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Gelyke Kanse and Others v Chairperson of the Senate of the University of Stellenbosch and Others (CCT311/17) [2019] ZACC 38

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Gelyke Kanse and Others v Chairperson of the Senate of the University of Stellenbosch and Others (CCT311/17) [2019] ZACC 38

11th October 2019

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[1] At issue is the 2016 Language Policy (2016 Language Policy) of Stellenbosch University, the third respondent.  The applicants challenge it.  They are a voluntary association committed to equal chances for Afrikaans and all indigenous languages, together with six brown[1] and white students of the University who wish to receive tuition in Afrikaans.  I refer to them collectively as Gelyke Kanse.[2]  In proceedings in the High Court of South Africa, Western Cape Division, Cape Town (High Court) they sought to set aside the 2016 Language Policy and reinstate its predecessor, the University’s 2014 Language Policy (2014 Language Policy).  The High Court rebuffed their challenge.[3]  They now seek leave to appeal against its finding.

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[2] In 2014, the University, after a twelve-year break,[4] adopted a new language policy — the 2014 Language Policy.[5]  That Policy stipulated Afrikaans as well as English as the University’s languages of learning and instruction.  It committed the institution to purposeful extension of the academic application of both languages.  As the preferred options, where practically feasible and affordable, the 2014 Language Policy offered parallel medium teaching of undergraduate courses, in English and Afrikaans, with interpreting.  In practice, this was mostly from Afrikaans to English.  Postgraduate learning was in both English and Afrikaans, with significant use of English.  The 2014 Language Policy envisaged promotion of isiXhosa as an emerging academic language, where feasible and affordable.

[3] Under the 2014 Language Policy, at undergraduate level, a student wanting tuition in Afrikaans could obtain it in all courses and classes, while one seeking English tuition could not always do so: some classes, at least, would be in Afrikaans.  In those cases, interpreting within the lecture aimed to bring non-Afrikaans-speakers up to speed in English.

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