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SociologyStudyISSN21595526 June2012,Volume2,Number6,458467



TransformingtheEducationalSystemFrom ApartheidEducationtoanEgalitarianIdeal: ChallengesFacedbytheSouthAfrican Government

Abstract ThispaperprobestheproblemsofpedagogywithintheSouthAfricancontext.Thepaperiswrittenagainstthebackdropof theSouthAfricaneducationalsystemthatisatthecrossroadsregardingitsadoptionofaparticipatoryformofeducation(i.e., aneducationalsystemthatisrootedonegalitarianideals)orasystemofeducationthatismoreelitistandhaslittle,ifany,to do with the uplifting of the historically marginalized. Since the paper is based on a conceptual analysis of theories of nonformaland/oradulteducation,thepraxisoftheargumentisinformedbyphilosopherswhohavewrittenextensivelyon thesubject.Solidandeducationalpoliciesarealsocomparedinordertoformulateconclusionsandstrategiesbasedonthe analysisofeducationaltrendsthatencouragedemocraticideals. Keywords Educationforsocioeconomicchange,egalitarianism,languageandpower,democracy

The history of education cannot exist outside of the paradigmatic changes that took place around the world. Merriam and Caffarella (1999: 5) supported this statement by saying: What one wants to learn, what is offered, and the way in which one learns are determined to a large extent by the nature of society at any particular time. A classical example that would be relevant to Caffarella and Merriam is that of a Sangoma (a traditional healer or doctor) in the South Africa context. The Sangoma is subject to a rigorous training which involves learning how to identify herbs that can cure disease, how to walk on fire, and to perform rituals such as dancing, casting evil spirits from patients and learning the art of communicating with the ancestors. This Sangoma is practicing medicine in

a different context and at a particular time of development. In the same breath, a western medical doctor has to learn the science of diagnosing, treating or preventing disease or bodily harm by going through a seven-year intensive training which is also characterized by studying the human anatomy, chemistry, biology, etc. This method of training appeals to the so-called modern ways of gaining

CorrespondentAuthor: Tsoaledi Daniel Thobejane, Institute for Gender and Youth Studies,UniversityofVenda,P/BagX5050,Thohoyandou 0950SouthAfrica;


Thobejaneetal. access to education. The history of education is also influenced by economic factors in the world. During the industrial period, human beings and their labor defined the economic epoch at that time, whereas in this age of technology, machines (computer technology) have replaced human labor in many factories. In this era, knowledge is easily disseminated. Education workers can work anywhere by comparing their resumes to any job specification available either on the internet or in the newspaper. This technology (or information age) is changing the nature of learning all over the world. Automation is gradually making production workers displaced and outmoded. Learning in olden days always took place in non-formal and informal settings and/or self-directed contexts (or indigenous contexts). The non-formal method is largely used by tribes mostly found in the African continent. The Ndebele tribe in Zimbabwe (formerly called Rhodesia during colonial times) relied on oral traditions and art to convey the history of the nation from the elder generation to the younger generation. This was done by way of storytelling and reciting of poems. Circumcision schools (or initiation schools as they were formally known), held on the mountains during winter seasons, were highly valued institutions. At these institutions, men were taught their duties as men and the need to defend their country when it is invaded by a different tribe or another country. They were also taught the rigors involved in becoming a family man. The training was, in most cases, characterized by a brief militaristic fight which included self-defense and hunting down ones enemy and/or wild animals. This culture has been in existence for several thousands of years, and has been passed from one generation to another. It is through this cultural education that a tribe was able to retain their history and to live in communion with each other and natural environment. Most of the African tribes learning pattern was mostly group-oriented, meaning that the group, together with the leader, would design activities that

459 would help in improving the social standing of the tribe or change the ways the community viewed certain issues (Thompson 1990: 8-30).

