Education in South Africa

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Education of South Africa
A Research Paper

Introduction
Education was used as a means of control before and during the apartheid. With the ratio of whites to blacks in South Africa so extreme, it is difficult to imagine the minority maintaining power over the vast majority for so long a time. The ability to influence a mass of people through their education, or lack there of, was the backbone of the inequalities throughout South Africa’s history. It was the crux of all economic stratification and fed the fire for continuous racial tensions. Wars were fought for justice and power with protests and violence from both parties. However, few recognized the greater battle and pin pointed the true causation. In 1961, the administrator of the Transvaal so intuitively remarked “we must strive to win the fight against the non-White in the classroom instead of losing it on the battlefield” (Johnson 1982). That is, rather than risking a war against the majority which by numerical standards would definitely be lost, outplay the opponent through manipulation of education. It took several decades, but finally the ANC prevailed and ended the apartheid. Finally, harmony could be restored, segregated living and schooling could be eliminated and South Africa could change for the better. With the disparity of white and black education to the extreme, bold promises were made, policies announced and many resources put into education. However, almost two decades have passed and the unemployment rate is at an all time high and education for blacks remain poor to non-existent. Not to mention income levels disproportionally favor the whites. Can we still blame the apartheid for all South Africa’s economic and social problems? Or have the country’s leaders let their people down? Mamphela Ramphele, the founder of the Citizens Movement, describes South Africa as a ‘sinking ship’ with the main problem still being the education system (Sapa 2012). What needs to change to breath air into all the drowning passengers? To plan or discuss the future, one must understand and consider the past. In that light, this paper will discuss education in regards to pre apartheid, apartheid, and post apartheid South Africa. Furthermore, a personal account of my experience at a local primary school paired with statistics will highlight the issues remaining. Background

The existing pattern of manipulated schooling in South Africa can be considered an outcome of colonialism, segregation and apartheid. In the early 1800s, the arrival of the British introduced the first system of education in Africa. The indigenous people of Africa were exposed to schooling under the provision of British missionaries. At this time, education was a means of spreading the British language, imposing their religion and just a general mechanism for social control. Their strategy was to ‘civilize’ the black Africans and ‘anglicize’ the white Afrikaners. And most of the school establishments were mixed, serving whites coloreds and Africans. However, the Afrikaners resisted European control in attempt to avoid becoming the lower class and giving up their country to the new settlers. The political and economic configuration of South Africa transformed significantly when diamonds were discovered in Kimberley in 1867, and moreover in 1886 with the discovery of gold on the Witwaterstrand. Competition for such materials led South Africa from a rural agricultural society to an urban and industrialized one. At this point, political and economic control was up for grabs and ethnic tensions rose to gain this power. Afrikaners had success in defying the British plan and managed to maintain their culture and preserve their mother tongue. Both white groups recognized the potential to protect the poor whites from dipping down too far in the food chain by abusing the poorer Africans because “an uneducated man…can be exploited as an economic asset”(Johnson 1982). Education’s role can be molding a person for...
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