Jansen's disregard of language rights a bigger danger to reconciliation than to Afrikaans - AfriForum
"With his remarks that English should be used as medium of education rather than first language education, and the danger so-called 'white, Afrikaans schools' pose to race relations in South Africa, Prof Jonathan Jansen not only raises concerns about the future of Afrikaans at the University of the Free State (UFS), but also steps into the trap of political ideology and rhetoric to the extent that he loses sight of academic and cultural rights and principles."
These were the comments of Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum and Deputy Chair of the Afrikaans Language Board, on statements made by Prof Jansen at the Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture at the UFS.
According to Bailey the necessity of single medium schools offering education to learners in their mother tongue is an internationally recognized principle. The UN acknowledged that language is not merely a means of communication but an integral part of human identity, and subsequently declared 21 February International Mother Tongue Day. In their statement it is mentioned that the promotion of languages in fact promotes solidarity, tolerance and mutual understanding.
"People will live together peacefully and productively if their various identities and cultures (which include language) are respected and they are allowed to live freely what they are. If everyone is forced into English medium education, the opposite will happen. Mutual respect between communities will never be achieved by disregarding and disowning people's language, culture and identity. Neither will it lead to academic excellence."
Bailey further emphasized that the quality of education in South Africa will be improved by better training for teachers, by resisting the destabilizing influence of some trade unions, by reversing the mismanagement of the Department of Basic Education and by promoting a practicable curriculum. "Language is not the reason for the poor quality of education in the country - the excellent performance of single medium Afrikaans schools in fact prove the value of mother tongue education," Bailey said.
In 1952 Bengal students felt so strongly about their language that they were willing to die in run-ins with the police in Pakistan. The same applied to learners in Soweto in 1976. Winners of the international Linguapax Prize, such as professors Neville Alexander and Fernand de Varennes, have openly declared themselves in favour of mother tongue education and Afrikaans.
Historians such as Prof Herman Giliomee, educationists such as Dr Michael le Cordeur, newspaper editors such as Mondli Makhanya and politicians such as Dr Mamphele Ramphele also supported the principle. The statements by Prof Jansen should therefore not be taken seriously," Bailey added.
"No single language can foster mutual respect and recognition by dominance. It will only be reached by the promotion of all South African languages."
Statement issued by Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO, AfriForum, October 2 2013
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