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Nzimande’s attitude towards Afrikaans proves that FF Plus is right about Afrikaans education and section in Constitution

The Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande’s revisiting of the issue of Afrikaans as indigenous language only confirms what he said right from the start: Afrikaans is a historically privileged language and will receive no support from government until all African languages have been developed to the same level.

The new Policy Framework for Higher Education, which was published in the Government Gazette earlier this month, complies with the 2021 court ruling that Afrikaans should be recognised as an indigenous language.

The addition about the previously privileged status of Afrikaans, however, deprives the recognition of any value.

Since its foundation in 1994, the Freedom Front (later known as the Freedom Front Plus), has been insisting that cultural rights, such as education, should have a firmer footing than mere agreements on policy.

While the strongest foundation for any cultural group is its own state, certain rights can indeed be upheld within a state such as South Africa. For that to happen, constitutional provisions, such as section 235 on self-determination, should be applied.

So far, school governing bodies and institutions for higher education have avoided such mechanisms.

The approach to date has been to rather comply with government’s wishes and in so doing, “buy” good favour. Some Afrikaans universities amended their language policies even before government required them to.

Unfortunately, this policy of appeasement cannot withstand a government that would rather create a monolingual English nation than develop indigenous languages.

No matter how “indispensable” or committed Afrikaans is to the nation-building project, government can seemingly not be persuaded to recognise the value of it.

While nothing is being done to develop other indigenous languages, Nzimande’s condition remains that those languages first need to be developed to the same level as Afrikaans before it can expect any support from government. Another way of saying it is, “Never!”

Education is central to the right to self-determination. An Afrikaans Department of Education, which provides basic and higher education in Afrikaans, should become part of the new South African dispensation.

Educational institutions need to realise that there is no such thing as apolitical education. Although there is no room for party politics in education, education is in essence a political enterprise.

The so-called BELA Bill and the “rectified” Higher Education Policy Framework proves that government realises this and wants to reinforce its political power over education.

For Afrikaans education to survive, Afrikaans educational thinkers and leaders will have to not only realise the political significance of their work, but also embrace it.

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