new language policy is approved at University of the Free State (UFS)
By Matshidiso Makhalanyane According to the South African constitution, 11 official languages are bound to be used equally with pride. For the past few weeks, UFS and other universities such as Stellenbosch University were heavily protesting against the use of Afrikaans. Students were affected by the use of Afrikaans language as medium of instruction, simply because they found it hard to understand it. Therefore according to them “it was unacceptable for lecturers to use it during lectures.” UFS`s council was sympathetic enough to hear their loudest cry. The University of the Free State approved a new language policy during its meeting 11th of March 2016 on the QwaQwa campus. At the meeting, the university agreed to the multilingual environment with concentration on Afrikaans, Sesotho, isiZulu and other languages represented on all three of its campuses situated in both QwaQwa and Bloemfontein. Focusing on multilingualism, the following suitable principles came with the newly approved policy. 1. English will be the primary medium of instruction on the three campuses at QwaQwa and Bloemfontein. 2. Multilingualism will be supported among other activities an expanded tutorial system mostly for first-year students. 3. The primary formal language of the university admin will be English with enough flexibility for the practice of multilingualism around the university. 4. Formal day to day interactions will be in English, while multilingualism is encouraged in all social interactions. “This is a major step forward for the UFS. I commend Council for their constructive and positive manner in which the discussion took place”. – Judge Ian van der Merwe, chairperson of the UFS Council. Furthermore on the new approved policy: Amongst others. 1. Language should not be a barrier to equal access. 2. Promoting the provision of academic literacy, especially in English for all undergraduates. 3. Making sure language is not used as a tool for social exclusion of staff and/ or students on any of its campuses. 4. Contributing towards the development of isiZulu and Sesotho as higher education language. 5. The continuous development of Afrikaans as an academic language 6. Recognition and promotion of South African Sign Language and Braille. The approval came after a mandate that was given to the university management on the 5th of June 2015. The newly approved language policy will be phased in as from January 2017 according to an implementation plan.