NWU VC: “Transformation is not aiming at killing Afrikaans”

    Students at North West University’s Potchefstroom campus (Pukke) “seem to be reliving 1976 with regard to language” but vice-chancellor DAN KGWADI says the university is trying to serve all students, equally. BENAZIR CASSIM brings us up to speed.

    In recent weeks, The Daily Vox has been documenting instances of discrimination based on race and language at the North West University’s (NWU) Potchefstroom campus (Pukke). Black students at Pukke have described feeling discriminated against and excluded from campus life due to the fact that they do not speak Afrikaans.

    On Wednesday, reporter Pontsho Pilane hosted a video hangout with the university’s vice-chancellor, Dan Kgwadi, who told viewers that he is pushing for transformation across all three of the university’s campuses.

    Asked to comment on Pukke’s language policy, which dictates that most classes are taught in Afrikaans, Kgwadi said: “We seem to be reliving 1976 with regard to language”.

    In the student uprising of 1976, today commemorated on June 16 as Youth Day, students at Soweto schools protested against the imposition of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction.

    Responding to allegations of racism and discrimination on campus, Kgwadi said that racial stereotypes and discrimination still exist in the society in which the university exists, and these filter into the university. However, he said the university was working towards overcoming these.

    Kgwadi is pushing for transformation in all three NWU campuses, but admitted that it is a process.

    “When it comes to the pace of transformation, it depends on which side you are sitting. There are … people who are worried about it being a revolutionary process. And then there are those that are also concerned that it is more evolutionary … I guess the answer is somewhere in between,” said Kgwadi.

    Asked whether he agrees with Afrikaans-speakers who say that transformation is a threat to Afrikaans, Kgwadi said, “It’s like crying at a wrong funeral, because transformation is not aiming at killing Afrikaans.”

    RELATED: NWU-Pukke: “Pukke is the only Afrikaans campus left, where must we go?”

    Kgwadi said management at Pukke are trying to walk a middle ground that caters to both Afrikaans- and English-speaking students, inclusively, and that it is the duty of Afrikaans students and staff not to use Afrikaans in an exclusive way.

    Kgwadi said he intends to develop a unitary NWU, rather than maintain three campuses divided by historical differences and distance and that, for the sake of social justice, there must be equity of resources and equity of student experiences across all three campuses.

    The university is planning a series of engagement forums such as round tables and formal debates for students to engage with one another and the university. Kgwadi encouraged any students who have been victimised to contact him directly.

    You can watch the full hangout here:
    For a Pukke student’s experiences of racism at NWU-Pukke, watch our previous hangout.

    What are your thoughts on the VC’s plans for NWU? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @thedailyvox using the hashtag #PukkeVC.

    – Featured image via Facebook