Scrap the BELA Bill, demands AfriForum Youth members with “donkey boards” around their necks

During a protest action at the Union Buildings, members of the youth organisation AfriForum Youth today appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa to scrap the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA), and therefore to erase it, so to speak. As a symbol of the erasure that is being pushed for, young protesters wore blackboards with the words “I am a donkey” around their necks and displayed a giant eraser at the protest. A memorandum, addressed to Ramaphosa, in which AfriForum Youth sets out their opposition to the Bill, was also handed over to a representative of the Presidency during the protest.

According to AfriForum Youth, the BELA Bill is reminiscent of the anglicisation policy that British authorities applied in schools shortly after the Anglo-Boer War. As part of this policy, children were humiliated if they spoke Afrikaans at school. Signs with the words “I am a donkey, I spoke Dutch” were then hung around these children’s necks in an attempt to anglicise them. In order to raise awareness of the contemporary anglicisation that is to be imposed on schools with the BELA Bill, AfriForum Youth members who participated in the protest action also wore “donkey boards” around their necks.

In the memorandum AfriForum Youth argues that the BELA Bill is a direct attack on mother language education in general, and an indirect attack on Afrikaans as a language of instruction. The Bill contains clauses that strip school governing bodies of the power to determine a school’s language policy and that will make it impossible for parents to homeschool their children if the provincial Department of Education has 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 worldview on these groups.

According to Louis Boshoff, Spokesperson for AfriForum Youth, the BELA Bill leaves young Afrikaans people hot under the collar. Among today’s group of protesters were young people who currently still have the privilege, or until recently had the privilege, of being taught in their mother language, and would like to see their children also one day granted that privilege. “A large number of organisations and individuals have already expressed their opposition to the BELA Bill, but today’s 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,” concludes Boshoff.

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