Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS
Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS

The number of single-medium Afrikaans schools has been declining since the early 2000s as more pupils choose English as the primary language of instruction, says Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

Language is a contentious issue in education, with some viewing Afrikaans schools and universities as discriminatory.

In 2015, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi accused Afrikaans-medium schools of using language to exclude other races while seeking to remain "Afrikaans enclaves".

Lesufi said he was prepared to go to the Constitutional Court to force such schools to become dual-medium.

In response to a question from the Freedom Front Plus in Parliament, Motshekga said the number of Afrikaans single-medium schools, most of which were in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape, had decreased from 1,814 in 2002 to 1,234 in 2016.

The largest decrease took place in 2010, when the number of Afrikaans-medium schools dropped by 158, she said.

"The demographics in the areas of some schools have changed. In response to the growing number of learners wanting English as the language of learning and teaching, the schools have introduced English as the second language of instruction…. Declining numbers of Afrikaans-speaking learners forces the schools to revert to parallel medium [English and Afrikaans]," said Motshekga.

Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts said that "under ANC rule, single-medium Afrikaans schools have decreased by nearly a third since 2002 and this serves as proof Afrikaans is under vicious attack at the level of basic education as well".

"One of the biggest reasons for this is that new schools are not being built and many existing schools are dilapidated and unused," said Alberts.

Equal Education general secretary Tshepo Motsepe said Afrikaans-medium schools "cannot continue to operate in silos, especially considering the increase in pupil numbers" and schooling needs.

"It is good that single-medium schools are on the decrease and more multilingual schools are fostering integration and the sharing of scarce resources in the pursuit of schooling for all," said Motsepe.

 

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