Today, when the young and the born-free, those born after Namibia’s independence in 1990, enrol at schools and institutions of their choices, little does it come to their minds that it was not as easy as that during the years of colonialism and apartheid. Today, black and white students enrol for degree programmes such as medicine, law, engineering, humanities, social sciences, pure sciences and education at higher education institutions without segregation. They do this at will depending on their passes at high school level.
When tertiary education students today picket about the delay in the release of NSFAF funds from government, little do they know that they would have been sprayed with live bullets by government armed forces for expressing their rights during the apartheid period. The 16 June 1976 Soweto massacre of demonstrating black students in South Africa comes to mind. It was one of the examples of some of the worst crimes against humanity committed by the white South African rulers of that time. Similarly, 16 years earlier, the apartheid machine had consumed black human flesh in the Sharpeville massacre when black masses demonstrated against pass laws. These and other heinous crimes against humans went unpunished by international law when evidence for prosecution was abundant.
To the white governments of the apartheid era in both South Africa and Namibia, the black man did not need the same education as the white man. The enactment of the Bantu Education Act of 1953 formalised racism in education and the white man’s philosophy that the black child did not deserve the same type of education as the white child. For instance, subjects like mathematics and science were considered to be above the comprehension of black children. This led to an inferior curriculum for black children versus the Western type of education that was reserved for white children. In their restricted education curriculum, black children had to contend with many obstacles like what became known as the bottle-neck education system. Only a limited number of black children were allowed to proceed to upper levels of education. In between the levels, there were strict examinations that held back many learners and allowed just a few to squeeze through to the next level. For example, a school offering two Grade 9 classes would be forced to offer only one Grade 10 class, meaning that one class of the learners would be thrown into the streets. In addition to these restrictions, black children did not have good infrastructure like their white counterparts.
The black education system produced a dejected group of dropouts. The apartheid system used the dropouts for menial labour and other forms of forced labour on the farms, mines and factories.
To effectively control the black people, the white government brought under its control most of the black schools which were under liberal missionaries and forced the Bantu Education on these schools. In their research paper titled ‘Bantu Education: Apartheid ideology or labour reproduction?’, Pam Christie and Collins Collins (1982, p.59) found that “By 1959, virtually all black schools (7000), except the 700 Catholic schools had been brought under the central control of the Native Affairs Department. All teachers were being trained in government training colleges and all syllabuses were to be those emanating from the government and imbued with the ideas of racial inferiority. The Christion ideals of an egalitarian and communal society in which everyone aspired to a universalist culture which was both Western and Christian were struck a severe blow.”
No wonder therefore how the white supremacist philosophy was instilled in both the white child and the black child who were socialized by the system into two world views – that of the master and that of the servant, the superior and the inferior – two racially segregated worlds. Therefore, the Bantu Education system produced a subservient black working class that served the interests of the white man who owned the means of production. Ironically, one of the means of production – land – had been stolen from the blacks during the early days of occupation when the whites created reserves and bantustans for blacks. This happened in South Africa and Namibia. Other African countries who were under the shackles of colonialism experienced similar segregation in education. There was always education for the white children which was better than that of black children.
As we celebrate Namibia’s 30th Anniversary of Independence, I urge the young generation to reflect on the education benefits that they have enjoyed or still enjoy as a result of the protracted war of liberation that removed the apartheid system and its white supremacist policies. We must pay tribute to our living and departed heroes who took up arms against the satanic policies of apartheid that resulted in huge inequalities between blacks and whites.
We should celebrate that we have free primary education in government schools in Namibia. Also, with no university at independence in 1990, Namibia now boasts of two world-class state universities with satellite campuses and centres across the country offering quality education to Namibians and other nationals. The government has also opened space for private higher education institutions to play their role in the manpower development in the country in line with the National Development Plans (NDPs) and Vision 2030. These efforts have increased access to higher education for Namibians who qualify for it.
Congratulations Namibia on the 30th Independence Anniversary! We salute our heroes!
*Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his
2020-03-20 09:51:19 | 10 days ago