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South Africa Table of Contents

South Africa

Education under Apartheid

The Bantu Education Act

The Bantu Education Act (No. 47) of 1953 widened the gaps in educational opportunities for different racial groups. Two of the architects of Bantu education, Dr. W.M. Eiselen and Dr. Hendrik F. Verwoerd, had studied in Germany and had adopted many elements of National Socialist (Nazi) philosophy. The concept of racial "purity," in particular, provided a rationalization for keeping black education inferior. Verwoerd, then minister of native affairs, said black Africans "should be educated for their opportunities in life," and that there was no place for them "above the level of certain forms of labour." The government also tightened its control over religious high schools by eliminating almost all financial aid, forcing many churches to sell their schools to the government or close them entirely.

Christian National Education supported the NP program of apartheid by calling on educators to reinforce cultural diversity and to rely on "mother-tongue" instruction in the first years of primary school. This philosophy also espoused the idea that a person's social responsibilities and political opportunities are defined, in large part, by that person's ethnic identity. The government also gave strong management control to the school boards, who were elected by the parents in each district.

Official attitudes toward African education were paternalistic, based on trusteeship and segregation. Black education was not supposed to drain government resources away from white education. The number of schools for blacks increased during the 1960s, but their curriculum was designed to prepare children for menial jobs. Per-capita government spending on black education slipped to one-tenth of spending on whites in the 1970s. Black schools had inferior facilities, teachers, and textbooks.

Data as of May 1996