Pro-Afrikaans organisations and a group of students have expressed concern about the decline of the language as a medium of tuition at the University of Stellenbosch.
The organisations are the Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuur Vereniging (ATKV), the Afrikaanse Taalraad (ATR), the FW de Klerk Stigting, AfriForum, Regslui vir Afrikaans and Die Voortrekkers.
Japie Gouws from the ATKV said while they acknowledged the need for multilingualism to promote other indigenous languages, “it was wrong” to change the current capacity of Afrikaans by replacing it with English.
“Afrikaans is important in education. It influences the government’s aim to create work and to develop expertise.
“We are asking the University of Stellenbosch to take note of the concerns of individuals and organisations and to engage around the issue and to take action,” said Gouws.
The organisations are also claiming there has been in a drop in the numbers of Afrikaans-speaking students granted bursaries by the university.
In addition, they say, classes taught in Afrikaans have dropped by 6%-11% over the past six years.
In response, Mohamed Shaikh, senior director of communications at the university, said that in 2007 a decision was taken by the institution to introduce parallel-medium instruction in the larger faculties such as engineering, agriculture, natural sciences and economic and management sciences.
He said the aim was to enhance access for students from non-Afrikaans speaking backgrounds.
However, he said the university remained cognisant and sensitive to the language needs of students who preferred to study in Afrikaans.
This was why, he said, 64% of the all lectures were still presented in Afrikaans while only 36% were delivered in English.
Shaikh did admit, however, that there was a decline in bursaries being granted to Afrikaans-speaking students.
However, he said financial support provided by the university was based on personal circumstances and financial need regardless of colour, language or creed.
“The South African reality, however, is that most of the needy students come from the disadvantaged communities,” he added.