AfriForum loses language battle with Unisa

AfriForum loses language battle with Unisa

- In 2016 Unisa revised its language policy and deciding on English as the sole language of tuition

- AfriForum applied to the High Court to have the policy set aside on the basis that it was unconstitutional

- The High Court dismissed AfriForum's application and allowed Unisa to keep their revised language policy

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AfriForum lodged an application with the High Court to have Unisa's language policy set aside. The revised policy had made English the sole language of instruction for Unisa students.

The High Court in Pretoria dashed AfriForum's hopes to have the revised policy set aside when Judge Raylene Keightley dismissed the application brought by the political party.

AfriForum had argued that the policy, which was implemented in 2016, was unfair and had not been made with any public consultation. They also argued that the policy was unconstitutional as it failed to allow students the right to choose a language of tuition at a public institution.

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Unisa made the decision to make English the only language of tuition after the declining demand for Afrikaans speaking students. Only 5.1% of Unisa students are Afrikaans speaking while the overwhelming majority are English speaking.

The judge said that language choice at an institution depended on available resources and the need to redress past discrimination.

She said: “Universities play an important role as thought-leaders in society. Therefore, in my view it is acceptable and proper … for a university to consider how its policies reflect its role in the broader SA [and international] society.”

She also said that Afrikaans had enjoyed preferential treatment given the small amount of Afrikaans speaking students were demanding tuition in Afrikaans amid growing calls for resources to be allocated to developing African languages.

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“It seems the removal of Afrikaans was justified on the basis of considerations of equality, practicability and the need to redress past racially discriminatory laws.”

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