Sekete Khanye
Sekete Khanye

In defence of the view that Afrikaans is still imposed on learners

This blog seeks to cover new information in support of the thesis that Afrikaans is still imposed on learners at the expense of other African languages. This information is sub-divided into the following topics: scientific, statistical and factual realities to politics of language in education, proof of the author’s historical involvement in the struggle for language equality and educational justice, what one of the architects and fathers of the South African democracy, Nelson Mandela, has said about language and education, and relevant provisions in the South African Constitution.

Scientific, statistical and factual realities related to politics of language in education:

  • Although English may not be the most spoken language for conversational purposes in South Africa, it is the most spoken language for legal, media, educational, business, diplomatic, scientific, medical and technological purposes in South Africa, in SADC and many other parts of the world.
  • English is the medium of instruction in former white schools in South Africa.
  • Afrikaans is the only second language provided in most former white schools in
    South Africa.
  • African languages are not provided for in most if not all former white schools even at second language level.
  • Home language is critical for the cognitive, confidence and identity development of any child.
  • Most African learners perform worse academically in Afrikaans than they would in an African language.
  • The poor academic performance of African learners in Afrikaans does not only affect their academic performance in Afrikaans as a language subject but negatively affects their aggregate academic performance as well. This then further affects their competence and confidence.
  • Homes of African families do not reinforce the learning of Afrikaans taught in class and former white schools do not reinforce the learning of African languages spoken in homes of African families and so African learners are frustrated by this deliberate and yet solvable condition.
  • It is morally correct for former white schools, public and private, to provide for the teaching and learning of at least two African languages per school.
  • Most African parents are unable to substantially and sustainably support their children with homework in and on Afrikaans.
  • When African parents pay school fees in former white schools and taxes to the government, they do so in support of, inter alia, the provision of Afrikaans in former white schools. They do so at the expense of the provision of their home languages in former white schools.
  • When mathematics, economics, English, Afrikaans, etc, are provided for in the curriculum and budget of the school, no parent is consulted but when it comes to the provision of at least two African languages at second-language level per school, parents are to be consulted.
  • Worst, a pretext is created by the government that former white schools will initiate and execute consultations with parents on the provision of African languages.
  • For more than a decade in South Africa’s democracy, there are no government guidelines to guide the implementation of language policies in education, especially in former white schools.
  • The combination of English as the medium of instruction and a home language at second-language level is the best basic combination to prepare all of our children for global participation and standing in the current and long future to come. This combination prepares every child to access and orientate him or herself in the world. The mastery of the English language helps one to access many discourses in the world and the learning and embracing one’s home language helps one to actualise in terms of identity and confidence.
  • I served on an all-white school-governing body at Halfway House Primary School but was expelled. This was soon after I raised the language inequality issue. I spoke to the district director of the Gauteng department of education, Babsy Matabane, but my concerns were dismissed as unfounded. I raised the issue with the MEC, Angie Motshekga, and the CEO, Malelle Petje, of the Gauteng department of education but was held in abeyance. I raised the issue with the Commission for Culture, Religion and Language commissioners but was met with a combination of interest and apathy. I raised the issue with the deputy CEO of the SA Commission for Human Rights, Tshediso Thipanyane, and the chairperson, Jody Kollapen, but was met with a combination of interest and apathy. I discussed the issue with Tim Modise from 702, with Masechaba Moshoeshoe on Khaya FM and with Thabiso Sekwane on SAFM. I also co-founded and served as first general secretary of the United Front for School Governing Bodies (SGB) — an association for SGBs.

