Education Policy In South Africa: Exclusion Issues

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The aim of this essay is to discuss in what ways the Education Policy in South Africa before 1994 created patterns of exclusion with reference to educational, social and psychological exclusion. I will make use of a few historical moments including resistance to this exclusion to highlight this exclusion.

In 1658, a school was opened after the arrival of the Dutch East India Company’s slaves specifically for them. They were admitted into the school regardless of their ages. The reason for this school being established is because of Jan Van Riebeeck’s concern for the slaves’ intellectual and moral wellbeing. This was when an attempt at the first educational policy in South Africa was formulated and the colonist felt that the slaves should be well prepared for the purpose that they have been brought to the country and schooling was their way of preparing these slaves to be labourers for their masters by teaching them the language of their masters; Dutch (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 45). The slaves were even psychologically stripped of their independence by being forced into the language and not forgetting the religion of their masters and in that way, they lost their identities too. Their education consisted of them being taught discipline, obedience and respect for their superiors but there were slaves who were against the idea of being students and fled as a form of resistance to this and therefore authority was unable to implement the educational policy as this form of schooling was not accepted (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 46).

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The second attempt at an educational policy was successful as it was a school being established mainly for the settlers’ children in 1663. The idea of segregation of slave children and those of the colonists was suggested in 1676 to separate them in terms of class and not of the race at this point in time and in 1678 a separate school for slaves under the age of 12 was established (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 46). Children were now separated by class and then further separated by gender; young females were taught domestic duties by other older female slaves and young males were taught to work in different trades that the settlers needed them to specialise in. this shows us when the idea of racial segregation and superiority came about even though it was said to be about class, the fact that the colonisers stood to benefit from the education of the slaves clearly shows this superiority (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 46-48). Schooling for Africans was merely there for the purpose of weakening their resistance to colonisation and the conversion of their religion was done so that they could conform to the settlers’ ideal and way of life.

After the declaration of Odinance 50 in 1820 and the emancipation of slaves in 1833, the provision of schooling became an urgent matter (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 51). Schooling was used for the indigenous people to let go of their beliefs and structural controls so that they could be disciplined and serve the way of governing imposed by the colonists, schools also made the indigenous people use to the economy and thus schooling became essential. Schools provided them with the basics of the language in which they would use to communicate with their masters, they were taught basic literacy and they were taught discipline and skills for the work they were to do after school. Schooling for blacks was not done so that they could be equals to the colonist but rather to show them their place in society as inferior to the settlers; they were deliberately excluded from politics and any social matters (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 52).

Schooling was rejected; the indigenous people outright avoided going to school for the sake of staying out of the control of the colonist and in 1882 the Natal Native Commission noted that these people had very little to no desire to be educated and proposed that schools be built in the areas where these people lived to make schooling more accessible for the children (Molteno et al., 1984, pp.53). In my opinion, these natives opposed schooling to remain independent from the settlers; they also did not want the manual labour training that was offered to them; they wanted an academic form of education and also to not lose their identities in the process of joining the settlers’ society.

No matter how educated a native was, there was still only a limited amount of work that was available to them in the colonial system and this caused frustration among the natives towards schooling (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 55). Academic education such as that provided by the mission schools taught students to read and write and this made the natives unfit for the kind of work that the colonist had planned for them which was to be servants. Colonists believed that if black got the same kind of education that the colonist children did then they would know what was wrong with the colonial order in which they were forced to live (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 56). Colonists believed that if black got the same kind of education that the colonist children did then they would know what was wrong with the colonial order in which they were forced to live (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 56). Education could and would make them want liberation and resist the power of the colonist.

In 1936, the Interdepartmental Committee report stated that: “The education of the white child prepares him for a life in a dominant society and the education of a black child for a subordinate society.” (Molteno et al., 1984, pp. 63-64)

This was the explanation provided for the whites and blacks not receiving the same level of education. They believed that could not be provided with the same opportunities and therefore could not be educated for life and profession that they would never have and so far less money was spent on the education of the black child.

Segregationist schooling patterns were established in the 1930s during the period of predominance and mission schooling to reproduce racial inequality (Christie and Collins, 1982, pp. 62). This was clear to see even if there were no administrative arrangements established before the Bantu Education Act of 1953. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 was a response to the change in funding to allow the expansion of the schooling system of blacks (Christie & Collins, 1982, pp.65). The Act was put in place for the apartheid government to take control of the education of the Bantu child from the Provincial Administrations to ensure that the labour needs of the state are met by having all-black schools registered with the government and schools that did not support the aims of this act were closed (Christie & Collins, 1982, pp. 66). The control in this instance was over teachers, the curriculum and management over these schools however the communities where the school was in were allowed to participate in the running of the schools through school boards and committees (Christie & Collins, 1982, pp. 67). The Bantu Education Act promoted segregation economically, politically and culturally; learners were taught subjects in the language of the government which was Afrikaans, they were to use separate schooling facilities from white learners and far less money was allocated to Bantu Education than to the education of whites.

Colonial education was resisted in many ways like refusing to attend school, food boycotts and parent-teacher protests, but ultimately resulting in the 16 June 1976 protests in Soweto, opposing the teaching of Afrikaans that replaced English which they felt would allow them to eventually participate in the politics of the country (Jansen, 1990, pp. 22). This uprising resulted in further protests going on for a number of years all around the country from black students. In 1985, there was an educational protest that resulted in students, parents, teachers and unions all protesting together for better educational policies and the time spent away from schools were used to develop new education programmes and this was when the People’s Education movement began thus the Bantu Education Act had failed (Jansen, 1990, pp. 23).

To conclude, the Education Policy in South Africa from the time the first settlers arrived in 1994, have excluded the race they saw as inferior in different ways. Resistance to this exclusion was displayed from the very beginning to the bitter end of these policies. Living in a democratic South Africa has been the end to all the exclusion experienced.


  1. Christie, P., Collins, C., 1982. Bantu Education: apartheid ideology or labour reproduction? Comp. Educ. 18, 59-75.
  2. Jansen. J., 1990. Knowledge and power in South African education: The curriculum challenge to apartheid. Radic. Teach. 22.
  3. Molteno, F., Davis. R.H., Enslin, P., Maree, L., Christie, P., Edgar, R., Lodge, T., Sharp, R., Buckland, P., 1984. Apartheid and Education: The Education of Black South Africans. Ravan Pr of South Africa, Johannesburg. 


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