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The history of South Africa Essay

The history of South Africa in the last hundred years before the coming of democracy has clearly reflected the trends of many countries throughout the world. In this essay I will use the United State of America as the chosen country because I believe that both African American people and Black South African people have suffered similar educational histories. For decades in both countries there was a desperate need and the creation of a fair and just society. In my essay I will critically analyse historiography based on research, evaluation and the application of this knowledge. I will further use my knowledge of historiography to explain the origin of South African Educational Historiography. I will also include how it has reformed our country from the past to the present days. I will further be looking at how USA has developed and changed in their educational system. In my essay I will explain how United State of America’s educational historiography has influenced South Africa and how South Africa has also benefited from them.

Lastly I will focus on why it is important as a future teacher to be educated on the history of education internationally and locally. I will also provide reasons as to how I as a future teacher can benefit from my findings. Historiography is the study of the methodology of the histories and the developments of history as a discipline. When studying historiography, you are not studying the happenings of the past directly but you are also studying the changing interpretations of those events. The subject of historiography is the history of the history of the event. I will use historiography to explain the way it has been written, the conflicting objectives pursued by those events that occurred over time, the way in which these factors shape our understanding of the actual event that was at risk. It is important for us to have to have learnt from the past in order for us to be guided because of the ethical dilemmas that we face today. The underlining sentiment of historiography is one of disbelieving. History is never truly unbiased but always presents the historians view of things.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what historiography is I will now further interpret South African educational historiography. In South Africa before the white had settled, education was solely tribally based and there were no form of schools as we now know them in our present days. The children in the pre-colonial times learnt what they needed to know from their parents and their tribal leaders. Formal school education in South Africa was gradually introduced after the whites arrived. The earlier progress that was made in the Cape where it was the British following their occupation in 1806, who got schooling underway on a meaningful basis. Education was not yet compulsory and many Dutch parents chose not to send their children to schools that we cast in the English mould and which solely taught through the medium of English. Social class divisions amongst Whites were also reinforced since secondary education unlike primary education schooling was not free. This became the ideal of richer people. Thousands of slaves had been brought into the Cape as a source of labour.

In 1833 slavery was established in an attempt to instil social discipline in the children of former slaves. The main aim was to teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic as well as obedience and the value of hard work so that such children could be drawn into society as wage labourers. The vast majority of African children received no schooling and when they did it was usually at the hands of the missionaries. They did not go further than the primary school phase. In the 1830’s groups of Dutch decided to become participants in certain quarters known as the great trek. The establishment of the provinces Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal after the union of South Africa came into being in 1910. Once the Union of South Africa came into place, the four provincial education departments were sent to control and administer primary and secondary education. Higher education was the responsibility of the Union Department. Education expenditure strongly favoured whites with free and compulsory schooling.

Indians, Coloureds and Africans were inadequately catered for. Their schools were regarded as separate entities run by the missionaries and drawing only measly subsidies from the government. The Bantu Education Act was established in 1953. This Act was intended to make African education a central government function so that its direction and purpose could be more effectively manipulated by the apartheid politicians. The white teachers were withdrawn from African schools and were replaced by African teachers that were unqualified. The standard of education in South Africa suffered for African children. In 1975, the minister of Bantu Education declared that certain subjects in high school had to be studied in Afrikaans and others were taught in the medium of English. Africans objected to this on the grounds that they would have to learn three languages. To give to their anger towards the Bantu Education Act, there was around 20 000 students that marched through Soweto on the 16th of June 1976. Peoples Education was adopted as a strategy by the mass based National Education Crisis Committee at two historic conferences in 1985 and 1986.

The core of the policy of People Education under the specific conditions of Apartheid capitalism in the mid 1980’s, the creation of new education structures and the institution of new practices could contribute to a process of social transformation. The affairs deteriorated to a great extent and the black community was steadfast in its struggle to bring about the downfall of apartheid. Education was a strategic tool bringing about an end to apartheid. When the ANC came into power in 1994 the groundwork for the new policies in education for all the people in its nation had been laid. According to the CAPS document one of the core principles is social transformation ensuring that the educational imbalances of the past are redressed, and that equal educational opportunities are provided for all sections of the population. This new educational policy has effectively started the process of major change in this country in keeping with the principle of democracy that all people should be given equal opportunities. In the United State of America, government had supported free and public education and it had thus been developed after the American Revolution. This occurred between 1750 and 1870 where parochial schools appeared as “ad hoc”.

These schools were open mainly for Catholic children but also the Orthodox, Lutherans, Calvinists and Orthodox Jews. These schools focused mainly on the three R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic but also history and geography. In the 19th century American education is often referred to as the “common school period”. It went from being ultimately private to being available to the common masses. The common schools movement was not until the 1840’s did an organised system exist. This common school system was created by Henry Barnard and Horace Mann. This was focused on seeking for inner opportunities for all children and creating a common bond among increasingly diverse population. They argued that education could preserve social stability and prevent crime and poverty.

