"We Hid Books in Bags of Sugar": South African Histories in Opposition
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In this thesis on teacher resistance to apartheid in South Africa, I argue that teaching against the prescribed curriculum constituted a form of subversion to the National Party-led government. Students, teachers and parents resisted the apartheid education system using various tactics between 1948 and 1990, but this presentation will focus on teachers’ strategies and memories about working within the framework of “education for liberation” in a shift away from “liberation first, education after.” Through testimony, teachers explained how they sought to raise the political and historical consciousness of their students by presenting a two-layered curriculum. The conclusions I came to were informed by interviews I conducted with history teachers in Cape Town, South Africa. My overarching question is: why was the struggle for better school conditions and counter histories so inextricably tied to the struggle for national liberation? I examined the political function of educational policy and content during apartheid, and student and teacher resistance to National Party-prescribed education. I argue that the National party used education policy and content to bolster the apartheid system, and to delineate parameters of citizenship and nationhood in South Africa. Students and teachers identified this use, and responded by using schools as sites of resistance to the apartheid state. Specifically, the political nature of historiography caused history instruction to become a site of contention. Where the National Party employed historiography to glorify Afrikanerdom and subjugate the black majority, resistors used history classrooms for intellectual resistance against apartheid. The second part of this thesis explores the way that history teachers today perceive challenges to teaching apartheid history, and how that reflects post-apartheid politics.
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