This month, 60 years ago, the Bantu Education Act (full text) was promulgated. This evil piece of legislation has damaged the people and potential of South Africa inestimably. The Act was the brainchild of the Apartheid Minister of Native Affairs, Hendrik Verwoerd. Author Alex Parker wrote the following on Verwoerd and the Bantu Education Act:
“In a crime of lasting and monumental proportions, [Verwoerd] penned and promulgated the 1953 Bantu Education Act. There is no better person than Verwoerd himself to articulate how he felt about the education of black people:
“There is no place for [blacks] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour,” he declared. “What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.”
Blacks were, as [Verwoerd] put it, destined to be “hewers of wood, and drawers of water”. In a stroke, Verwoerd has stolen the opportunity of a better life from them… [T]he education system he decreed on generations of South African blacks remains, even today, one of the most damaging aspects of his legacy.”
It is against the sort of sentiment expressed above that we should judge the quality of education in South Africa today. If there ever was an opportunity to over-compensate in the measure of corrective action, it would be education in democratic South Africa. Had our governments since 1994 made quality education their number one priority, South Africa would be a fundamentally better country today.
Verwoerd was an evil thief. The man and everyone who supported him, stole the opportunity for a more prosperous life from millions of South Africans.
Imagine, instead, that in 1953 the state had decided to prioritise the education of all South Africans regardless of race. Imagine that the government understood that quality education was the most significant contributor to providing productive human resources to power our economy. Imagine a South Africa today where our education system had been providing quality education for 60 years to all races. Imagine how different our country would be, how much better all of our lives would be.
Every day we waste tolerating an education system crippled by corruption and the stranglehold of unions, we prolong the crime against our people that was committed in 1953.