Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

The University of the Free State (UFS) says a ruling by the country’s highest court in favour of English being the sole medium of instruction at the institution was not a victory against Afrikaans as a language.

"The UFS will continue to develop Afrikaans as an academic language‚" the university said in reaction to a ruling by the Constitutional Court on Friday.

In a majority ruling‚ Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng denied an application by AfriForum which effectively sought to overturn the university’s 2016 decision to use English as the sole medium of instruction‚ replacing its policy of the parallel use of English and Afrikaans as mediums of instruction.

"The judgment by the Constitutional Court is not a victory against Afrikaans as language‚" said Professor Francis Petersen‚ Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS.

"The UFS will continue to develop Afrikaans as an academic language. A key feature of the UFS Language Policy is flexibility and the commitment to strive for a truly multilingual environment."

The university committed itself to helping students "to ensure their success as well as greater levels of academic literacy – especially in English."

AfriForum however said it regarded the ruling "as indicative of the fact that during the negotiations leading up to the election of 1994‚ minorities had been misled into believing that their language rights would be protected."

Deputy CEO Alana Bailey said students had to be sensitised to treat each other with respect and to recognise each other’s rights‚ including language rights.

"This cannot be achieved by depriving anyone of their language rights and even less so by elevating English to be the only official language of tuition. With English monolingualism‚ only a tiny group of English-speaking students will be privileged‚ while the rest will have very little hope left that any indigenous language will develop further in future."

Mogoeng‚ in reading the decision of the court‚ said the use of Afrikaans had unintentionally become a facilitator of ethnic or cultural separation and tension.

"This has been so from around 2005 to 2016. Its continued use would leave the results of white supremacy not being redressed but being kept alive and well. It is for that reason that a policy revision or intervention has since become necessary‚" he said..

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