    Some relevant quotations by one of the architects and fathers of the South African democracy, Nelson Mandela:

  • “One benefits a great deal by meeting people from different walks of life and that conversations with people from such differing environments tends to widen one’s general knowledge.”
  • Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  • “Education is the great engine of personal development.”
  • “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
  • “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
  • “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”
  • “We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right.”
  • Some relevant provisions of the Constitution of South Africa: Bill of Rights — Chapter 2

    Section 9 on Equality states:1. Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. 2. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken. 3. The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. 4. *1 No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination. 5. Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair. § Section 10 on Human Dignity states: Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected. § Section 28 on Children states:

    1. Every child has the right ­
      1. to a name and a nationality from birth;
      2. to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;
      3. to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;
      4. to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;
      5. to be protected from exploitative labour practices;
      6. not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that ­
        1. are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or
        2. place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;
      7. not to be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which case, in addition to the rights a child enjoys under sections 12 and 35, the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time, and has the right to be ­
        1. kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years; and
        2. treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the child’s age;
      8. to have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result; and

    i. not to be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict. 2. A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child. 3. In this section “child” means a person under the age of 18 years.§ The detailed provisions with regards to language reflects the fact that South Africa is a culturally diverse nation and has 11 official languages. Chapter 1’s Founding Provisions, section 6 is the constitutional basis for government language policy, and Chapter 2’s section 29 places positive responsibilities upon the state in this regard. Section 29 on Education states:

    1. Everyone has the right ­
      1. to a basic education, including adult basic education; and

    b. to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.

    1. Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. In order to ensure the effective access to, and implementation of, this right, the state must consider all reasonable educational alternatives, including single medium institutions, taking into account ­
      1. equity;
      2. practicability; and

    c. the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices.

    1. Everyone has the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense, independent educational institutions that ­
      1. do not discriminate on the basis of race;
      2. are registered with the state; and

    c. maintain standards that are not inferior to standards at comparable public educational institutions.

    1. Subsection (3) does not preclude state subsidies for independent educational institutions.

    § Section 30 on Language and Culture states:Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights. § Section 31 on Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities states:

    1. Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members of that community ­
      1. to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language; and

    b. to form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society.

    1. The rights in subsection (1) may not be exercised in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.

    § [Limits on rights must be reasonable and must have an important objective. Limits should also be “less restrictive.”] Section 36 on the Limitation of Rights states:

    1. The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including ­
      1. the nature of the right;
      2. the importance of the purpose of the limitation;
      3. the nature and extent of the limitation;
      4. the relation between the limitation and its purpose; and

    e. less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.

    1. Except as provided in subsection (1) or in any other provision of the Constitution, no law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of Rights.

    § Section 39 on the Interpretation of Bill of Rights states:

    1. When interpreting the Bill of Rights, a court, tribunal or forum ­
      1. must promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom;
      2. must consider international law; and

    c. may consider foreign law. 2. When interpreting any legislation, and when developing the common law or customary law, every court, tribunal or forum must promote the spirit, purport and objects of the Bill of Rights.

    1. The Bill of Rights does not deny the existence of any other rights or freedoms that are recognised or conferred by common law, customary law or legislation, to the extent that they are consistent with the Bill.

    § Section 8 on the Application of Rights states:1. The Bill of Rights applies to all law, and binds the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and all organs of state. 2. A provision of the Bill of Rights binds a natural or a juristic person if, and to the extent that, it is applicable, taking into account the nature of the right and the nature of any duty imposed by the right.

    1. When applying a provision of the Bill of Rights to a natural or juristic person in terms of subsection (2), a court ­

    a. in order to give effect to a right in the Bill, must apply, or if necessary develop, the common law to the extent that legislation does not give effect to that right; andb. may develop rules of the common law to limit the right, provided that the limitation is in accordance with section 36(1).

    1. A juristic person is entitled to the rights in the Bill of Rights to the extent required by the nature of the rights and the nature of that juristic person.

    § Section 38 on the Enforcement of Rights states: Anyone listed in this section has the right to approach a competent court, alleging that a right in the Bill of Rights has been infringed or threatened, and the court may grant appropriate relief, including a declaration of rights. The persons who may approach a court are –

    1. anyone acting in their own interest;
    2. anyone acting on behalf of another person who cannot act in their own name;
    3. anyone acting as a member of, or in the interest of, a group or class of persons;
    4. anyone acting in the public interest; and
    5. an association acting in the interest of its members.