The DA has announced plans to launch an “unprecedented campaign” to put Afrikaans on an equal footing with English at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape.

According to DA MP Leon Schreiber, the campaign is aimed at fighting for language rights to enable South Africans to study in their mother language at public schools and universities across the country.

Schreiber said the party felt that Afrikaans at the university was “apparently removed for political reasons” and mother-tongue instruction at the institution was “reasonably practicable”.

In 2016, the university implemented a new language policy that in effect elevated the status of English in an effort to not make black students, who are not fluent in Afrikaans, feel marginalised, excluded and stigmatised.

In October, last year, the Constitutional Court unanimously found in favour of the university, which opposed an application by Afrikaans-language lobby group Gelyke Kanse to compel the institution to return to its 2014 language policy.

Schreiber said making Afrikaans equal with English at the university would allow for students to reach their full potential.

He said the campaign would see the opposition party advocating for the expansion of mother tongue education at every institution where it is “reasonably practicable”.

“The reason language rights are under assault in SA is because of a lack of political will to defend and promote these rights.

Schreiber further said “Unfortunately, in recent years, the DA too did not always defend the right to mother language education as vigorously as we could have. For too long, people did not have a political champion on their side to fight for their language rights”.

Schreiber also said Sunday’s federal congress, at which John Steenhuisen was elected leader of the DA, made it clear the party now proudly stands with all South Africans who wish to express their rights as free people in the language of their choice.

“As a party that treasures diversity and is deeply committed to expanding opportunities to all citizens, this resolution makes it clear that we now proudly stand with all South Africans who wish to express their rights as free people in the language of their choice,” said Schreiber.

“On the long journey that lies ahead in our fight to practically implement the constitutional right to mother language instruction, the DA will use every tool at our disposal to make access to education in all official languages reasonably practicable at many more schools and universities in SA.”