A case study of the language in education complaints received by the CRL commission: multilingualism a far cry from implementation

  • Patricia Watson Research Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand, PO Box 922234, Norwood, Johannesburg 2117
  • Marné Pienaar Department of Linguistics and Literary Theory, University of Johannesburg, Kingsway Campus, PO Box 524, Auckland Park 2006, South Africa


This paper reports on the processes that a parent followed to have his child's language in education rights acknowledged and implemented within the state schooling system in South Africa between April 2004 and June 2005. The case of Mr. Parent X1, representing his son at Gauteng Primary School (a former Model C School in Johannesburg)would like access to Sesotho as a first additional language-as-subject. This case highlights the routes for linguistic advocacy that are provided for in the Language in Education Policy of 1997, from the principal, to the School Governing Body (SGB), the provincial Department of Education and finally the institutions for language rights promotion and protection provided for in and by the new Constitution. Mr Parent X's navigation through the unchartered waters of language-as-subject rights recognition is both admirable and disconcerting, especially since it highlights the limitations of a language policy that is so inclusive that it risks not adequately creating real space for the historically marginalised endoglossic languages in education. The case also alerts us to many emergent ironies related to language rights in this democratic context which would seem to have become a ‘breeding ground' for linguistic genocide.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2007, 25(4): 575–588

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614