Democratic Alliance member of parliament and shadow minister of Public Service and Administration Leon Schreiber has resigned as a member of the Stellenbosch University’s Institutional Forum with immediate effect.
This after the Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal by Afrikaans lobby group Gelyke Kanse against the 2016 language policy of Stellenbosch University which saw English being elevated above Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.
Gelyke Kanse turned to the courts in order to get the university to revert back to its 2014 language policy which permitted parallel English/Afrikaans medium tuition.
In a lengthy explanation shared on Facebook in Afrikaans, Schreiber said his decision was made with a “heavy heart”.
He touched on what he called the “world-class” education provided to him by the institution; education which he said allowed him to later achieve a doctorate in Germany before receiving a research post at Princeton University.
Schreiber added that although he respected the constitutional decision, he could not personally be privy to the phasing out of mother-tongue teaching in South Africa.
The MP stated that Stellenbosch was one of the last universities in the country that still offered teaching in Afrikaans before adding that he was of the belief that “no students from the Western or Northern Cape can properly study in Afrikaans any more, despite it being the dominant language in these two provinces by far”.
“Unfortunately, the most important resource is the one that is absent: the political will to phase out indigenous languages so that their speakers’ culture and economies can flourish,” he wrote.
“Our constitution has now officially confirmed that English, in the public sphere and in life, is a first-class language, while our indigenous languages and their speakers are considered second-class. The mooted equality of our 11 official languages only exists on paper.”
He attributed his resignation to his inability to turn around and be part of an immoral process where thousands of students would be robbed of the same opportunities he had.
“Everyone who loves the language like I do, and the rich diversity of all South Africa’s languages, now have a choice: we can either be complicit in the takeover of our society, or we can take responsibility and support new, private teaching institutions, like [Chief Justice Mogoeng] Mogoeng encouraged us to. I will not give in or be complicit to it. I choose to support all attempts to boost indigenous languages, including private schools and universities, as well as everyday life. I hope you will make the same decision,” he concluded.
When contacted for comment, the university’s media liaison, Martin Viljoen, said: “Stellenbosch University notes with sadness the resignation of Dr Leon Schreiber from its Institutional Forum and thanks him for his service to the IF.”
Read his full explanation below: