Daar is geen enkelmedium Engelse universiteite in SA nie sê Blade Nzimande

2015-06-05
Adv Anton Alberts

Uitsprake van die minister van hoër onderwys, Blade Nzimande, dat daar geen enkelmedium Engelstalige universiteite in Suid-Afrika bestaan nie, is skokkend onvanpas gemeet met die rigsnoer wat gebruik word om te bepaal watter universiteite slegs Afrikaans is, sê adv. Anton Alberts, die VF Plus se parlementêre woordvoerder oor hoër onderwys.

In antwoord op parlementêre vrae van adv. Alberts oor onder meer die grondwetlikheid van enkelmedium Engelse universiteite, en of sulke universiteite ook gedwing kan word om hul taalbeleid te hersien, het die minister in wese geantwoord die vrae is nie relevant nie aangesien daar nie enkelmedium Engelstalige universiteite in Suid-Afrika bestaan nie.

Die minister het dit ook duidelik gemaak dat hy in terme van artikel 27(2) van die gewysigde Wet op Hoër Onderwys (Wet 101 van 1997) alleenreg het om te besluit oor die taalbeleid van universiteite.

Oor die gebruik van Engels, lui die antwoord; ‘Engels is ʼn internasionale taal wat gebruik word in hoër onderwys regoor die wêreld. Dit is prakties die aangewese hooftaal om te gebruik in Suid-Afrikaanse instellings vir onderrrig en studies”.

Adv. Alberts sê die antwoord is nie sinvol nie. “Is die ANC-regering se enigste motivering om universiteite te verengels bloot omdat Engels ʼn internasionale taal is?

“Die minister self sê die drie maatstawwe om taalbeleid te bepaal is regverdigheid, praktiese uitvoerbaarheid en die regstelling van die verlede. Met sy antwoord word nie werklik aan een die vereistes voldoen nie.

“Die beleid is onregverdig teenoor al die nie-Engelstalige studente in Suid-Afrika en terselfdertyd stel dit geen onreg van die verlede reg om ook swart inheemse moedertaalgebruikers te dwing om in ʼn Engels te studeer nie.

“Die minister maak ook wilde denkspronge deur te sê dit is prakties te beste. Wat van die Wes-Kaap waar Afrikaans verreweg die grootste taal is?

“Hierdie antwoorde maak dit duidelik dat die regering Afrikaans en ander inheemse tale misken en die beleid sal gewis aanvegbaar wees in die Grondwethof,” sê adv. Alberts.

 

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Vrae en antwoorde:

Adv A de W Alberts (FF Plus) to ask the Minister of Higher Education and Training:

(1) Whether he has found that single medium English-speaking tertiary institutions fall within the provisions of the Constitution of the RSA, 1996, with specific reference to the promotion of indigenous languages and non-discrimination based on language; if so, what is the basis for the establishment of single medium tertiary institutions; if not,

(2) whether he will be taking steps against single medium English-speaking tertiary institutions so as to compel these institutions to change their language policy; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?

REPLY:

(1) The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa declares that: “the official languages of the Republic are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu”. The Constitution, Section 6 (1), (2) and (4) of the Founding Provisions also states that: “the state must take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these [the indigenous] languages” and that all official languages must enjoy parity of esteem and be treated equitably”. The Constitution enjoins the Pan South African Language Board to promote and create conditions for the development and use of these and other languages.

With regard to the provision of languages at institutions of higher learning, Section 29 (2) of the Constitution states that: “everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. In order to ensure the effective access to, and implementation of this right, the state must consider all reasonable educational alternatives, including single medium institutions, taking into account –

(a) Equity;

(b) Practicability; and

(c) The need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices.

These facts are stated so that there is a clear understanding on the obligations of the Minister of Higher Education and Training. In terms of Section 27 (2) of the Higher Education Act (101 of 1997, as amended), the Minister determines Language Policy for Higher Education. In accordance with this legislation, each institution of higher education is required to establish its own language policy, guided by the Constitution and Language Policy for Higher Education. This requirement takes into account the autonomy of institutions to determine flexible language policies provided that such determination is within the context of public accountability and my responsibility to establish the parameters. Although the Language Policy for Higher Education is designed to promote African languages in institutional policies and practices in higher education, it clearly does not discourage the use of English. English is an international language utilised in higher education across the globe, and it is practicable for South African institutions to utilise this as the main language of teaching and learning.

Therefore, I have found that English-speaking tertiary institutions fall within the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (RSA).

(2) In terms of language policies of individual universities, none are single medium English-language speaking. Therefore, in terms of the question there are no steps that need to be taken to compel universities to change their language policies.

The action required is aggressive improvement of universities in developing indigenous languages. I believe that the promotion of multilingualism in the higher education sector is imperative as the Constitution of the RSA accords equal status to all our languages. In this regard, the Language Policy for Higher Education published in November 2002 is the framework that guides the practices at higher education institutions. In addition to this policy, there are other mechanisms through which the Department attempts to steer institutions towards the development of all official languages especially the indigenous languages. For example, an allocation of infrastructure and efficiency funds to support the development of facilities for the teaching of African Languages was introduced during the 2012/13 to 2014/15 infrastructure cycle; R311.654 million was allocated to the category ‘African Languages, Humanities and Social Sciences’. Within this category, approximately R120 million was allocated to various universities for infrastructure projects related to the development of African Languages. In addition, the Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications policy published in the Government Gazette Number 34467 of 15 July 2011 requires all new teachers to be at least conversationally proficient in an African language. Currently, there are 21 universities offering initial teacher education that are developing the capability of teachers in African languages and contributing towards the revitalisation of African languages departments at universities, as well as the teaching of African languages in schools.

My Ministry is mindful of the fact that effective and sustainable teaching of African languages at universities is dependent on the competency in these languages being developed at the level of schooling, and therefore that all languages should form an integral part of the basic education curriculum. The Department is working in close collaboration with the Department of Basic Education to ensure that there is synergy on this important matter, especially with regards to the training of teachers.