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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

Weideman focuses on misconceptions with regard to survival of Afrikaans
2006-05-19

From the left are Prof Magda Fourie (Vice-Rector: Academic Planning), Prof Gerhardt de Klerk (Dean: Faculty of the Humanities), George Weideman and Prof Bernard  Odendaal (acting head of the UFS  Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French). 
Photo (Stephen Collett):

Weideman focuses on misconceptions with regard to survival of Afrikaans

On the survival of a language a persistent and widespread misconception exists that a “language will survive as long as people speak the language”. This argument ignores the higher functions of a language and leaves no room for the personal and historic meaning of a language, said the writer George Weideman.

He delivered the D.F. Malherbe Memorial Lecture organised by the Department Afrikaans at the University of the Free State (UFS). Dr. Weideman is a retired lecturer and now full-time writer. In his lecture on the writer’s role and responsibility with regard to language, he also focused on the language debate at the University of Stellenbosch (US).

He said the “as-long-as-it-is spoken” misconception ignores the characteristics and growth of literature and other cultural phenomena. Constitutional protection is also not a guarantee. It will not stop a language of being reduced to a colloquial language in which the non-standard form will be elevated to the norm. A language only grows when it standard form is enriched by non-standard forms; not when its standard form withers. The growth or deterioration of a language is seen in the growth or decline in its use in higher functions. The less functions a language has, the smaller its chance to survive.

He said Afrikaans speaking people are credulous and have misplaced trust. It shows in their uncritical attitude with regard to the shifts in university policies, university management and teaching practices. Afrikaners have this credulity perhaps because they were spoilt by white supremacy, or because the political liberation process did not free them from a naïve and slavish trust in government.

If we accept that a university is a kind of barometer for the position of a language, then the institutionalised second placing of Afrikaans at most tertiary institutions is not a good sign for the language, he said.

An additional problem is the multiplying effect with, for instance, education students. If there is no need for Afrikaans in schools, there will also be no  need for Afrikaans at universities, and visa versa.

The tolerance factor of Afrikaans speaking people is for some reasons remarkably high with regard to other languages – and more specifically English. With many Afrikaans speaking people in the post-apartheid era it can be ascribed to their guilt about Afrikaans. With some coloured and mostly black Afrikaans speaking people it can be ascribed to the continued rejection of Afrikaans because of its negative connotation with apartheid – even when Afrikaans is the home language of a large segment of the previously oppressed population.

He said no one disputes the fact that universities play a changing role in a transformed society. The principle of “friendliness” towards other languages does not apply the other way round. It is general knowledge that Afrikaans is, besides isiZulu and isiXhosa, the language most spoken by South Africans.

It is typical of an imperialistic approach that the campaigners for a language will be accused of emotional involvement, of sentimentality, of longing for bygone days, of an unwillingness to focus on the future, he said.

He said whoever ignores the emotional aspect of a language, knows nothing about a language. To ignore the emotional connection with a language, leads to another misconception: That the world will be a better place without conflict if the so-called “small languages” disappear because “nationalism” and “language nationalism” often move closely together. This is one of the main reasons why Afrikaans speaking people are still very passive with regard to the Anglicising process: They are not “immune” to the broad influence that promotes English.

It is left to those who use Afrikaans to fight for the language. This must not take place in isolation. Writers and publishers must find more ways to promote Afrikaans.

Some universities took the road to Anglicision: the US and University of Pretoria need to be referred to, while there is still a future for Afrikaans at the Northwest University and the UFS with its parallel-medium policies. Continued debate is necessary.

It is unpreventable that the protest over what is happening to Afrikaans and the broad Afrikaans speaking community must take on a stronger form, he said.

 

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