The South African Minister of Bantu Education and Development, MC Botha, issued a decree in 1974 that made the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools compulsory from Standard 5 onwards [from the last year of primary school to the last year of high school]. The African Teachers Association (ATASA) launched a campaign against the policy, but the authorities implemented it anyway.
Northern Transvaal Region
"Regional Circular Bantu Education"
Northern Transvaal (No. 4)
File 6.8.3. of 17.10.1974
To: Circuit Inspectors
Principals of Schools: With Std V classes and Secondary Schools
Medium of Instruction Std V - Form V
1. It has been decided that for the sake of uniformity English and Afrikaans will be used as media of instruction in our schools on a 50-50 basis as follows:
2. Std V, Form I and II
2.1. English medium: General Science, Practical Subjects (Homecraft-Needlework-Wood- and Metalwork-Art-Agricultural Science)
2.2 Afrikaans medium: Mathematics, Arithmatic, Social Studies
2.3 Mother Tongue: Religion Instruction, Music, Physical Culture
The prescribed medium for these subject must be used as from January 1975.
In 1976 the secondary schools will continue using the same medium for these subjects.
3. Forms III, IV and V
All schools which have not as yet done so should introduce the 50-50 basis as from the beginning of 1975. The same medium must be used for the subjects related to those mentioned in paragraph 2 and for their alternatives. ...
Your co-operation in this matter will be appreciated.
(Sgd.) J.G. Erasmus
Regional Director of Bantu Education
N. Transvaal Region ...
The Deputy Minister of Bantu Education, Punt Janson, said: "No, I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I'm not going to. An African might find that 'the big boss' only spoke Afrikaans or only spoke English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages." Another official was quoted as saying: "If students are not happy, they should stay away from school since attendance is not compulsory for Africans."
The Department of Bantu Education said that because the government paid for black education, it had the right to decide on the language of instruction. In fact, only white education was totally subsidised by the government. Black parents in Soweto paid R102 (an average month's wages) a year to send two children to school, had to buy textbooks (which were issued free in white schools), and had to contribute towards the cost of building schools.