#BestoftheInternets: Open Stellenbosch protests language policy: “We Can’t Breathe”

By Vanguard Reporter

On Monday 27 July, members of Open Stellenbosch, “a collective of students and staff working to purge the oppressive remnants of apartheid in pursuit of a truly African university” at the University of Stellenbosch, disrupted a lecture protesting the current language policy. Stellenbosch University’s language policy states students have a choice of three options: lectures mainly in Afrikaans, lectures primarily in English, or the “T specification” where half the lecture is presented in Afrikaans and the other half in English.

Sikhulekile Duma, spokesperson for Open Stellenbosch, chatted to Contraband about the problems related to race and language at SU.


On Monday, 27 July, Open Stellenbosch posted the following statement of their Facebook page:

“Statement regarding events of 27 July 2015:

On 13 May 2015 the Open Stellenbosch Collective handed over our Memorandum of Demands directly to university management. The demands were compiled following three weeks of extensive engagement with students and discussions of their shared experiences with the culture of exclusion at Stellenbosch. These stories of the lived experiences of exclusion were included in the document.

What we want is an end to the use of translators, and the availability of all classes in English.

Management’s communique of 18 July 2015 was the official response to the Memorandum of Demands. Management has categorically rejected Open Stellenbosch’s requests for reforms, within their power, that would make meaningful differences to the lives of black students at Stellenbosch. There has been no direct reference to our demands. Management’s only commitment has been to the vague, unaccountable, unmeasurable concepts of ‘accelerated’ and ‘evolutionary’ transformation. This cannot be asserted to be any progress at all.

In addition to outright rejecting our demands, Wim de Villiers has explicitly expressed that he will not engage in a debate with Open Stellenbosch regarding the language policy. Ironically, despite this fact, the university has attempted to legitimise its position by alluding to their invitations to have a ‘round table’ discussion with us. This discussion was to take place outside of student spaces, chaired by Wim, and would have included other bodies that are not committed to transformation.

We have rejected the round table discussion. We instead invited Wim de Villiers to a meet with us, the students, in the space that we feel Wim de Villiers needs to see and understand: the student’s space. In addition, we decided today to offer direct support to a black student who felt he could no longer breathe in his class. We attended a lecture with the student in solidarity, and supported him by vocally expressing all of our lived experiences, aloud, when the student stood to express his. Our education is interrupted by the T-option system when we cannot understand a lecture. Today we made the university feel this interruption. When all they heard was noise; this is what we hear when we cannot understand a lecture.”




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