It was language that enabled man to achieve this form of social organization. Written communication became the backbone of what we know education to be in this modern time. The process of interpretation and rationalizing, or the effort of meaning, the social function of memory, and of forgetting, can thus be seen as the final stage of what Kintgen, Kroll, and Rose (1988: 35) called the homeostatic organization (or the stage of equilibrium) of the cultural tradition in non-literate society. Language, primarily vocabulary, is the effective medium of this crucial process of social digestion and elimination which may be regarded as similar to the homeostatic organization of the human body as it attempts to maintain its present condition of life (Kintgen et al. 1988: 35). Early in pre-history, man began to express himself in a graphic form. Paintings, pictographings, engravings, and woodcarvings are the forerunners of what is presently known as writing. Other symbols such as foot printing and totemic mammals (largely used in some African tribes such as the Khoi-Sancommonly known as the Bushmen), were required in order to convey the message that the place was inhabited by men few days, months or years ago (Thompson 1990: 25). During the rise of the urban culture at the end of the fourth millennium, more complex forms of writings took place. Egypt hieroglyphics permitted the written expression of all the words of a language. The need to record the personal names and foreign words encouraged the development of phonetic elements in writing. This led to the achievement of a system of the representation of phonemes. This was developed between 1,500 and 1,000 B.C., and finally led to the introduction of the

460 alphabet in Greece. All the ancient civilizations such as the Sumerian, Egyptian, Hittite and Chinese civilization were literate in a sense. This is proven by their administrative skills and the technology which was undoubtedly connected with writing. The important paper in Egypt during the Iron Age, made writing a common practice and very easier. One other aspect of the history of education is that of the Greek thought and Greek civilization. Literacy/education as it is known, is seen to be the brainchild of Greek civilization. It was philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates (750 and 650 B.C.) who came with the concept of rationalization and systematization of the subject matter (Kintgen et al. 1988: 24). The South African educational system has more or less undergone the same paradigmatic change since the inception of apartheid education by the Prime Minister Mr. Hendrick Verwoerd in 1954. The history of racial segregation called apartheid in South Africa elevated one race of people (mainly whites) over the majority (mainly black people). The Black majority, after realizing their common experiences as an oppressed people, rallied together against apartheid and Bantu education. Bantu education was a form of inferior education which was intended to produce a cadre of black semi-skilled workers. As a result of their dissatisfaction over this form of education, black students started to demonstrate against the government and went on a national strike on June 16, 1977. Their rallying cry was to urge the government to do away with Bantu education and racism (Kintgen et al. 1988: 3). The minority regime responded with violence and killed many students who took part in strikes and national demonstrations. South Africa was equally inundated with a lot of ideologies from liberation movements which sought to interpret the situation of the oppressed at that time. Black theology and black consciousness in South Africa became synonymous in articulating ideals of

Sociology Study 2(6) mental liberation from colonialist education. Immediately after the inception of a democratic system of governance, the South African government set itself on a path toward an overhauling of the system of Bantu education. This led to the establishment of what is now called the national qualifications framework (NQF) whose purpose is to integrate those who were marginalized by the apartheid system of education (Walters 1997: 128). The NQF was to be seen as an educational instrument which would redress inequities of the past and to reconstruct the archaic system of education in the country. The government then passed the South African Qualifications Authority Act (SAQA) in 1995 to make provision for NQF with the hope that it would enable the transformation of the education and training systems through the redistribution and recognition of knowledge and skills. Since there are about 14 to 15 million South African adults who did not attain formal education, the government, through NQF, is now hoping that the non-formal skills that these adults have attained could be credited by starting to recognize and describe the standards of these skills (recognition of prior learning) so that they can then be placed in institutions which can best suit their qualifications. Some critics of NQF who are arguing for a different form of accreditation program argue that NQF itself has proven cumbersome especially in determining the outcome of adult learners. They also argue that there are no qualified teachers who will be in charge of monitoring this program so that students are not just given the right of passage into higher learning without being properly credited (Walters 1997: 120-128).

The present curriculum has to be changed in order to include the vocational experiences of students. New teaching skills and approaches have to be embarked

Thobejaneetal. upon in order to make this a reality. This means that teachers have to be trained so that they can be prepared for this new approach. Recognizing the process of experiential learning is still a contentious issue in South Africa. What makes this process difficult is that South Africa during apartheid emphasizes English and Afrikaans as official languages to be used in examining students and running the affairs of the country. Since most of the citizens (the majority of blacks) were uneducated and could not express themselves in English, they were systematically marginalized from the day-to-day business of the country. It is therefore important that the government should recognize some of the skills which are possessed by these people whose languages are not English and/or Afrikaans. There has to be a mechanism which will help the government to test these people in their own mother-tounges so as to allow them to have the freedom to genuinely express themselves and to continue studying the language that they find convenient for them. It is comforting to note that the present government has recognized 11 languages to be official. This will help all South Africans to be proud and have a sense of belonging and self-esteem. Those people whose skills and expertise are restricted by language, will no longer have to feel lacking and inhibited simply because they cannot express themselves in English or Afrikaans. The NQF is also faced with the task of changing curricular so that it can be relevant to the South African context. This means that European traditions of individualized skills and mastery should give way or be coupled with indigenous traditions of communal knowledge. Exclusions of these dynamics in the previous curricula have excluded many South Africans in attaining formal education. This has also denied them the chance to play a meaningful role in the economy development of the country. South Africa, since it is part of the developing world, will be able to thrive. Another problem in South Africa has to do with

461 the masculinist (male-dominated) curriculum. Although the culture of most South Africans is centered around the shared ownership of knowledge (collectivism), it is disconcerting to note that many women are still being disregarded in many spheres of life (Cross, Mkwanazi-Twala, and Klein 1988: 63-74). For curriculum to be relevant and fully functional, it has to address gender disparities and particular issues of women and skills relating to their expertise and yearnings. For a curriculum to fully address the needs of the entire nation, it should take the aspirations of all women into consideration. It is based on the above that the author now turns to the literature that informs an egalitarian form of education with the hope of instilling in the country, virtues that are congruent to an equitable form of education.

Education has been a contested terrain since the beginning of civilization and the dawn of modern industrialization. There are general conceptions and misconceptions regarding what education is or what it ought to be. The author will suggest that the meaning of education is largely determined by conditions under which a country finds itself in different epochs of development. It is also defined by the experience of people as they are striving to make nature respond to their needs. The material conditions which inform education are also dictated by the socio-political milieu as well as the economic conditions recurring in the society. In supporting this viewpoint, Freire (1999: 14) said that people educate each other through the mediation of the world. He further argued that: When an illiterate peasant participates in this sort of educational experience, he or she comes to a new awareness of self, has a new sense of dignity, and is stirred by a new hope. Education is about the discovering, and providing of conditions which encourage the fuller development

462 of abilities and skills in every sphere of human activity such as the artistic, scientific, social and spiritual sphere. Education could therefore be viewed, from Freires perspective, as the mode of development of human beings in society. For people to be fully developed, they need to change the society more and more toward their needs and aspirations. Also Karl Marx who advocated for scientific criticism of everything existing, and worked on tactics of revolutionary proletarian socialism, influenced a lot of educationists as far as education for social change was concerned (Sarup 1983: 20). Although he did not focus on education per se, he believed that education could not rise above class distinctions. An educational system, in Marxian terms, is a tool which is used by the ruling class in order to perpetuate itself culturally, economically and socially. In its endeavour to conquer the ruling class, the proletariats, together with their alliance, the organic intellectuals, will develop a proletarian culture that arises from conditions of poverty and exploitation. This culture, according to Marx, will then bring about an educational system that will counter that of the ruling class. The Marxist ideology further suggests that the working class, inspite of being shaped and molded into a functional, and disciplined labour force, has to be uplifted in order for the ruling class to stabilize the socio-political order according to its desires (Sarup 1983: 19-22). In order to achieve this , the ruling elites have to impose schools on many working class students. In these schools, children are taught to accept political and ethical values of the dominant class. Children in these schools are taught to accept as natural, the social distinctions schools teach between important and unimportant knowledge, between normality and deviance, between work and play. A lot of Marxist thinkers view education as a product of the social, political, and economic relations of society. They believe that many of the problems found in education are a manifestation of the deeper structural

