"Sonder onderwys, geen bevryding": Die vestiging van 'n grondslag vir swart onderwys in Suid-Afrika, 1952-1968

Translated title of the contribution: "There can be no freedom without education." Laying the foundations for black education in South Africa, 1952-1968

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In the context of deficiencies in education in South Africa since 1994, voices have become louder in questioning the current education policy and delivery. This is an opportunity to reassess aspects of Bantu Education since 1952, especially the role of two key elements of Bantu education, namely community and parent involvement in the management of schools and vernacular as a medium of instruction. Current critics of education often refer to the dedication of teachers, parent involvement, the accountability of school management and performance of learners. These issues remind one of similar issues under Bantu education since 1952. This paper seeks to consider the role and contribution made under Bantu education to the foundations of community and parent involvement and mother-tongue instruction since 1952 in implementing a strategy for general education to black children. The paper takes as the point of departure the unsatisfactory broad condition of education to black children in South Africa by the early 1950s. The lack of a community driven consciousness towards the education of black children concerned the new National Party government at the end of the 1940s. Verwoerd approached the development of black communities from the perspective of empowerment of ethnic communities as the building blocks of a strategy for peaceful co-existence in southern Africa. By the 1950s African colonies were decolonised and the wave of African nationalism swept across the continent. These developments concerned white people in South Africa, especially the Afrikaner people, who sought to find a solution to seemingly inescapable racial tension and conflict. The National Party policy of separate development was envisioned as the broad framework to develop all black peoples in South Africa towards self-rule and prosperity in their own right. The prerequisite for development was education. The state introduced a system of Bantu education to enhance school attendance and the level of literacy and education of all black children. The paper explains the utilisation of key elements such as community and parent involvement and vernacular tuition to facilitate community buy-in into general education for black children. The paper addresses the development in two parts. Part one explains the context of the need for education to black children as well as the implementation during the first fifteen years. Part two explains the use of vernacular and parent involvement as well as the outcome of the system by 1990. Overall this contribution illustrates the progress with school enrolment, pass rates and performance towards tertiary education of black children from 1952 to 1990. The first part explains the complexity of the political idealism of the political leadership of the National Party wanting to manage black education as part of the macro scheme of separate development in South Africa, and the irreconcilable aspirations of the newly mobilised African majority seeking political power and independence in line with the developments in Africa. In the second part the contribution of vernacular in the provision of education to black children is outlined. The paper shows the agency of the Department of Bantu Education in developing the different vernaculars systematically in order to enhance the teaching and learning of advanced subject matter in schools and beyond. It also shows the support of communities in sending children to school to acquire formal education. The grand scheme of Bantu education was finally derailed because of the irreconcilability of the two political models. Bantu education did in spite of the rejection of the political model of separate development, succeed in enhancing black literacy and education. The paper does not claim to deny shortcomings of the system of Bantu education, nor that it addressed all the aspirations of the growing black elite, but it emphasises the key functionality of community and parent involvement and vernacular tuition (with systematic linguistic development to support such a policy) developed by bantu education, which might be assessed anew. These aspects of Bantu education may be revisited as building blocks to address shortcomings in the current education environment.

Translated title of the contribution"There can be no freedom without education." Laying the foundations for black education in South Africa, 1952-1968
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)627-640
Number of pages14
JournalTydskrift vir Geesteswetenskappe
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • Bantu education
  • Community involvement
  • Opposition
  • School attendance
  • Schools
  • Vernacular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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