n Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif - The right to receive education in one's language of choice : a fundamental, but contentious right

Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1016-4359
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2193



This article examines the right to receive education in one's language of choice as guaranteed under section 29(2) of the Constitution. As a starting point the article briefly looks at the language clause in the Constitution. Section 6 of the Constitution provides that there are 11 official languages that must enjoy parity of esteem and for the elevation of the status of languages whose usage was "historically diminished". In the context of the language of education this suggests that these languages have to be granted the opportunity to be used as languages for education.

The right to receive education in one's language of choice is not absolute. Section 29(2) limits this right to instances where it is "reasonably practicable" to receive it. It has been established, however, that despite this limited constitutional guarantee, English is the language of education. This has led to a conflict between the Afrikaans single medium schools, which wished to preserve the status quo, and the government, which argued that the status quo has the effect of excluding non-Afrikaans speakers from the educational realm. A number of court cases ensued as a result. In 2010 2 SA 415 (CC) the Constitutional Court seems to entrench the position that schools are bound to offer learners education in the latter's official language of choice where it is reasonably practicable. In doing so, however, government has a positive duty not to interfere with the rights of those already enjoying this right. The article also proposes measures that could be taken to ensure that this right is realisable.

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