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Join hands on language
Author: Dr Leslie van Rooi
Published: 31/08/2021

In this article that appeared in Rapport of 22 August 2021, Dr Leslie van Rooi, SU's spokesperson on language, responded to an article of the 'Helpmekaar Studiefonds that was published in Rapport a week earlier. '


The sentiments about how to save Afrikaans as expressed in the open letter from the Helpmekaarfonds to Maties' Chancellor Edwin Cameron are significant, writes Leslie van Rooi.

The role of Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University (SU) has indeed become an emotional focal point, especially for Afrikaans speakers. This is because language is related to our identity, our place and role in South Africa and our variety of life stories.

But it is also more than that.

This conversation is also about being together in relation to others within the context of diversity and a variety of experiences. It is about cultivating healthy skills, unlocking knowledge, student success and establishing a human rights culture that shows that my rights should be recognised. But also that my rights are always in relation to those of others.

Language is therefore very important to SU. Through its language policy as well as the second draft version thereof, the University confirms language diversity at various levels in the learning and living experiences of students such as staff on our campuses.

Afrikaans is part of this because it forms part of the story of our University community. Indeed, Afrikaans has built up an academic repertoire over decades, to which SU has made a significant contribution and continues to contribute. Think of the Woordfees and the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT) in addition to the academic offer. SU remains committed to the utilisation and expansion of the academic potential of Afrikaans, together with English, as languages of teaching against the background of multilingualism.

Therefore, SU continues to emphasise that we believe that our students have more choices, greater access and a better future thanks to this approach.

We also reaffirm that Afrikaans ensures access and success for a large number of our current and future students' across borders. But we also know that language diversity enables Maties to acquire skills that make them sought after for appointments here and elsewhere.

The Helpmekaar Study Fund will agree that it is critically important for SU that access should lead to success. No wonder our throughput and pass rates are among the highest in the country. SU does not want to deprive mother tongue speakers of a learning and living experience that confirms the richness of language diversity. And that is precisely why the discussed second draft of the new policy confirms this!

 Read the full article, in Afrikaans, here.

  • ​Dr Leslie van Rooi is Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation and the language spokesperson at SU.