Statement on the NWU language policy
26 March 2018
The process of revision of the language policy of the North-West University (NWU) has led to widespread and often constructive debate in the press, social media and among our stakeholders.
The language policy and plan task team, that has been appointed by Senate and that is led by Prof Robert Balfour, the deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, notes and processes all the inputs as part of the drafting process in preparation for a submission to the university’s Senate and Council.
It is timely to reflect on some important considerations which inform this process.
We acknowledge the fact that our language policy and plan must satisfy demands from various stakeholder groups that seem contradictory. However, we take our cue from the Language Policy for Higher Education (LPHE) that prescribes a functionally multilingual environment, as well as our 2017 Statute that states that the language policy of the university “must be flexible and functional, and must redress language imbalances of the past and promote multilingualism, access, integration and a sense of belonging.”
The NWU has always been clearly multilingual and strives towards further enhancing its multilingual nature; therefore current speculation suggesting the university is contemplating monolingualism as an option, is misinformation and untrue.
The NWU’s language policy must be consistent with provisions of the LPHE according to which access to languages must be developed. The LPHE makes specific provision for the development of African languages as a means of widening access and supporting student success. These provisions place an obligation on the university to use various resources to do this, including the medium of instruction, translation of study materials and interpreting in-time and off-line. These are all options designed to support access and increase student success.
Simplistic calls for either English or Afrikaans as the only choices for education at the NWU are therefore irrelevant and damaging. The question is not which language to support, but what provision is needed to enable other languages to function in support of learning at the NWU?
Binary approaches also have the potential to polarise and detract from the need to achieve education transformation and integration of groups through the use of different languages, rather than in spite of them. Widening access satisfies both educational and transformational goals and it is for this reason that associating one language with one campus is incongruent with any vision for education and diversity at the NWU.
It is worthwhile to consider the words of Constitutional Court Judge Johan Froneman when he urged language rights activists to recognise “the complexity of the language rights of others and the unequal treatment of oppressed people of other races in the past, let alone the continued existence of historic privilege.”
Some commentators argue that the NWU’s Potchefstroom Campus is the last campus in the country where Afrikaans is perceived to be the exclusive language of teaching and learning and that this should stay so, even if it excludes other languages. The fact is that the Potchefstroom Campus is not an exclusively Afrikaans campus and has not been for some time.
On the Potchefstroom Campus the majority of postgraduate programmes are conducted in English. Undergraduate programmes are delivered in a variety of languages and modalities (parallel, interpreting and single language), sometimes mandated for educational reasons and/or required by professional bodies.
To argue that Potchefstroom is exclusively Afrikaans, is therefore a misrepresentation of its academics, students and its programmes. Such rhetoric has the danger of focussing attention on defending false ‘positions’, rather than engaging in the work of building bridges – through our languages – to academic success and understanding.
A minority of commentators allege that management has already made a decision on the language policy of the NWU. This is not true. Management, like any other consulting structure, must explore all possibilities aimed at maximising student access and success in relation to the sustainability of the university as community and institution.
This allegation also ignores the fact that the language policy is approved by the NWU Council with the approval of the Senate. Labelling leadership as hypocritical or as agents or betrayers of any one language group, reveals instead an impulse to simplify complexity, ignore constitutional imperatives and focus instead on perspectives of race, language and identity not supported by thinking South Africans. Responsible South Africans must be concerned with building the whole nation, as all public universities are committed to do.
I know that the vast majority of our students, staff and alumni detest such attempts to divide, and want only that which seeks to embrace our rich language landscape and allow all to feel included.
Consultation is key in the revision of the North-West University’s language policy
9 March 2018
The five-yearly revision of the North-West University’s (NWU) Language Policy and Plan (LPP) is taking place presently and includes an intensive consultation process with various structures and stakeholders. All policies of the NWU are in the process of being reviewed following the adoption of a new strategy, structure and statute.
The project team welcomes all stakeholder inputs and invites participation by members of the university community in the ongoing process of consultation.
A variety of stakeholders, including faculty boards, the Convocation, the Senate, academics, support services, student representatives and the Institutional Forum, have been or will be invited to give feedback and provide input. An electronic language survey is presently being conducted to solicit inputs from staff and students. The Senate of NWU, as the academic governance body, will have the opportunity to provide input into the policy and plan, before it is presented to the NWU Council in June 2018 for consideration.
The Language Policy and Plan task team received its brief from the University Management and Senate in October 2016 and has been driving the process subsequently. A first draft of the policy was discussed at an extraordinary Senate meeting in June 2017.