Free elementary education was funded by public funds. In 1986 the Supreme Court established that there will be separate schools for black and white students. This decision deprived an African American learner of many educational benefits and it had put them at a disadvantage. They had to make do with whatever resources that they could acquire because they were clearly under financed and parents could not afford to pay the fees. This had out them at an unfair weakness in terms of learning and education. An influential group of educators known as the committee of ten was established in 1892 recommended that children should receive 12 years of schooling that consists of 8 years of elementary education and was then a further 4 years of secondary education. As the 19th century was the progressive era, the 20th century was inclusivism and the idea of free education for all. The State had controlled free public education and it was the rule. Public schools did not force parents to use public schools. Parochial schools and other private schools were viable options.

The struggle for fair and equal education for the African Americans was long and hard but a lot of progress had been made through the efforts of the NAACP who pushed for fairness in the education system. In America, schools were desegregated in 1954 and even though the system still struggles to find its common ground with issues relating to fair education for African American education. The nation has come a long way since the founding of the first “coloured schoolhouse” in 1890. The USA was seen as a beacon of democracy where the constitution allowed for equal rights to all the people but yet up until 1950 education and other social aspects of life had remained to be segregated. This was a clear divide between African and White American schools. The American constitution stated that schools will be equal but separate as it was clearly evident in the South African American children received an inferior education as to the white counterparts.

The scenario had duplicated itself in South Africa where the gap became bigger with each passing years. In line with the Bantu Act, there was less money given to each African learner per school. The African children received an inferior education where they were merely educated enough to take up a job in the semi-skilled and the more skilled. They could become the scientists and doctors that they wanted to become as they were not allowed to have big and beautiful dreams. They were not given any opportunities in society and especially at school. These two countries had both been influenced in terms of racial segregation where Africans were not allowed to be attending the same school as whites. They were labelled as the inferior group and were given a very poor education just enough so that they could take up their role in the labour force. As radical changes were beginning in the USA and education had become integrated, South Africa was moving in the opposite direction. It seemed of the day in the 1950’s was more resolute in implementing Bantu Education.

It is important for me as a potential teacher to study the history of education as it will enhance my capacity to understand and appreciate the challenges in education in Post-Colonial Africa, it will also guide me to establish the linkage between the educational theory and practice in national and global systems with emphasis on Africa. It will also help to understand the importance of education in the development of society since the time immemorial. The history of education is important for the formation of identity and personality of a nation. It helps us to discover things that were unknown to us before. We as a society or nation may not know who they are and how they became today without knowing the history. There are many ways in which history can help to benefit a teachers, history shows that in the past that education was not equal for all the learners of different ethnic groups that is why the future generation needs to realise that education is seen as a privilege and not a right. Education wasn’t accessible to everyone and that is where our issues lie in today’s world.

Children nowadays are just aiming to make that 30%. There is no drive or determination because they are taking their education for granted. They do not realise the struggle their grandparents and parents went through. The hardships that many people had to endure during the colonization and apartheid period, they can never begin to understand. Without education, there is no foundation for a better life. When you are learning the history of education it drives teachers to take more pride and initiative in the way that learning is incorporated in the classroom. It also brings a non-judgemental approach because as teachers they are the people their learners look up to for guidance and inspiration. That is why it is important for teachers to set a good example in the classroom judging from the experiences in the past and how unfairly some learners were treated.

The history of education is a foundation for all teachers and it is in this way they can use their knowledge in order to change and make education better for our future generations. Today we are fortunate to live in a country which constitution expresses equal rights because of this principle our education system is a starting point in an equal and free education for all. As shown to us in both American and South African history there is only one group that stands to benefit when education is segregated. In the study of the historiography of both South Africa and America, we must be able to take away and learn that segregation is both morally and ethically unacceptable in any facet of life. In South Africa today we need to learn from this. Education cannot be separated on the basis of race or social economic group.

Yet in South Africa this is happening still where the rich goes to more expensive schools and the poor goes to the school where they are closest to which in most cases are the rural schools with no proper infrastructure. Schools such as, the ex model c schools are given more power and they are seen to deliver better results. While under resourced and poorer schools are still battling to collect even a percentage of school fees. Our past has left us with this legacy but we need to bridge this gap and not make it worse. Through the study of historiography it is clearly evident that our past practices in education policies has impacted on how we need to bring about important and vital changes so that education can be positively reflected of our democratic principles of free and equal education to all South African people.

1. African Virtual University, Retrieved 20 April 2014, EDU: 110: History of Education: www.avu.org/Teacher-Education-Professional-Courses/edu-1101-history-of-education.html 2. Historiography, Retrieved April 15 2014: qcpages.qc.cuny.edu/historiography 3. Historiography, Retrieved April 15 2014, From Wikipedia-the free encyclopaedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography 4. The history of Education in America, Retrieved 15 April 2014: www.chesapeake.edu/Library/EDU_101/eduhist.asp&sa 5. University of Education, Faculty of Education, School of Education Studies (2012) Education and schooling in South Africa: An introduction for undergraduate students, 8-34

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