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  • Die Taalsekretariaat
  • Doelstelling
  • Moet universiteite SA se rassesamestelling reflekteer?

    3.  Afrikaans as a medium of instruction and the racial profile of society.

    The racial composition of South-African society is a reality. The Taalsekretariaat subscribes to the following principle as a matter of policy: that the demographic profile in terms of racial composition should be reflected in the organs of state and in public institutions. This general principle cannot be applied to its logical demographic conclusions in all the organs of state or state institutions. If this were to be applied, it would follow that the composition of public institutions should be 2.5% Asian, 77.56% Black, 8.4% Coloured and 11.6% White.( Projected Population Figures University of South Africa Bureau of Market Research. Report 282 Date 2001.) Applied to tertiary institutions it would follow as a matter of logic that all these institutions (both the so called “Afrikaans” and “English” medium institutions) should reflect the above-mentioned racial composition. The Taalsekretariaat has no problem with the intention that these institutions should be transformed to reflect the demographic profile of South Africa, with the proviso that the standard of service to the general public should not be impaired by such a transformation. There are various programs of affirmative action in the public sector in place to achieve a more balanced representation of the racial composition of South Africa in the organs of state and public institutions. There are even statutes of Parliament such as the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998, which makes it mandatory that this transition should be implemented and regulated in the private sector.

    As a general principle and matter of policy the Taalsekretariaat subscribes to the principle of transformation of institutions to reflect the racial composition of South Africa.

    There are, however, public institutions that cannot be subjected to this principal. The very nature of the service these institutions render to the public precludes the application of the demographic profile principle. An example of this would be state-subsidised hospitals. It would be both unethical and impractical to admit patients on the basis of their racial profile. Institutions such as these exist purely to render an essential service to people, regardless of their race.

    Whilst the Taalsekretariaat subscribes to the general principle that there should be no racial barriers in admitting students to tertiary institutions, admissions should be regulated so as not to destroy the main aim of the tertiary institutions. As stated previously in this submission, the main aim of a tertiary institutions is not the preservation of a particular language, be it English or Afrikaans. The main aim of a tertiary institution is to provide the marketplace with trained and skilled manpower, to do research and to explore new scientific horizons that will benefit mankind.This aim is realised through a medium of instruction. In South Africa, this medium of instruction is Afrikaans or English, irrespective of the racial composition of the students. If the admission policy of students to tertiary institutions erodes the medium of instruction of a particular institution, and in this case we are referring to certain Afrikaans-medium institutions of instruction, it jeopardises the purpose and existence of these institutions. For the Afrikaans speaking community the medium of instruction, especially at pre-graduate level, is an avenue in attaining higher education. If this medium of instruction is being eroded by introducing the racial composition of society as a criteria in the admission of students, then the Afrikaans speaking student who seeks instruction in Afrikaans is being deprived of a fundamental constitutional right, namely instruction in the language of his or her choice. It is a well-known fact that new Black entrants to tertiary education will seek instruction through the medium of English, simply because it is the only medium that is available to them to achieve higher education.

    It can be argued that Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at higher institutions of learning must not act as an impediment to black students who seek education in English to attaining access to these institutions. The Taalsekretariaat does not support such an argument because it frustrates the constitutional principle of education in the language of choice by Afrikaans speaking students. The converse of the argument is equally true: the admission of Black students to institutions of higher education, where the instruction at pre-graduate level is through the medium of Afrikaans, should not prevent Afrikaans-speaking students from being instructed in the language of their choice. It is a well-known fact that where students were forced through circumstances to attain their secondary education in English, and where these students are admitted to a tertiary institution where the medium of instruction is in Afrikaans, it follows as a matter of course that the medium of instruction reverts to English. This is disempowerment through language.

    The introduction of the racial demographic principle to the admission of students to institutions of higher learning is also not supported by the Taalsekretariaat on Constitutional grounds. There are no provisions in the Constitution of South Africa that the racial composition of South African society should be elevated to a norm to attain certain rights. There are no provisions in any statute that racial composition of the society should apply in order to gain access to tertiary institutions. If the racial composition argument is applied as a matter of governmental policy and it frustrates Constitutional principles such as education in Afrikaans as chosen language of instruction, then policy matters override fundamental Constitutional provisions. It is in support of the Constitutional provision of education in the language of choice that we recommend (refer recommendation 3) that special measures should be introduced to regulate the pressure for instruction through the medium of English.

    It is not only the providing of education through the medium of Afrikaans that is at stake. There are important educational and constitutional principles at stake, which, if neglected, could seriously impact upon the environment in which Afrikaans is to operate and survive as a language in its own right.


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