The University of Pretoria (UP) says it is not on an anti-Afrikaans crusade because it wants to change the names of its students’ residences.
UP has been criticised by AfriForum for its plans to review residence names, which it claims is part of the “pro-English” transformation of the university.
The university said it is not trying to get rid of all the Afrikaans hostel names, but that it wants to promote multilingualism and cultural diversity.
UP currently has 29 residences for its undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as four privately owned leased residences. Most of their names are in Afrikaans such as Asterhof, Jakaranda, Jasmyn, Maroela and Taaibos.
UP spokesperson Rikus Delport said there are clear guidelines for possible name changes, including that no one language will dominate the other.
Delport said professor Themba Mosia, who heads the students affairs and residence department (TuksRes), addressed the name-changes issue with the residence advisory board in March.
He said Mosia informed all heads of residences and committee chairpersons that he would like to submit a comprehensive recommendation on the changing of names to the executive by, at the latest, August.
“They were asked to provide guidelines within which the name changes should be discussed with the residence community,” said Delport. “It is against this background that he wrote to residences to remind them of the timeframe and to share guidelines. The idea is for each residence to follow an internal consultative process. In cases where students can’t reach an agreement, they’ll be allowed to vote on the issue.”
Delport said new names can be in any of the country’s official languages, including Afrikaans.
“According to the university policy, residences cannot be named after people, dead or alive. The history and origins of names will be considered.”
Werner Beineke, AfriForum Youth UP branch spokesperson, has rejected Mosia’s decision, saying: “These name changes are adding fuel to the fire. Students are scared the university will target or suspend them if they oppose the process.”
The road to UP name changes –
- August 2015 – The UP held an indaba which included, among others, staff and students to discuss the institutional vision for future student. The indaba was representative of all the cultural and language groups on campus and in residences;
- March 5 to May 28, 2016 – Two transformation lekgotlas were held where language, culture and transformation were discussed. Student leaders and staff were invited to participate;
- September 5, 2017 – The UP executive requested for any proposed changes of residence names to be submitted to it for approval;
- May 22, 2018 – Committee chairpersons are asked to provide guidelines within which the name changes should be discussed with the residence community; and
- August 2018 – A comprehensive recommendation on the changing of names will be submitted to the UP executive.