Learning the Khloe way

Hillwood Primary School

Hillwood Primary School in Lavender Hill has taken the first steps to help the community to get back to their roots.

They are now offering the KhoeKhoe language as part of their already packed extra mural activity list. 
Pupils get together every Thursday for an eight-week programme to learn the language and learn more about the history of the KhoeKhoe, which is spoken in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa by over 200 000 people of the Nama (Khoenkhoen), Haiom and Damara ethnic groups.
Denver Breda, a language activist and one of the facilitators of the KhoeKhoe language programme, said this is the first step in creating awareness around the importance of the indigenous language.
“We started this process to create that awareness and catalyse the importance of having a Khoe language recognised by government to not only be an official language of South Africa, but to have it as part of the school curriculum as a subject,” he said.
Mr Breda said adding the language to the curriculum would give a sense of belonging.
“KhoeKhoe was the first language of this land but there is a stigma attached to it because many people have disassociated themselves from their heritage. We have nine official Bantu languages but not a Khoe language. People have lost their languages, their identity and their culture because the language was not recognised. What happens to those people? The term coloured was created by the British and it was a robbery of our culture,” he said.
Mr Breda said people without a language and identity tend to be more likely to commit suicide and be involved in violence.
“We are incomplete and this is a way to try and get back some of our identity,” he said.
There are plans to roll out the sessions to other schools and incorporate more teaching of the history of the indigenous language.
Teacher Joe Klein, who initiated the sessions with Mr Breda, was ecstatic to start.
“I was teaching an Afrikaans lesson about slavery and about where we come from. A pupil asked me why we were called coloureds. Right there and then I knew something had to be done. That’s when I got in contact with Denver and we approached the principal who gave us the go-ahead for KhoeKhoe language as an extra mural activity,” said Mr Klein.
Principal Gavin Alkana said: “We agreed to have it as the 26th extra mural activity at the school because we want our pupils to know their history and their descendants. It also teaches respect to other cultures and languages. I would love to have it as a subject at the school, however from an educational point that should be a long-term goal because our learners are still struggling with English.”  
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