Of Racism and Language Policies

Being an “international” student, I could rattle on until the end of time explaining the importance and significance of language. Language is a determinant of success wherever you may be. It allows you to communicate with others , share ideas and thoughts. Language allows you to learn. If you don’t understand a language you are robbed of the opportunity to communicate , share and learn ; an undesirable state of being especially if you are a student.

A video called #Luister was recently published online. It recounts the racist experiences that some students at Stellenbosch have endured and their unhappiness with the Language Policy that has been implemented.

The medical campus that I attend is far away from Stellenbosch main campus so I can honestly say that the overt racism experienced by those students is not the norm on our campus. Our campus is an oddly intimate place so if you were to be rude about someone and call them racist names , you would undoubtedly find yourself facing the same person in the library or in the line for the coffee shop 😛

I thought I’d compile a list of my personal views on this topic based on the general comments made regarding this video and the general topic of racism and the language policy.

Why didn’t you go to UCT or UWC ?

Because Stellenbosch university is a public academic institution and thus means it is open to the public , a part of which I am. That being said nobody should have to chose the university they study at based on any other option than the quality of education. I should not have my choice to receive a good education hindered by the fact that I do not understand what is being taught to me.

Stellenbosch University aspires to be the best university in Africa and that is only achievable if it can attract top students from the entire country and continent and provide them with an environment that allows them to prosper.

Why don’t the blacks just build their own universities like we Afrikaans built ours ?

You obviously didn’t understand Apartheid.  I’ve sat through lessons about Apartheid since grade four so I will explain it again . The National Party ruled by white Afrikaans men decided that for the “good” of this country they had to create a “separate but equal” society . This favoured white (mostly Afrikaans) people as they had control of the entire economy , medical and educational systems. People of colour were systematically oppressed denied the opportunities to further their own development. Thus leaving South Africa with a gross developmental gap between white people and the people of colour, especially the black people.

Essentially black people were not allowed to flourish. When you are not allowed to flourish you can’t really go around building universities can you?

How can you come to an Afrikaans university and demand that they change their language policy to suit a few black students?

This is not just about the black students. It’s also about the international students from Zimbabwe , Nigeria , Kenya , Uganda , America and Korea amongst many other nationalities of people that attend Stellenbosch University. It’s about the students who do not understand Afrikaans having to sit through meetings that they don’t understand. Also,  Stellenbosch is not an Afrikaans university.

Why can’t you just use your textbooks, you don’t need lectures? 

Because medical textbooks have to be approximately 1000+ pages before they can be considered worthy of learning. I don’t have the time after attending class from 8 am to 5pm , to go through my textbook. And also 30% of studying happens in the lecture hall when you attend your lectures . Lecturers offer a wealth of knowledge through their expertise that each student has the right to gain from. Not only a few individuals.

Can’t they use translators ?

The translators are an inadequate service. The translators are not usually from the academic department for which they translate. So if the translator doesn’t understand, the student listening in won’t understand either. Sometimes the translators get the translations wrong.

But black people are stupid , they usually drop out of university. 

People need to accept that there is a wealth of intelligence that can be drawn from South Africa’s underprivileged students( of whom most are black) because poverty does not equate to stupidity.  If you were taught in a language you didn’t understand you wouldn’t be able to hold on to a degree either.

But black people just want to have babies and enjoy government grants.

Nope. I believe that I speak not only for myself but the entire population of black females at university , the ones who would be having these hypothetical babies,  when I say that WE DON’T WANT BABIES! We just want our degrees. Why would I choose to go through the pain of giving birth to earn money that is not enough for anybody to survive on ; let alone me and my child? Nope. Believe it or not, the majority of black people just want to earn their degrees so that they can become employed and be valuable contributing members of society.

Why can’t Stellenbosch have parallel medium classes?

Ergo Apartheid. Does the term separate but equal ring any bells ?? Parallel medium education literally takes us twenty steps backwards in the face transformation. That is how you begin to brew ideologies of Them And Us. And it’s expensive. You would need double the lecturers , double the lectures halls and double the cost of everything. It would waste everybody’s time.

Changing the language policy at Stellenbosch is unconstitutional . What of the Afrikaans students who do not understand English?

That’s not fair. What of the students who do not understand Afrikaans. You can’t choose who to discriminate against.  We have to strike a balance. That is where university management should come up with creative solutions that create an environment that is conducive to learning for all their students.

The Language Policy, as it is ,does not work because it protects the best interests of the lecturers , not the students.  Ideally Stellenbosch should seek to recruit lecturers who are proficient in both the English and Afrikaans languages and are able to interchange between the two whilst teaching. Thus eliminating the need for inadequate translation and unnecessary academic exclusion.

This is just ANC propaganda.

Nope. Consider me apolitical. I do not care about Jacob Zuma and Mmusi Maimane’s battle to the polls. I care about my education.

You’re attacking Afrikaans culture and it’s preservation.

I’ve always thought the preservation of culture was a guise under which people can refuse change because it doesn’t suit them. I think we should focus on evolution of culture instead and the foster inclusion of other people’s cultures at Stellenbosch. I also believe that racist actions do not speak for anybody’s culture, rather that individual’s personality.

There were many other comments made and I would have loved to make my views about them known but time is of the essence . I have to go and study Endocrinology now 😛

Lots Of Lily Love ❤ ❤ (LOLL)


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