There is nothing wrong with students at South Africa’s prestigious Stellenbosch University using English as a medium of instruction, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday, 10 October 2019.
The court verdict follows that of the High Court, which ruled that the former all-white and Afrikaans-speaking varsity in Cape Town was correct in introducing the language as a teaching tool for all students – black or non-black.
In 2016, Stellenbosch introduced a policy which gave preference to English over Afrikaans, the varsity’s only language of instructions during the apartheid era which ended in 1994.
The Constitutional Court ruled: “This court finds that the university’s process in adopting the 2016 policy was thorough, exhaustive, inclusive and properly deliberative.
“The university’s motivation for introducing the 2016 policy was to facilitate equitable access to its campus, teaching and learning opportunities by black students who are not conversant in Afrikaans.”
The court said the university was right in making the language policy change and ruled that retaining the previous Afrikaans policy would have resulted in “the exclusion of non-Afrikaans speakers from full participation in tuition and other institutional benefits.”
“The evidence also showed that separate classes in English and Afrikaans or single classes conducted in Afrikaans – with translation from Afrikaans into English – made black students not conversant in Afrikaans feel marginalised, excluded and stigmatised,” the court said.