Mother tongue teaching: President should talk less and do more


Solidarity doubts the sincerity of pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s sudden concern about mother tongue teaching which he expressed earlier this week at the lekgotla of the department of basic education in Boksburg.

While Ramaphosa emphasized the importance of mother tongue education in a democracy, the reality is that indigenous languages ​​as a medium of instruction have been and are being abandoned over the years by the very government.

Johnell Prinsloo, education researcher attached to the Solidarity Research Institute (SNI), says the president’s comments will intoxicate more than just native Afrikaans speakers.

“Of course we realize that now is a popular time for nice election speeches coming from government officials. However, over the years it has become clear how nothing has been done to promote mother tongue teaching in other indigenous languages.

“Solidarity is of course in favor of mother tongue education – clearly much more so than the government, from whom we see no serious action whatsoever in this regard,” says Prinsloo.

As far as Afrikaans mother tongue education is concerned, Solidarity sees not only a lack of support from the government, but open hostility towards it.

Attempts to transfer schools’ authority over their language and admissions policy to government officials with the help of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bela) can be seen as a clear attack on Afrikaans.

The bill is currently being processed by the National Council of Provinces (NRP).

According to Prinsloo, there are other ideological aims with the Bela legislation, which despite the government’s pretended fight against decolonisation, will only lead to further Anglicisation of schools.

“Putting the emphasis on mother tongue education is also the government’s mandate in terms of the South African Schools Act. Functional Afrikaans schools can precisely enable the government to distribute resources to where they are needed.

“That is why it is in the government’s best interest to give greater autonomy to governing bodies and functional schools. Bela is absolutely at odds with that,” says Prinsloo.

Solidarity challenges Ramaphosa’s government to build any schools – even so-called decolonized schools – to ensure wider access to public schools.

Until this happens, statements about it, and about mother tongue education, will clearly be nothing more than cheap politics from Pres. Ramaphosa not be.