From the Editor: A sign of the times

This week the Perdeby editorial embarked on marathon interview sessions. We host intake interviews twice a year, and we receive numerous applications.

There were quite a few interesting interviews this year, with many promising candidates. Tough choices had to be made, and picking the best candidates is always difficult.

As I conducted interviews I noticed something fascinating – a pattern almost. For most of the interviews, especially with first and second years, applicants kept on saying the same thing, that they read their news online. No more than five of our applicants said that they read newspapers, and that made me a little bleak.

We live in an age of instant gratification – people want what they want, and they want it immediately. It is the same with the news and Perdeby has had to take this into account. We inform and entertain. Informing is our primary duty, but there is a significant scope for entertainment. This is why we have decided to add daily content onto our website, so that our readers can access student-centred, informative, and entertaining content on a daily basis.

We have big plans. I’m not going to divulge everything here, so keep an eye on the new Online Content tab on our website, as well as our social media accounts.

Our interview with the Executive Mayor stood out for me this week. Mostly because I disagree with his opinion on the language policy. I touched on the language policy in my last editorial, and I did not intend to this week, however, his stance led me to change my mind.

He’s said that a language cannot be “demolished” to fill a gap for a less developed language. To me it seems as if Mayor Msimanga is out of touch, as the new language policy promotes a single language of instruction: English. In terms of demand, it is simply not possible to justify that Afrikaans remains feasible as a language of tuition. On last week’s front page, we reported that the demand for Afrikaans at UP is at just 16%. This is surely a sign of the declining popularity of the academic use of the language.

Msimanga also said that to abolish a language is to “sabotage” everything the institution is about. I find that worrying. Yes, the University of Pretoria is a historically Afrikaans university, however, in terms of South Africa aiming to bridge the divide between the past and the present, and create a single society, is an Afrikaans university still relevant? What does UP stand for? Is it still a protector of Afrikaner privilege? The answer is debatable, but UP’s step towards a single language policy has shown an effort to transform the institution.

Mayor Msimanga has also attempted a slippery slope argument, questioning whether the abolition of Afrikaans would lead to English being abolished. That very notion is absurd. English is a language used globally and is an international business language. Furthermore, if or when English is implemented as the primary language of tuition, second language English speakers will be placed on a somewhat equal playing field, at least in terms of language.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many historical considerations that must be made when discussing the language policy.

It’s somewhat worrying that the Executive Mayor of the capital city has adopted this viewpoint. Hopefully he will at least engage  with the many complexities of the continued existence of Afrikaans at UP.

Perdeby published its last Afrikaans article in 2012, in an effort to make the publication accessible to all students. It was nothing personal, but the publication is put together for each and every one of the students on campus, not just Afrikaans speakers. This doesn’t mean that Perdeby was not a good publication before the change, it was just time to change to an all-English publication. UP has made a significant effort in changing the language policy, and it is a way of erasing inequality. It is a sign of the times.

If you have anything to say regarding the language policy, write to Perdeby. Letters can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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