Freedom Front Plus
Freedom Front Plus

Afrikaans in exam papers: A good history lesson is just what Cosas needs

A good history lesson is just what Cosas, the ANC-oriented student organisation, needs. This is evident from a press release in which the organisation rightly states that learners who are able to answer their question papers, for example, Mathematics, in their mother tongue have a significant advantage above others. If Cosas had a better understanding of the history of mother-tongue education in South Africa, the organisation would have been less bold in voicing its opinion.

In the first place, Cosas demands to know why Mathematics question papers still offer learners the opportunity to answer in English. The obstacle learners face of first having to translate the questions to a mother tongue before attempting to answer them is highlighted.

Then the organisation also demands that Afrikaans must be removed from matric question papers, both with regard to the instructions as well as the option to answer in Afrikaans. The student organisation has given the Department ten days to respond and then it has threatened to take action.

What Cosas clearly does not know is that mother-tongue education was in fact a pillar of the hated "Bantu education". It was met with strong opposition as parents viewed English as the language of progress.

Some considered the implementation of mother-tongue education as a form of "divide and conquer". The idea forms part of the narrative that "Bantu education" was meant to deny black people the opportunity to get ahead. So as soon as the Transkei gained self-government in 1963, mother-tongue education was abolished.

In contrast, Afrikaans mother-tongue education was an integral part of a comprehensive cultural struggle. It required immense zeal from communities of parents and academics to convince a reluctant government that Afrikaans as medium of instruction is indeed feasible. And that is precisely why Afrikaans-speaking people are so determined not to sacrifice that right, which had taken such a great deal of effort to acquire.

Ultimately, the press release issued by Cosas reflects one of the fundamental flaws of the education dispensation after 1994: Instead of developing other African languages to keep up with Afrikaans and English, Afrikaans is being derogated.

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