Nama San language activists launch a curriculum to revive the language

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Language activists have launched the Nama San Language Curriculum in Upington in the Northern Cape. Their aim is to safeguard the continued existence of the San languages, many of which are on the brink of extinction. They further intend to develop learning materials and a colourful Nama-San, English and Afrikaans glossary.

The Nama language dates back thousands of years. It is a language being spoken in Namibia, Botswana and parts of South Africa.

Language activists say this ancient language is on the brink of extinction and they want to revive it. A language activist Athea Damarah says it is important that children should be taught the language.

“We can help this language not to get extinct. A language is not just something that we talk about. A language tells your story, it tells your history. It tells you who you are, where you come from and where you are going. To me, for now, my focus is on the little children. It is easier for them to learn. When you are older, you only learn something that is important to you.”

Now a curriculum has been launched and the main aim is for it to be introduced in Pella, Pofadder, Onseepkans, Kuboes, Riemvasmaak and Upington. Project Coordinator, Gerhard Damarah reiterates that it is important to harmonise the language.

“Nama, Khu, Khwe and N|uu languages, must come under one umbrella and I think from that we will move forward as a united front. We are writing simple booklets in Nama, which will be translated into different languages. we are also trying to get a new approach and that is the modern approach to get it digital.”

The Northern Cape Education Department says they have always been at the forefront in the preservation and promotion of indigenous languages. A twinning agreement between the Department and the Namibian Kharas-region in 2017 saw the Nama language being introduced as an extra subject at two schools in Riemvasmaak and Kuboes.

Northern Cape Education Departmental Spokesperson Geoffrey Van Der Merwe says they are guided by the legislation.

“It should be mentioned that we are guided by the constitution, legislation as well as the national curriculum framework in terms of our implementation. For the department to consider the implementation of any other Khoisan languages, an autography for the language, learning and teaching material as well as qualified teachers should be available.”

Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces in Parliament, Sylvia Lucas, was the keynote speaker at the launch. Lucas signed the twinning agreement between the Northern Cape and the Kharas-region in 2017 when she was premier of the province.

Lucas says for the language to be recognised officially, it is a process that must be followed through Parliament.

“It is being done through the PanSALB processes together with the Department of Education which already acknowledges the fact that there is a necessity for the Nama to be in the curriculum of the country. In order for them to get it acknowledged as an official language that is totally another process, that is one that needs legislation and that is the process that will go through Parliament and Parliament processes include the fact that it will possibly be introduced in one of the two houses and then there will be a public participation process in order for the interest groups to make sure they put their case and in order for Parliament to defend the case of that specific decision when we want to legislate.”

An App and Youtube videos are also being developed to get youngsters to learn the languages faster.