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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Raised in Vorster's black ghettoes

Raised in Vorster's black ghettoes

The children of Soweto thus provide Vorster with his bitterest and most direct challenge - for they are (such is sweet irony) the true products of the system of which he has been the most strenuous defender and enforcer. They have been educated completely within the confines of his laws, nurtured in the streets and houses of apartheid, and schooled entirely according to the Nationalist Party blueprint for black subservience, the Bantu Education Act of 1983 (as amended in 1954, 1956, 1959 and 1961).

The basic principle of that Act was clearly put by its main architect, Dr Verwoerd, in 1954:

The Bantu must be guided to serve his own community in all respects. There is no place for him in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour....Until now he has been subjected to a school system which drew him away from his own community and misled him by showing him the green pastures of European society in which he was not allowed to graze.

It might be argued that the 'idealism' of Verwoerd has been replaced by Vorster's "pragmatism" - but Verwoerd was also the architect of the homelands' policy which Vorster has made his last line of defence, and one of Vorster's most recent Cabinet appointments has confirmed the Verwoerd line on education. Vorster has appointed, as the man to supervise Bantu Education, the rising star of South African white politics, Dr Andries Treurnicht, former Pretoria theologian and one-time chairman of the "Broederbond", the secret "band of brothers" which has masterminded the rise of Afrikaner nationalism. Dr Treurnicht, a severe hard-liner whose appointment was clearly a move by Vorster to appease his right-wing, has said of apartheid: "I know of no other policy which is so moral, so scripturally justifiable". Under him, few changes are likely to the basic system.

Before Soweto, the South African Government liked to make extravagant claims for the "achievements" of Bantu education. They pointed out, for example, that the enrolment of Africans at schools rose from one million in 1955 to 2.9m in 1971; that expenditure increased from R18.8m in 1960 to R56.1 m in 1971; and that the proportion of African children in the 7-15 age groups had risen to 76%.

The appearance of improvement is deceptive: the same figures reveal a reality of qualitative decline and cultural impoversihment. Between 1955 and 1971, the pupil-teacher ratio rose from 45:1 to 58:1 (in white schools it is 20:1), the increase in expenditure was greatly outmatched by the increase in numbers; and for every R1 spent in 1970 on an African child, the Government spent R31.6 for each white child. In addition, of the existing 10,550 African schools, only 453 (a mere 4.3%) were secondary schools, with 94% of all African children in primary classes only.