Uni Chapter 5

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CHAPTERS

A HISTORICO-COMPARATIVE STUDY OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND
EMPLOYMENT EQUITY IN SOUTH AFRICA

A historico-comparative

study of Affirmative Action and Employment Equity in South

Africa is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it draws attention to the history of the country highlighting the fact that the present-day South Africa is deeply rooted in historical "myths and misrepresentations,

divisions and conflict" (Hartshorne,

1992: 20-21). Secondly, an historical perspective will offer explanations and provide background information against which perceptions and attitudes of the different racial groups towards Affirmative Action and Employment Equity in the country emerged. This would contribute to a deeper understanding and appreciation of them. Thirdly, and more specifically, it will contribute to a better understanding of the need for and relevance of Affirmative Action and Employment Equity particularly in Higher Education in the country.

Affirmative

Fourthly, it would serve as a catalyst for the introduction and type of

Action and Employment

Equity policies

that will contribute

towards

successful transformation of Higher Education in South Africa. Fifthly, it will highlight the unique challenges and/or constraints faced by Higher Education institutions in South Africa in their attempts to implement Affirmative Action/Employment

Equity

programmes.

Prior to the historically significant free election of 27th April 1994 which ushered in democratic South Africa, the educational system upheld the ideology of apartheid. The characteristics

and intended objective of this system are aptly crystallized

following statement made in the House of Assembly in 1945 :

by the

"We should not give the natives [Blacks] an academic education, as some people are prone to do.

If we do this we shall be later

burdened with a number of academically
non-Europeans,

trained

Europeans and

and who is going to do the manual labour in the

country? ... I am in thorough agreement with the view that we should so conduct our schools that the native who attends those schools will know that to a great extent he must be the labourer in the country."

Education was, therefore, the institutional mechanism of oppression driven and secured by apartheid regime to suppress the Black majority educationally, economically, politically

and socially.

Student enrollment statistics, Higher Education staff

composition as well as the allocation of resources over the years reveal that this mechanism, through its carefully planned penetration into the respective cultures, enabled the apartheid authorities to establish a society based on segregation and discrimination.

The 1905 School Board's Act set the mechanism in motion when it

provided state schools for White pupils only (Kumbula, 1993 : 14-18). "This gave Whites the head start that characterize their present social, economic, political and educational

position

to this day" (Lindsay, 1997 : 523). It was only in 1976,

following the Soweto riots, did school attendance become compulsory for African (Black) children.

Once set in motion, the apartheid mechanism of oppression was

maintained. African educational institutions were e.g., allocated the least resources, insofar as staffing, level of training, textbooks, equipment, etc., were concerned.

A brief history of Higher Education in South Africa (universities and technikons) is necessary at this point to provide a historical appreciation of the categories of types and sub-types of such institutions. It will also provide an understanding of some of the socio-historical forces which shaped this clustering of institutions into their respective types and sub-types.

Such knowledge will invariably provide a useful background

against which staffing trends, Equity efforts, as well as challenges and constraints, unique to the respective institutions,...
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