Sociology Study 2(6) contradictions of capitalism. Capitalist ideology, according to Weber (1994), forced students to think in parochial and narrow terms where concepts such as love, freedom, nature, reason, culture, emotion, etc., were not viewed as being dialectically related or mutually inclusive. Instead, they are viewed and treated as absolute opposites. In a capitalist society, literature, arts, social sciences, etc., cannot be divorced from the mode of production as explained by Marx. Literature, for instance, will always support the mode of production in a capitalist society. Art and culture will also be used as expressive tools of the capitalist mode of production. It is through this law of dialectics, as Karl Marx proposes, that the working class can embark on a revolution which is a resultant product of a fusion, and multiplicity of contradictions. Through these contradictions, he argues, an ideology of the working class can start taking root. The working class (the dominated) will then formulate their strategies and revolutionary programs in the language and the logic that will arise out of their material existence as a dominated class. This will include educational programs that will be launched in schools supporting a socialist agenda which is seen as the ultimate goal of ushering in a communist mode of production viewed in Marxian circles as the highest form of development. Education policies, in any epoch of development, will never be neutral. They will always be linked with the class that is dominant in that given epoch. The author is therefore suggesting that education under the leadership of the dictatorship of the proletariats does not guarantee freedom from state hegemony, as much as education under a bourgeois leadership does not guarantee any independence of educational institutions from the government. The United States of America is a perfect example of how education is used for the expansion of the capitalist mode of production. So is the Chinese government a classic example of how education can be used in perpetuating socialist ideals in the society. The author would opine that an

Thobejaneetal. ideal system of education is that which transcends any hegemony of the ruling class, be it capitalist or socialist, and of course the author realizes that this is Utopia. Furthermore, Freire also used Karl Marxs laws of dialectics (dialectical materialism) to explain the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. However, he argued that (unlike Marx) one could not reduce all forms of oppression to a common denominator of class. This, according to him, ignored the larger context within which transformative educational initiatives could be carried out. Freire argued that educators who were yearning for social change should expose themselves to a greater dynamism and the greater mobility found in social movements. He further stresses this point by raising the issue of humanism that came as a result of the conscientized oppressed. He said that it was through struggling against oppression that the oppressor would move toward true humanity. It was this humanity that would, in the final analysis, bring the oppressor and the oppressed together. This humanity will transcend class and other artificial boundaries that divide us as human beings. While working within adult literacy programs in Brazil and Chile in 1964, Freire stressed that it was essential for the oppressed peasants to become literate so that they should not be at the sidelines of political life. He argued that, for the oppressed to be united (Mayo 1999: 73), they must: cut the umbilical cord of magic and myth which binds them to the world of oppression. The unity which links them to each other must be of a different nature. They can do this by becoming willing agents in the process of educating themselves against their common enemy. Freire believed in the concept of praxis where the learner was motivated through critical dialogue to understand the social contradictions in his/her community. He saw this critical process of analysis as a method that would help the learners to read the word and the world. This

463 democratic, collective approach envisioned by Freire, can help in the process of offsetting the ideology of the oppressor class and help the oppressed to liberate themselves. He considered problem-posing education as a humanist and liberating praxis which would help the oppressed to fight for their liberation. He believed that problem posing could not serve the interests of the oppressor. Asking questionssuch as why, who, when, and whatenables students and teachers to become subjects of the educational process that takes them further away from intellectualism that seems to be isolating and marginalizing. This method affirms men and women in the process of becoming whole. As a critic of what he calls the banking method of education where students are taught to be receivers of information which should be regurgitated when teachers ask them questions and during examinations, he skillfully de-mythicizes this elitist education which seems to obscure reality and conceal facts which explain the way human beings exist in the world. He argued that banking education inhibited creativity and domesticated the intentionality of consciousness by isolating it from the world and proposed praxis where the oppressed, in order for them to liberate themselves, should engage in critical liberating dialogue which would lead into action, rather than leading to the self-hatred which the oppressor generated. The oppressed have to participate reflectively in order to avoid domestication and manipulation even by their liberators. In arguing this point further, Bourdieu (1982: 21) suggested that words could be used as instruments of coercion and constraint, as tools of intimidation and abuse. Words can also be used as signs of politeness, condescension and contempt. He further stressed that the more the individuals were deprived of the specific competencies and graces that were necessary for participation in a professionalized political field, the more likely they were to hand politics over to the professionals. Hence Freire (1999: 49) talked the

