Afrikaans: An open letter to Panyaza Lesufi

Carien Bloem says mother-tongue education is the solution, not the problem

Mother-tongue education is the solution, not the problem

21 May 2019

Dear Mr Lesufi

I am writing this letter to you today because it is clear that you still do not realise that mother-tongue education is the solution and not the problem.

It is the fifth year already that you unsuccessfully try to get prospective grade 1 and grade 8 learners to apply online for the new school year. Every year there are problems with the system, resulting in endless confusion, chaos and frustration. The online applications have opened and already there are problems again, just as in the previous years.


Your political agenda is driving you to turn the school registration and admission process, and education in general, into a racial row and debate about Afrikaans. This, while the need for quality education, as well as education in one’s mother tongue, is ever increasing and many Gauteng parents and learners are being affected negatively by your decisions.

But it doesn’t seem to bother you. Everyone deserves equal access to quality education in their mother tongue. Do you realise that Afrikaans also is one of the official languages in South Africa?

This isn’t about colour or culture. We are living in a beautiful, diverse country where different languages are spoken by different people. However, it is important that children should understand the language they are taught in, and also the language of their fellow learners.

It will be difficult for an English-speaking child to adapt in an Afrikaans school, and vice versa. And this goes for all children speaking different languages.

Afrikaans is one of the few high-function languages in South Africa and we can unfortunately not allow you to try to disparage and destroy the language simply because you don’t like it.

Mr Lesufi, you are wrong in saying it would be to our children's detriment if they are educated in Afrikaans because all the universities are English. You of all people should know that mother-tongue education promotes multilingualism and that children who are educated in their mother tongue specifically will not have a problem studying in English.

Why is English your only solution for better education in Gauteng while our country has such a wealth of mother languages?

Why are you prejudicing learners in Gauteng by trying to take away their right to mother-tongue education? Why don’t you create opportunities for all in Gauteng to be educated in their mother language?

I can only wonder whether the glitches on the system could be part of your agenda?

The system does not verify parents’ home addresses, with the result that parents cannot successfully apply according to location.

Is it the system that is defective, or did you plan it like this after it had been agreed to accommodate one another?

You who are so quick to accuse and to portray people as dishonest, are your motives sincere?

Mr Lesufi, Afrikaans will survive as medium of education for a very long time to come and we as Afrikaans speakers will continue insisting on our right to mother-tongue education. It is time for you to look ahead and do your bit for a better future.


Carien Bloem, AfriForum’s Project Coordinator for Education, 21 May 2019