A Plea to ASPPH

Dear ASPPH (Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health),

As a proud graduate student at one of your accredited invitations (Bear Down MEZCOPH), I love the “This is Public Health” campaign. Stickers in both Spanish/English grace my planner and this laptop.

I do not lie...

I do not lie…although the Spanish one has seen better days.

However I have a request, I noticed that on your the research page under the sticker tab the only South African languages represented are English and Afrikaans. The language spoken by most of the population, isiZulu, is not. I may be biased as a PCV in amaZulu tribal authority, but having Afrikaans without any of the indigenous languages does not sit right with me.

I do not believe that anyone was malicious with the decision, and with 11 official languages in South Africa alone it is hard create stickers for every language group. Before moving to South Africa, I would have assumed that Afrikaans would be sufficient. To be fair there are many people in South Africa, my 90 year old host gogo/grandmother in Mpumalanga for example, who only know Afrikaans. Honestly until I moved to South Africa and familiarized myself with the history, I would have assumed this is okay. I want to use this as a teachable moment.

In 1953, the South African government under apartheid rule established the Bantu Education Act. The whole purpose of this act was to control access to education for all races in South Africa in order for the Whites to maintain power. Blacks were provided with “an education designed to provide them with skills to serve their own people in the Bantustan ‘homelands’ or to work in manual labor jobs under white control.” There is blatant evidence that the government initiated education during apartheid was inadequate. This full impact of this act continues to instigate the blatant economic disparities present in South Africa. However one of the most horrific acts of violence during apartheid rule, the June 16, 1976 Soweto uprising same event the National Holiday Youth Day originated from, was triggered in part because the government decided to intensify Bantu education by making Afrikaans a primary language of instruction. It is estimated hundreds of learners/students were killed in the Soweto uprising, but statistics from that time period are inaccurate.

Afrikaans is a part of South African culture, and in order to meet South Africa where they are at, it is appropriate for ASSPH to have an Afrikaans “This is Public Health” sticjer. What I am asking is an isiZulu sticker on the website as well (and maybe a Tswana one as well to represent the Sotho-Tswana language family) . There are 4 Kenyan languages featured, I think there can be two more South African language stickers one for each Bantu language family present in the country. In the last South African 2011 census, the most prevalent 1st language was isiZulu spoke by 22.7% of the population, followed by Xhosa at 16.0%, and then Afrikaans at 13.5%. Both isiZulu and Xhosa are from the same language family (Nguni) and even with the differences native speakers can understand both languages.

It may seem ridiculous to type a 2 page plea over a sticker. However I love my field, and see how public health improves lives. The province I live in, KwaZulu-Natal is ground zero for public health especially with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. When I think about what epitomizes public health, I see my home based carers. They are the ones preventing further illness and helping their communities live fully with HIV/AIDS. Maybe the international community disagrees with the effectiveness of Home Based Care, but these individuals are public health. I cannot help but think that they would view these stickers only in Afrikaans as a slap in the face with the history. Someday I would like to show their value and how they contribute to the public health field with these stickers (and if I can order them please let me know…I will pay). However they do not understand English well, if I had an isiZulu sticker as well they could have a brief language lesson as well.

Afterall, Nelson Mandela said it best:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

“Uma ukhuluma nomuntu ngolimi aluqondayo, uyakuzwa. Uma ukhuluma naye ngolimi lwakhe, lokho kugxila enhliziyweni yakhe.”

Ngiyabonga, Ke a leboga, Dankie, Thank you for listening and the consideration.

Katey Redmond PCV South Africa
Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Project, 2015-2017
MPH student, Family and Child Health, Global Health Option,
Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, University of Arizona

PS: ASSPH did not have an contact e-mail so I did not send an e-mail. I just wanted to respectfully share my thoughts (but if anyone would like to send this on my behalf, you have my consent).
Here is a rough (it has been a scramble to get my site in order) representation of what an isiZulu sticker would look like:


Because Impilo Kawonkewonke sounds  livelier than Public Health

Sorry that I did not have the time to research a Tswana translation.


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