – News24

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Jeanette Chabalala
Jeanette Chabalala
Sports Fanatic,Current affairs Junkie,News24 Journalist.

Related stories


Subscribers only

The South African connection: How mercenaries aided Trump ally in...

The UN found that Trump ally Erik Prince violated the Libyan arms embargo. Here are the South Africans the report says helped him to do so

Q&A Sessions: African court ‘will be a tough job’ — Dumisa...

Lawyer, author and political activist Dumisa Ntsebeza talks to Nicolene de Wee about his appointment as judge of the African Court on Human and...

More top stories

Semenya confirms she’s taking testosterone battle to European Court of...

Caster Semenya’s latest legal challenge follows a series of setbacks that seemed to have ended her chances of competing in her preferred events

Tito’s budget tries to boost economic growth and arrest debt

Government spending has reached a record 41.7% of GDP, and the budget deficit has widened from 5.7% in 2019 to an estimated 14%

Why a trickle-down approach to vaccine access is not a...

The world cannot afford ‘safe havens’ in which the virus can thrive and evolve and threaten us all

Mboweni says no more Zondo funding as court extends commission’s...

The finance minister suggests money should be found from the cash-strapped justice department

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…