The Birth of Educational Archaeology in South Africa

Article excerpt

Key-words: South Africa, education, politics, racial, `Reconstruction and Reconciliation', schools

Archaeology in education has been introduced in South Africa only recently as the politics of the past precluded the application of archaeology in the classroom. This paper presents the background to South African education and educational archaeology and discusses some of the issues and studies undertaken in South Africa. It also offers comment on the factors which determine and shape educational archaeology of the present and those that may affect the discipline of archaeology in the future.


Christian Nationalism grew out of the Afrikaner Nationalism of the 1930s and '40s, and was formalized for the first time in 1948 when the National Party came to power (Rose & Tunmer 1975: 244; Christie 1991: 174). The most basic tenet of Christian National Policy was that there should be `no mixing of languages, no mixing of cultures, no mixing of religions, and no mixing of races' (Spro-cas 1971:74). This spelt out separate education.

Thus over time several different education Acts were passed; the Bantu Education Act for Black schools (1953), the Coloured Persons Education Act (1963), Indian Education Act (1965) and the National Education Policy for White Schools (1967) each tightly controlled by the Government (Rose & Tunmer 1975: 258; Christie 1991: 51). Separate education also became a useful means of implementing unequal education. The fear that education would make black South Africans competitors in the job market, as well as in the political arena, loomed large in the mind of the white South African. It was out of this fear of inter-racial competition that white South Africans conceded that the `native', who was in a state of `cultural infancy', should be guided by the whites `most especially those of the Boer nation as the senior trustees of the native' to a Christian way of life (Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge 1948: Article 15), but resisted providing an education that would allow the `native' to believe he could become part of `European community' and rise above the `level of certain forms of labour' (Verwoed 1954, speech in the Senate, in Rose & Tunmer 1975: 266). It was thus made clear from the outset that white children would not only receive a separate education from black, Asian and `coloured' children, they would also receive a superior education designed to prepare them for an elevated position in South African social and economic life. Black, Coloured and Indian Education, on the other hand, was designed to limit the learning process and restrict the development of these children; in the words of Molteno (1984: 94), `they aimed to dwarf the minds of black children by conditioning them to servitude'. It was against this inferior education that the black consciousness movement and youth would repeatedly take issue, boycott and riot.

Within this system of education, pupils were indoctrinated by a world-view which omitted `anti-biblical' concepts such as evolution; made Bible education compulsory; and presented the past and present actions of white people in South Africa as the fulfilment of God's divine plan (Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge, ICNO 1948: Article 6 (6)):

We believe that history must be taught in the light of the divine revelation and must be seen as the fulfilment of God's decree (raadsplan) for the world and humanity.... We believe that God has willed separate nations and peoples, and has given each separate nation and peoples its particular vocation task and gifts ... we believe that next to the mother tongue, the patriotic (vaderlandse) history of the nation is the means of cultivating love of ones own.

Indeed, the official version of history perpetuated by the Apartheid Government justified its actions and values and served to promote Afrikaner Nationalism. History, as presented in schools, the media and through museum programmes, in the words of Dean & Sieborger (1995: 32), `omitted, distorted or vilified the role of blacks, "coloureds" and Asians in the country's past'. …