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 Africa's constitution.