AfriForum Youth compares BELA Bill to post Anglo-Boer War policies

Published Apr 20, 2024


CIVIL rights organisation AfriForum Youth has likened the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA) to the anglicisation policy applied by the British authorities in schools around South Africa after the Anglo-Boer War.

Through the policy, children were purportedly humiliated if they spoke Dutch at school, and made to wear signs hung around their necks with signs reading, “I am a donkey, I spoke Dutch”.

It was against the backdrop of this painful history that members of AfriForum Youth protested outside the Union Buildings recently, wearing black signs with the words “I am a donkey” around their necks in an appeal to President Cyril Ramaphosa to scrap the BELA Bill.

AfriForum Youth spokesperson Louis Boshoff said the amendment bill was a direct attack on mother language education in general, and an indirect attack on Afrikaans as a language of instruction.

Boshoff said this was because the Bill contained clauses that stripped school governing bodies of the power to determine a school’s language policy, essentially making it impossible for parents to home-school their children if the provincial education department had not granted prior permission.

“AfriForum Youth emphasises that, if the Bill were to be accepted in its current form, its application would amount to cultural ethnic cleansing. In this phenomenon, one group, such as the government, attempts to destroy all forms of cultural diversity of one or more cultural minorities by means of extreme assimilation and the destruction of a group’s cultural heritage and history, and then imposing a single language or world view on these groups.

“A large number of organisations and individuals have already expressed their opposition to the BELA Bill, but this protest shows that this destructive Bill will not only affect anonymous or faceless people but the youth of the present and future generations. The youth’s voice will not be muted; that is why the president must pay attention now,” Boshoff said.

According to government, however, the BELA Bill was tabled with the aim of amending certain sections of the South African Schools Act (SASA), with a focus on administrative and management processes at school level.

Its key provisions include making Grade R compulsory for all children, with possible jail time for parents failing to oblige; revising admission and language policies; addressing school disruptions; regulating home schooling; and, strengthening governance accountability.

Saturday Star

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