Bantu education : destructive intervention or part of reform

Giliomee, Hermann (2012-12)

CITATION: Giliomee, H. B. 2012. Bantu education : destructive intervention or part of reform? New Contree, 65:67-86.

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The introduction of public education for blacks in 1953 and the withdrawal of state subsidies from mission schools were among the most controversial measures that the National Party (NP) government took. In introducing Bantu Education the NP government was within the broad parameters of white interests and thinking at the time. There was no strong support in either the NP or United Party (UP) for large scale state spending on black education, no real demand from employers for well-educated black workers and a general concern among whites that educated blacks would become politicised if they were unable to find appropriate work. The state’s priority in introducing Bantu education was to reduce widespread black illiteracy. While Minister of Native Affairs Hendrik Verwoerd spelled out in crude and offensive terms that blacks would not be able to perform high-level jobs in “white South Africa”, it is wrong to assume that this was based on the assumption of black intellectual inferiority. Bantu education always lagged far behind white education with respect to per capita spending and the ratio of teacher to pupils in the class room. After 1994, ANC (African National Congress) leaders criticised the introduction of Bantu education in ever more strident terms, suggesting that it should be considered as a destructive intervention. The article argues that, viewed against the state of education that existed before 1953, it can be considered as part-reform in that it brought primary education to a far greater number of black children than was the case before 1953. The extensive use of mother tongue education was contentious, but several comparative studies show that the use of such a system in at least the first seven or eight years of the child’s education is superior to other systems. The school-leaving pass rate of 83.7% for black students in 1976 is the highest pass rate to date.

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