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Elusive Equity

Elusive Equity: Education Reform in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Edward B. Fiske
Helen F. Ladd
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 269
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  • Book Info
    Elusive Equity
    Book Description:

    Elusive Equity chronicles South Africa's efforts to fashion a racially equitable state education system from the ashes of apartheid. The policymakers who came to power with Nelson Mandela in 1994 inherited and education system designed to further the racist goals of apartheid. Their massive challenge was to transform that system, which lavished human and financial resources on schools serving white students while systematically starving those serving African, coloured, and Indian learners, into one that would offer quality education to all persons, regardless of their race.

    Edward Fiske and Helen Ladd describe and evaluate the strategies that South Africa pursued in its quest for racial equity. They draw on previously unpublished data, interviews with key officials, and visits to dozens of schools to describe the changes made in school finance, teacher assignment policies, governance, curriculum, higher education, and other areas. They conclude that the country has made remarkable progress toward equity in the sense of equal treatment of persons of all races. For several reasons, however, the country has been far less successful in promoting equal educational opportunity or educational adequacy. Thus equity has remained elusive.

    The book is unique in combining the perceptive observations of a skilled education journalist with the analytical skills of an academic policy expert. Richly textured descriptions of how South Africa's education reforms have affected schools at the grass-roots level are combined with careful analysis of enrollment, governance, and budget data at the school, provincial, and national levels. The result is a compelling and comprehensive study of South Africa's first decade of education reform in the post-apartheid period.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9660-2
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xv)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  5. one Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 1953 the South African minister of native affairs, Hendrik Verwoerd, took the floor of Parliament in Cape Town to make the case for legislation restricting the quality of schools serving Africans. “Racial relations cannot improve if the wrong type of education is given to Natives,” he declared. “They cannot improve if the result of Native education is the creation of frustrated people who, as a result of the education they received, have expectations in life which circumstances in South Africa do not allow to be fulfilled immediately.”¹ The Afrikaner-dominated Parliament accepted Verwoerd’s arguments and approved the Bantu Education Act...

  6. two The Racial Context of South Africa
    (pp. 17-39)

    The apartheid era dawned in 1948 when the Afrikaner-dominated National Party won narrow control of the South African parliament and imposed race-conscious structures on every aspect of life, including education. Behind these structures lay a long history of complex relations both between and within the major racial groups in the country. As mentioned earlier, there are four such groups—Africans, coloureds, Indians, and whites—and conflicts between whites and blacks were part of the social fabric of South Africa from the early colonial period. Those tensions mounted during the many years of segregation that preceded apartheid, providing fertile ground for...

  7. three Education and Apartheid
    (pp. 40-60)

    June 16, 1976, was a fateful day in the history of South Africa. On that date an estimated 15,000 schoolchildren took to the streets of Soweto, the sprawling and densely populated African township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, to protest a more aggressive government policy requiring that half of all classes in secondary schools be taught in Afrikaans. The students, who viewed Afrikaans as the language of their oppressors, launched the demonstrations over the admonitions of parents and teachers. When a small detachment of armed white policemen ordered a group of protesters to halt, the students responded with jeers and...

  8. four Educational Aspirations and Political Realities
    (pp. 61-80)

    The architects of post-apartheid South Africa understood that a restructured state education system would be critical to the building of a new and democratic social order. Universal education would be a principal means by which the long-oppressed black majority would be equipped to function as skilled workers and active citizens. The educational aspirations of the African National Congress (ANC) were embodied in section 29 of the new constitution: “Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education, and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.” The right to a...

  9. five Governance and Access to Schools
    (pp. 81-100)

    Pinelands is a comfortable middle-class suburb in Cape Town located near the city’s spectacular Table Mountain. During the apartheid era, it was an all-white residential area. Although contiguous to coloured and African townships, Pinelands is bordered by railroad tracks, highways, and a river, all of which limit access to bridges. Since the repeal of the Group Areas Act in 1991, this suburb has experienced a gradual inflow of coloured, African, and Indian residents—almost all of them middleclass and many of them employed locally by Old Mutual, a major insurance company.

    Pinelands’ three primary schools, each with 400 to 450...

  10. six Financing Schools: Initial Steps Toward Equity
    (pp. 101-129)

    The South African Constitution gives each person the right to a basic education unqualified by any reference to the availability of resources. In practice, of course, resource constraints are not irrelevant, and South Africa has been forced to make difficult choices in its efforts to transform its education system. In this chapter we deal with those related to the distribution of public resources both across and within provinces. Another set of choices involves the use of school fees and is discussed in chapter 7.

    Outside the scope of our analysis is an alternative form of resources—those provided by nonprofit...

  11. seven Balancing Public and Private Resources
    (pp. 130-153)

    A weighty question for policymakers everywhere is how to achieve the right balance between public and private resources in the provision of primary and secondary education.¹ The question is particularly troubling for developing countries, which typically lack the tax-generated resources to fund education at an adequate level. The 1990 World Conference on Education for All, which formalized the global commitment to universal basic education, established a context for the discussion of school fees and other user charges in developing countries. Such fees are controversial, though, and there is growing international pressure to abolish them, especially at the level of primary...

  12. eight Outcomes-Based Education and Equity
    (pp. 154-172)

    On March 24, 1997, Education Minister Sibusiso Bengu presided over a festive ceremony at Parliament in Cape Town marking the release of a new curriculum for the state education system known as Curriculum 2005. With drummers, singers, and dancers providing a musical backdrop, 2,005 balloons in the colors of South Africa’s new flag were released, and the minister proclaimed, “Today heralds the dawning of new hope for the learners of our country.”

    Curriculum content and structure carry high symbolic value for all countries engaged in the transition from one social system to another. Just as the National Party had used...

  13. nine Educational Outcomes
    (pp. 173-200)

    Thus far our analysis of racial equity in South African schools has focused on educational inputs and processes. That is, we have examined the extent to which the new government’s policies have succeeded in allocating human, financial, and curricular resources more equitably than in the past. In this chapter we turn to outcomes and educational adequacy.

    Outcomes matter in South Africa for several reasons. For one thing, the country is in a hurry to change, and the government is eager to show that it is making progress toward erasing the legacy of apartheid by creating a quality educational system. To...

  14. ten Equity in Higher Education
    (pp. 201-231)

    Few institutions of higher education have a more illustrious history than University College of Fort Hare. Founded by Scottish missionaries in 1916 as the first college to educate Africans, it boasts an alumni roll that reads like a Who’s Who of southern African leaders: Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Robert Sobukwe, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and Robert Mugabe among them. Located in the rural town of Alice in the impoverished Eastern Cape, Fort Hare evolved over the years from a teacher training institution into a university with strengths in agriculture and rural development, but in 1982 its academic evolution abruptly stopped. The Nationalist...

  15. eleven Conclusion
    (pp. 232-248)

    The story of South Africa’s efforts to promote racial equity in the post-apartheid period is inherently compelling. Few countries have ever had the need—much less the political opportunity—to engage in such far-reaching social, political, philosophical, and structural changes on a national scale. The racial inequities of the apartheid system were so egregious and the struggle against that system so intense that South Africa entered its new democratic era with a deep commitment to a multiracial and egalitarian society and with one of the most progressive constitutions of any country in the world.

    As part of that commitment, the...

  16. Appendix Tables
    (pp. 249-250)
  17. References
    (pp. 251-260)
  18. Index
    (pp. 261-269)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-271)