If you are sitting in a South African school or university right
now, you need to put aside 1948 and "Bantu education" as a primary
target of enquiry-these were little more than steps along a road
that was already paved-and study when, where and how your
institution came into being in the first place. This book joins the
growing body of work (much of it by South African scholars)
displacing the many mind-numbingly dull texts loaded with
assumptions and logics that, in the case of South Africa, reify a
simplified colonial explanation of the past. Generations of
students, educators and policymakers have suffered enough through
tedious though inaccurate history books disguised as dispassionate,
impartial views of "the facts." Yet as important as new scholarship
is to a young democracy just two decades old, it is not enough.
What is absolutely necessary is a fundamental reform of the very
way in which history is taught in South Africa from kindergarten
through graduate school, from teacher training and curriculum
design to the policy boards at provincial and ministerial levels.
For if we are to understand how this country, South Africa, came to
be the way it is, then the primary documents of its history must be
integrated into the curriculum. Every student and teacher must know
the South African native affairs commission, the act of union, the
policy documents and speeches of Rhodes, Milner, and the actual
individuals designing policies for "Natives". From these documents,
a picture emerges of the structures of Empire, the actual ways in
which its logics, assumptions and practices operated in reality and
purposely supported a system of inequality that has endured for
over a century. In the texts and lives of those seemingly dull
commissions and acts, the language used by the "Lords" and "Sirs"
of the British Empire, the grant proposals and studies, the
colonial office memos and meeting agendas, the mountainous data
sets from questions asked and not asked, those little daily
hegemonic interactions from generations of colonial staff and their
international partners, we gain the ability to understand the
structures that have made inequality in South Africa so
intransigent. During their careers, many British colonial
administrators worked throughout the Empire in places like Kenya,
Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, then-Rhodesia and South Africa as well as
West Africa, the Caribbean, and India. They drew lessons from these
occupied lands, from the original colonial laboratory, Ireland, and
of course from the impoverished cities of England as
industrialization ravished communities and generations. For these
reasons, we must fully investigate the ways in which past and
contemporary experiences throughout Britain and the lands it
conquered became instructive for this period of South African
history. When the Union of South Africa came into effect in 1910,
there was already a strong Empire-wide precedent of unequal
education to which its architects could refer. Milner's
"kindergarten" could point to a wealth of experience, from the
Macaulay minute and the Shuttleworth report in the colonies, to the
education act of 1870 in Britain itself. Education in the southern
United States brought policy makers from London and South Africa in
increasing contact with their American counterparts. Intellectually
speaking, much of the matter was settled during the South African
native affairs commission of 1903-05, which acted as a battle cry
for scholars to justify maldistribution and inequity as resulting
from qualities innate to Africans. Therefore, it is fundamentally
flawed to assert the existence of an equitable education system
that unfortunately became tarnished by the National Party. It was
Charles Loram, not Hendrik Verwoerd, who lobbied, studied and
garnered international support for a race-based differentiated
education system. It was the commissions of Phelps-Stokes, not
Eiselen, which called for changes in the education of all African
people to secure a massive, expendable and immobile force of manual
workers. It was not the 1953 Bantu education act but the very act
of Union written not by L.J. du Plessis and the Broederbond but by
Lord Alfred Milner and his "kindergarten" of Oxford "gentlemen,"
that entrenched educational inequity as a foundation of South
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