The Premier of the Northern Cape, Sylvia Lucas, on Monday officially launched Nama, an indigenous Khoi language to be taught at schools in the province. Accompanied by her Members of Executive Council and a delegation from Namibia, Lucas officiated at the august ceremony held at Riemvasmaak Primary School.
The language was first introduced in two schools in Riemvasmaak and Khuboes as an extramural activity and later phased in from Grade R. Lucas said initially the project presented many challenges one of which was the use of too large a sample but this time around they decided to pilot it in the two schools.
She said introducing the Nama language at schools in the province is part of their plans to preserve and develop the rich history and heritage of all indigenous languages in the country with the provincial department of education being an implementing agency.
She said Nama is part of Khoekhoe, a Khoisan language spoken by about 250,000 people in parts of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. It is spoken mostly by three groups namely, Nama, Damar and Hailom. In South Africa Nama speaking people are confined to parts of the Northern Cape such as Upington, Kakamas, Riemvasmaak, Pella, Kuboes, Steinkopf, Augrabies and Marchand.
“Strengthening and protection of the indigenous languages of our province has been an area in which the Department of Education has played an active role in empowering especially the communities of Platfontein and the Namakwa region in the development of these languages,” said Lucas.
The Provincial Government has also roped in the Pan African South African Languages Board (Pansalb), a statutory body created to, among others, help promote all indigenous and marginalised languages and ensure they enjoy equal status and respect.
Lucas praised the Department of Basic Education by making sure due recognition, preservation and promotion of the Nama language is guaranteed.
Inside Education spoke to two prominent members of the Khoi community, Christian Martin and Khoi Mo Blouw, who welcome the development. They said the initiative made them feel like an integral part of the South African society.
Martin said this was great news for the Khoi community.
“New life has been blown into the Khoi and San people. This is because language embodies culture, tradition and rites. Language differentiates animals from human beings. Today we can say this government restored our dignity. We are Khoi and San again not the other or Coloured or mixed people. This is Khoi in its true meaning,” said Martin, who is also an MP in the Eastern Cape.
Mo Blouw said he was moved to tears when he found out.
“I felt moved that morning and I couldn’t stop the tears from welling in my eyes. I realised that I am very fortunate to belong to a group whose members were present at the launch of the first official Khoi language to be implemented. Let us put our differences aside and move forward and break this Colouredness that was designed to divide and seems to haunt us even within our different Khoi movements,” Mo Blouw said.
Lucas said the idea to preserve and develop the language was given impetus by the twinning agreement with the Karas regional Council in Namibia. The Northern Cape and Namibia share a border and as such, they have a lot in common such particularly in culture, languages and the economy.
Lucas said the agreement was designed in such a way that it paid particular attention to trade and investment (economic), transport, environment, tourism and conservation, fisheries and aquaculture, basic education, tertiary education, sports, arts and culture, local government matters, safety and security issues.
She said currently they had developed an action plan and workstreams to implement and expand the agreement to include areas such as sports interaction, culture and heritage.