Away with Africaans!  



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‘Away With Afrikaans’ was the slogan used is the black school children in the townships protesting the state of their education, specifically the use of the Afrikaans language as the medium of instruction in black urban schools.   On June 16th, 1976 terrible racial clashes erupted in Soweto and 127 students were killed when police fired on the protestors.


36" x 36"   Oil on Canvas   (2000)                                  $2500


South Africa had two official languages, English derived from it’s British colonial days and Afrikaans, a hybrid of Dutch, German, French and English, which evolved from precolonial times to the mid-20th century.   Afrikaans was the language of the ruling Nationalist Party since 1948, the language of the oppressors and the object of hatred and derision amongst South Africa’s non-white peoples.  The children believed they should be taught all subjects in English, a language of universal application.  Speaking only their tribal language and Afrikaans, it was believed, would not enable the students to compete in the world outside of South Africa. 

Pupils in schools in Soweto and other townships were taught in their mother tongue (Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho) they reached 6th grade, after which subjects had to be taught in the two official languages.  In 1976 the Government ruled that African school children in ‘white’ urban areas, like Soweto, must be taught in both English and Afrikaans.  Every other group in South Africa - whites, Indians, coloreds and Africans in rural areas and in the Bantu Homeland schools, had the right to choose and in fact, all the homeland governments had dropped Afrikaans in favor of English only. 

As a result of this ruling black leaders began to demand that the Government forthwith abandon Afrikaans in the schools and allow the students to be taught exclusively in English.  In Soweto, a number of African school boards rejected the ruling on equal language and ordered school principals to use English exclusively.  Two members of the Tswana School Board in Meadowlands, a suburb of Soweto, were fired by the local Bantu board (white) for refusing to accept Afrikaans.  The entire board then resigned in protest.  Subsequently, five additional black school board chairmen were replaced. 

This formed the backdrop for the school children abandoning their classrooms and taking their protests to the streets.


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