The Helpmekaar : rescuing the “volk” through reading, writing and rithmetic, c. 1916–c 1965

Ehlers, Anton (2015-11)

CITATION: Ehlers, A. 2015. The Helpmekaar : rescuing the “volk” through reading, writing and rithmetic, c. 1916–c 1965. Historia, 60(2):87-108, doi:10.17159/2309-8392/2015/V60N2A5.

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This article looks at the establishment and shifting role of the Helpmekaar Society of the Cape Province as welfare catalyst, set up in the aftermath of the Rebellion of 1914-15. Driven by Afrikaner ethnic nationalist motives - it set itself two goals. The immediate aim was to save Afrikaner rebels and their families from financial ruin. The second objective was complicated and changing: to promote the general development, upliftment and welfare of the Dutch-speaking section of the South African population and to develop a distinctive Afrikaans culture. The paper concentrates on the evolution of the second goal into a sharp educational focus aimed at unlocking the potential of Afrikaner youth as a solution to the poor white problem. Because the Helpmekaar was shaped by ideologies of class and race, this analysis engages with a couple of existing historiographical conversations about poor whites, the state, welfarism and also provides a revealing lens into the politics of white education itself. Despite the Helpmekaar's sectional ethnic and racial focus and the accompanying socio-political engineering, it acted as a welfare catalyst that contributed significantly - financially and as lobbyist for educational causes - in effecting educational change; in this regard it benefited a far wider community than was originally intended.

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