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Apartheid's Policy Regarding The Language Issue in African Education

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In one way or another every one of us is a victim of the most untransformed policy in this university. To those of you who deny this, comparing to other universities, how diverse is our student body? What about staff diversity? Have you ever paid attention to our hang out places? Do you always feel confident talking in house meetings? Then, why do you insist on saying black students studying in the university are not harmed? When a black student’s white friend is teased because he hangs out with black students, it creates a danger. It creates a danger when white students make jokes and say, “you blacks are a poor moose” and then tell you, “I am just joking, but why are you being sensitive about this? I am not even being racist; it is just a racist joke.” There is no such thing as a “racist joke.” These things happen every day to the black students. They have become a culture at the university and largely normalized. Afrikaans as a language of instruction is forced on us so that white people could stay in power and advantaged and this is self-evident because of the administrations’ unwillingness to change anything and their silence after so many students complained about their struggles with the language.

Afrikaans is used as a tool to allow the white students’ domination in the university. And racism is interlinked in the fact that “we know that you can’t speak Afrikaans so we are going to use it as a tool to not get you into this conversation and to not get you into this friend group” just like Afrikaans nationalism in 1940s was used to dominate the country.

After 23 years of freedom, we are still struggling. Sometimes all we want is to simply understand what is being said in class and we are tired of having some whispering voices in our ears that we can’t even see. We cannot keep struggling in our own land. South Africa is our country as well as the one of every other race. Until when do we want to feel excluded on the grounds of language? Until when do we want to be oppressed? Until when do we have to feel unaccepted, and unwelcome in our own land? Black voices were silenced by the university just for the sake of protecting their language policy. They are willing to safeguard their language policy but what about black students? It is disheartening to segregate students and disregard their rights as native students and choose their success and wellbeing over a language policy that could be easily transformed. This isn’t the South Africa that we claim belongs to all who live in it.

There are many different cultures and languages in this country and they all have to be preserved. But we need to compromise for the greater good if we all want to live in harmony and that means we need to use English as our instructional language which is spoken by everyone, used by the government to be the medium of this country and could be used for communication with the wider world. We are not against Afrikaans, we are against it being used as a tool of exclusion. We are trying to stop the exclusionary practices that persist at Stellenbosch University. We are trying to make everyone happy by creating equality.

Our parents had gone through this same oppression and similar situation in the Soweto uprising in 1976. To me it feels like the past doesn’t want to leave us alone. But today it should. Our parents fought Apartheid and it is disheartening that it is still alive. They didn’t fight for nothing; they fought for us. And we are in the second phase of the fight to remove Apartheid not only from the law, but also remove Apartheid from the societal norms and from our institutions. Now is the time to completely eradicate those remnants of dark history from our present. Now is the time to say no student should be forced to learn and educated in Afrikaans. Now is the time that our house meetings should cater to the majority, our lectures should cater to the majority, and now is the time to make our university recognize the efforts it has played in creating Apartheid. Now is the time, to free ourselves from these shackles: the shackles of Apartheid.

And if I am sure of something, I am sure that you and I can change this and we will change it for the better today. Not tomorrow, but today. I want to ask you all to reflect on what kind of university we want to become? what kind of treatments we want to receive, because this is the South Africa that we claim belongs to everyone so we are going to make that claim to be the truth today. Stellenbosch belongs to us as well as our white brothers and sisters and everyone who lives in South Africa, so why don’t we fight together to reach equality for all?

To summarize, now is the time to cleanse Apartheid from our education. We have great challenges to overcome. We won’t let any student feel disadvantaged because of language and we will indeed make a future that will make every South African student in Universities feel safe, happy and become well-educated.


  • Hein Willemse, “Afrikaans is much more than South Africa’s oppressor language,” Quartz, May 03, 2017, accessed March 19, 2018
  • King Jr., Martin Luther. “’I HAVE A DREAM.”
  • Language Policy and Oppression in South Africa. Cultural Survival. Accessed March 21, 2018.
  • Luister”. Accessed March 19, 2018.
  • Milton Nkosi, “Why South African students want to be taught in English,” BBC, 13 November 2015, accessed March 19, 2018

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