However, UP currently does not have an interpreter in staff to assist Capital D deaf students. Therefore, such persons are not accommodated for and lack the necessary facilities to be assisted. The Disability Unit Head of Department and manager, Ms. Maria Ramaahlo said, “There are informal attempts to have South African sign language included on campus, but it would greatly assist us if we were to have a South African sign language interpreter in staff. If perhaps the Humanities Department, with how they offer other languages would include South African sign language which is the first language of all capital D deaf for that particular group of people. More can be done, there are informal attempts, but I think if we can formalise them, we can allow for an inclusion for a group of people that are largely marginalised from other persons with disabilities.”
Language plays a crucial role in both social and academic communication. After the 2016 movement where students called for Afrikaans to be removed as a University language of instruction, a new language policy has since been drawn and set to be put in place in 2019. The North Gauteng High Court agreed with UP that they can change the language policy to remove Afrikaans as a medium of instruction after it was challenged by Afriforum. The UP spokesperson Rikus Delport explained that, “From 1 January 2019 English will be the language of teaching and learning for all first-year programmes at the University of Pretoria. The only exception is where students are studying other languages and in programmes with profession-specific language outcomes, subject to approval by Senate. English will also be the language of official communication and administration on all campuses and in residences. Where requested and feasible, administrative services may be provided in other South African languages.” This means that students who registered before the commencement of this new policy in 2019, will still be academically addressed in Afrikaans for those programmes that were offered in Afrikaans when they initially enrolled. Other universities, like the University of Free State, have also gone through such changes in 2016.
Illustration: Rhodeen Davies