International Mother Language Day – But indigenous languages are under fire from the ANC

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International Mother Language Day - But indigenous languages are under fire from the ANC
International Mother Language Day - But indigenous languages are under fire from the ANC

While the world is celebrating International Mother Language Day on 21 February 2022, Afrikaans speakers increasingly feel that their own language is being disregarded and repressed.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) implemented Mother Language Day to promote language and cultural diversity.

But while language diversity, of which mother-tongue education forms an integral part, is being celebrated all over the world, South Africa’s own indigenous languages, Afrikaans in particular, are under fire from the South African government.

It is extremely alarming that there is legislation, like the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, that aims to make a political playball of schools’ language policies.

If the proposals in this Bill are adopted, it will put the power to determine schools’ language policies in the hands of provincial governments and MECs for Education, which includes characters like Panyaza Lesufi.

Through his actions and statements, Lesufi has already made it very clear that he despises Afrikaans-medium schools and that he wants to eradicate the language from the Basic Education spectrum.

That will amount to a direct contravention of constitutional provisions on language and cultural heritage and will mean taking a step back in terms of multilingualism, diversity and the promotion of all our indigenous languages in South Africa.

It is scientifically proven that mother-tongue education gives learners an academic advantage. In a 2010 report, the Department of Basic Education found that 65% of all grade 4 learners receive instruction in English, but that English was the home language of just 8% of those learners.

Twelve years later, the picture looks even more colonial with English being the medium of instruction of more and more educational institutions, at the expense of South Africa’s own, unique language mix.

The ANC government’s failure to provide proper basic education to learners correlates directly with the fact that mother-tongue education is being neglected.

South Africa’s indigenous languages all have a rich and diverse history that ought to be cherished, promoted and celebrated.

Language has complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, the impartation of values, education and development.

It is more than just a vehicle for conveying knowledge or providing education and must be treated as such. As South Africans, it is our duty to ensure that our indigenous languages are not negatively affected by increasing globalisation, the government’s shortcomings as well as the ANC’s lack of political will to protect them.

Legislation that aims to make a political playball of language must be opposed at all costs.

The people must demand that constitutional provisions on language and cultural rights are executed, that provincial language laws are implemented and that we can promote our own language diversity in our communities.

Read the original article in Afrikaans by Heloïse Denner on FF Plus