News / South Africa

Virginia Keppler
4 minute read
22 Jan 2018
3:00 pm

Coloureds stand up for their culture as many believe there is a ‘war’ against Afrikaans

Virginia Keppler

Gauteng education MEC’s goal is to phase it out as a language, say parents.

Police officers conduct arrests after a molotov cocktail was thrown at a police vehicle outside Hoerskool Overvaal in Vereeneging on 18 January 2018. Members of the ANC, EFF and parents protested outside the school due to a court ruling supporting the school not include English First Language students this year as it is an Afrikaans school. Picture. The protest turned violent, with police using stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. Yeshiel Panchia

Many coloured people in Gauteng believe there is a war against Afrikaans as a language and Afrikaans schools in particular, and that there is a perception that coloured people are okay with this.

“What about how we feel about the slow murder of our language? Most of us speak Afrikaans and still send our children to an Afrikaans school,” one parent told The Citizen.

They say that Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is a man on a mission with only one goal – to make sure he phases out Afrikaans as a language from every single school in South Africa, causing more hatred, racism and divisions along racial lines.

Coloured people say schools in their communities are changing before their eyes and they are forced to take their children out of their communities in search of Afrikaans schools.

“But what does it help if the government is now closing those schools too?” one parent asked. For example, Norridge Park Primary School in Eersterust is now completely English and Fred Margadie has just one Afrikaans class. In Eldorado park, a number of schools have also been turned into English-only schools.

All these schools were formerly Afrikaans schools, then turned into dual-medium schools. However, the education department could not tell The Citizen how many schools were affected.

Some principals of Afrikaans schools in Gauteng are nervous, fearing the day Lesufi will turn his attention on them, perhaps causing a repeat of the violence seen at Hoërskool Overvaal in Vereeniging after 55 English-speaking pupils were denied access to the predominantly Afrikaans school because it was full.

The High Court in Pretoria later ruled the school was justified in turning down the pupils because there was space in other English-medium schools in the area. These principals and schools did not want to be named.

Neil Glynn, a former Pretoria teacher for 28 years, said his 17-year-old daughter was in Grade 12 this year. “Afrikaans is in my bones and the dominant language in our house. While we are for integration and for change to accommodate everybody, it is clear that the education department is trying everything to change all the schools to English.

“Because Afrikaans is mostly thought of as a white language, the government forgets that it is also our language and one of the most spoken languages in this country.

“I am aware that there is an attack on Afrikaans and no matter what story they spin us, it is what it is,” he said. Dawn Chummie from Johannesburg said school would never be the same without Afrikaans.

“It is part of our heritage and I honestly don’t think Nelson Mandela would have allowed for our language to be treated like this,” she said.

Ella Esau, who has a daughter in Grade 12, said her daughter was one of 45 children in her class, the only Afrikaans class in that grade. “What is this issue with English? I don’t want to lose my mother tongue and I also don’t want my children to lose that part of our history.

“My daughter does very well in her Afrikaans class, but I am scared that there will be a day Afrikaans is a lekker taal. when they say all the lessons are now in English,” Essau said.

She said the school was originally Afrikaans, then turned into a dual-medium school and now it was completely English, except for one Afrikaans class.

“It would seem that the education department and the government is making sure they’re killing our language little by little.

“I will not stop teaching my children to be proud of their mother tongue because we have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to Afrikaans,” Essau said.

Elzabe Jacobs said she would fight for her daughter to stay in an Afrikaans school because she did better there than when she was in an English class.

“It is no secret that the coloured people and their needs are always ignored and isolated. “We are always standing outside the house. We are not to be blamed for apartheid, but we are paying for it,” she said.

Lesufi’s office said they would respond today to The Citizen’s inquiry.

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