The current language policy is a functionally multilingual policy, which means that it can be adapted in a flexible manner as needed in a variety of situations. An example of this flexibility is the use of parallel-medium classes on our Potchefstroom and Vaal Triangle campuses. Another is the practice of simultaneously interpreting classes either from or into Setswana, English and Afrikaans.
It is clear that we will not end up with a language policy or plan that provides mono-lingual language provision since both our statute and national language policy for higher education demand that we promote multilingualism. The new statute which was approved in March 2017 provides:-
“The language policy of the university determined by council in accordance with section 27(2) of the Act, must be flexible and functional, and must redress language imbalances of the past and promote multilingualism, access, integration and a sense of belonging.”
(Section 7(6) of the Statute of North-West University)
Social Work water drive
23 February 2018
The international theme for Social Work for 2018 is promoting community and environmental sustainability. In response to this theme and the water crisis in the Cape, the subject group Social Work on the Potchefstroom Campus has initiated a water drive. They are encouraging everyone to save water and also to donate water that will be transported to Cape Town by Gift of the Givers.
The subject group has collaborated with Yusuf Abramjee to create an awareness of the dire shortage of water in the Cape and the need to conserve water in our water scarce country.
You are encouraged to contact the NWU co-coordinator of this project, Ms Tasleem Hassim by phoning 018 299 2195 or sending an email to email@example.com.
Staff and students are welcome to drop off water bottles at the drop-off point at Building E8, Room 204, or you can contact Ms Hassim to arrange for collection.
While donations of any sort will be appreciated, 5 litre bottles will be the most practical donation.
Statement by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dan Kgwadi, on the decision by the University Management Committee (UMC) regarding orientation practices at the North-West University
21 January 2018
The North-West University is fully committed to respecting the freedom and rights of all individuals and groups, as well as ensuring equality and human dignity for all. Since the beginning of the 2018 Registration & Orientation (R&O) programme, the University Management Committee (UMC) members have received complaints and concerns that suggest possible violation of basic human rights.
The UMC has held meetings with students from various groups at the Potchefstroom and Mafikeng campuses to ascertain the allegations of unfair treatment. Although these students appreciate the R&O activities, they are certainly unhappy with certain practices.
The UMC evaluated these practices and concluded that certain practices do not promote the NWU strategy or adhere to applicable policies, rules and regulations.
The UMC resolved in essence as follows:
- Student leaders must play their part in creating a sense of belonging for all NWU students irrespective of colour, language or origin.
- Language must be used in a manner that it is not exclusionary but as a tool for integration and ensuring communication and understanding among all students. The NWU’s language policy must be fully implemented at all times. I.e. we must apply multilingualism and use interpretation service whenever applicable. If interpretation services are not available, full live translation is to be utilized.
- Residence uniforms [as opposed to NWU-branded clothing] must only be used after hours (after 17:00), except that residence headgear and backpacks already purchased may be used.
- While it is understood that students may be escorted as a group as part of moving to areas where activities occur, or visiting university facilities, no group-marching, and no shouting at students as individuals or when in groups, is allowed
- Shouting at students for whatever reason is strictly prohibited
- First-year students or juniors must be treated with respect
- First-year students must be provided with opportunities and time to rest
- The official programme specifies which hours are available for the various activities which students may participate in. Switching off the lights to compel students to sleep is not allowed.
This was communicated to student leadership and relevant staff. The aforesaid measures are applicable immediately.
We acknowledge that senior students play an important role in the R&O programme and thank all involved. We affirm that management remains responsible and accountable for the R&O programme and will continue to monitor the programme closely. We believe that we can build a caring culture and a vibrant student experience in 2018 and beyond. The decision by the UMC will, to our mind, facilitate a more inclusive NWU where all will feel equally welcome.
This is in no way an attempt to stifle student life in residences at any campus. We encourage all spontaneous or organised activities as long as they are never enforced on any student, first-year or senior, and at all times recognise and respect the human dignity of everyone and are in accordance with our ethic of care.
We believe this intervention by the UMC was necessary and supports our objective of eventually producing graduates who will make distinctive contributions to society.
We need to develop graduates who can think independently and have the capability to explore and cultivate promising ideas. We also want them to enjoy their personal lives, and thoughtfully engage in public life. This starts at university level.
To achieve this, student life beyond the class-room must support the development and growth of students. Therefore we constantly must renew our student campus life across the NWU, in the light of our strategy.
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