During the 1976 students’ uprisings in Soweto, the late photojournalist Sam Nzima captured one of the protesting students carrying a placard with a bold message, “Away with Afrikaans!”

This was a reaction to the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black township’s schools. The iconic message was printed in various local newspapers and gained a global audience as it accentuated the essence of the students’ demands.

The repressive organs of state, especially the police, were sent to crush the dissent, and this was accompanied by ugly scenes of violence and the mass arrests of student leaders.

The repression intensified the unity of the students and workers who provided a platform upon which a popular front was built in the 1980s’s, spearheading the final offensive against the apartheid regime. The ultimate outcome was the democratic breakthrough in 1994 and a constitution that guarantees each child the right to quality education.

Now the big question is: Is Afrikaans the quality education promised in the constitution?

It’s a shame that after 26 years of democratic rule by a black government, our children are still forced to learn this language.

This is a language that brought misery to the black child, and language that still frustrates and confuses our children


  • Letter by Bushy Green, from Kagiso