464 conscientization process which would help the oppressed to be mentally liberated so that they can understand the political situation in which they found themselves. Dialogue, reflection, and communication become essential features of Freires pedagogy of the oppressed in which these will help the oppressed to be able to understand their social milieu. Dewey (1938) had long viewed education as a pillar of socio-economic development. Lack of education, according to Dewey, hampered the adequate realization of democratic ideals. He further stated that without formal education, it was not possible to transmit all resources and achievements of a complex society. It also opens a way to a kind of experience which would not be accessible to the young. Therefore, education is a fostering, nurturing, and cultivating process. It has to do with reasoning, raising and bringing up. Thus, education means a process of teaching, or bringing up. The business of education is to liberate both the young and old from reviving and retraversing the past, then to lead them to a recapitulation of it. He further stressed that education was that reconstruction or re-organization of experience which added to the meaning of experience, and which increased ability to direct the course of subsequent experience. The first step in freeing men from external chains is to emancipate them from internal chains of false beliefs. In the South African context, education was aimed at instilling a sense of inferiority complex especially amongst the blacks. The chains that Dewey spoke about were deliberately placed on these marginalized groupings of Blacks so as to perpetuate apartheid education whose task was to isolate the indigenous people and to keep them in total darkness. Democracy is seen to be more than just a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. Therefore, the emancipated individual is to become the organ and agent of a comprehensive and progressive society. Education has to become a civic

Sociology Study 2(6) function that should be identified with the realization of the national state. The state has to be substituted for humanity. Cosmopolitanism should give way to nationalism. According to Dewey, education continued to be used as a system to oppress one class of people by another. He further asserted that all educational reforms were given to attack the passivity of traditional education. The educators part in the enterprise of education is therefore to furnish the environment which stimulates the responses and directs the learners course. Education may be concerned either retrospectively or prospectively, i.e., it may be treated as process of accommodating the future to the past, or as an utilization of the past for a resource in a developing future.

So far the author can deduce that education does play a role in social relations of power. Education is part and parcel of social change. This means that it can liberate people from the patriarchal past, into an egalitarian society devoid of sexism, gender discrimination and racism. We are constantly challenged to offer leadership in order to help people with their efforts to make sense of their social situations and to give them courage to see that change is possible and imminent. Education can be used to either liberate a people or oppress them, as in the case of the former apartheid South Africa. Education for social change should instill a spirit of awareness in both parents and students. Students should question issues of inequalities such as racism, sexism and other prejudices in order for them to be advocates of social change. Arnold (1996: 153) emphasized this point further by saying that: As educators ,our purpose is not only to help people to critically assess their personal and social situations but also to help them develop their conviction that change is possible. Education for social change in South Africa should be in the interest of the former oppressed

Thobejaneetal. groups so that they can realize the power they wield as a unit, and to act collectively to challenge and change the remaining oppressive structures which threaten to undermine their plight and to rob them of their hard won gains in their struggle for freedom. This collective work can be accomplished through the process of active participation, creativity and empowerment, presently lacking in South African schools and the society as a whole. If education encourages social behavior, it really has to negate some features which appear to be manipulative and indoctrinating. It should move beyond personal growth and strife to alleviate some social ills. It should persuade people to yearn for further learning and to be cautious of the rights of marginalized people such as women and minorities. It should be relevant for economic development and the provision of skilled labour power through which workers can participate in the creation of knowledge and technology which will bring about wealth in the society and to improve competencies in all fields of life. This will in turn bring about healthy inter-relationships amongst people in the society and enhance cooperation, pride, and identity. Education should be about building local communities from the ashes of an isolationist education whose purpose is to reinforce class distinctions and elitism, as happened in the former apartheid South Africa.

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Geoff Mapaya, Ph.D., Department of African Studies, University of Venda; research fields: development, African studies and musicology. Mokgale Makgopa, professor, dean of School of Human and Social Sciences, University of Venda; research fields: linguistics, sociology and development.

Tsoaledi Daniel Thobejane, Ed.D., senior lecturer, Institute for Gender and Youth Studies, University of Venda; research fields: gender studies, youth studies, development and education.