The Intercultural Cultural of Schools: Problems and Challenges for a Post-Apartheid South Africa

By Van Wyk, Jerome-Alexander | The Journal of Negro Education, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

The Intercultural Cultural of Schools: Problems and Challenges for a Post-Apartheid South Africa


Van Wyk, Jerome-Alexander, The Journal of Negro Education


To achieve optimal balance between cultural integration, differentiation, equity, and development, this article argues that an "intercultural culture" must be established in South Africa's public schools. This will demand critical awareness of interculturalism and informed commitment by educators and learners to prevent schools, especially the formerly White schools, from continuing to embody skewed values and practices that, in a new political dispensation, enshrine rather than redress inequity. It will also require stakeholders to summon the political and educational will to transform schools through changing and strengthening their institutional cultures and not viewing efforts to promote interculturalism as optional add-ons.

INTERCULTURALISM AND INSTITUTIONS

Institutions are living, breathing entities within which people exchange and share ideas and values as well as ways of acting, seeing, and understanding. Creating an appropriate institutional framework for the transformation of South Africa's schools will be critical, especially insofar as achieving clearer understandings of diversity and interculturalism among students, teachers, administrators, and parents is concerned. Institutional weakness has been a major factor in failed or delayed attempts at transformation, and unless an effective institutional framework is created, the nation stands in danger of maintaining and strengthening the inequities of the apartheid system of education.

The present article posits two questions: What role can accelerated school organizational development play in a post-apartheid transformation program? What kind of institutional redress and development will be needed to increase intercultural understanding among all of the stakeholders in South African education? The terms "intercultural" and "interculturalism" are preferred to "multicultural" and "multiculturalism" because the former seem to more accurately suggest the action of connecting or communicating issues, notions, beliefs, values, and understandings among and between different cultures. In this context, South African White men are seen as often viewing and valuing procedures within organizations differently than do Black men. Similarly, women are perceived as viewing and valuing these aspects differently than do their male counterparts.

This article further argues that questions about institutions and organizational development are inseparable from those about the need for transformation and attempts to consciously pursue greater intercultural understandings. Several principles guide this perspective:

(1) Institutional transformation programs cannot be viewed as optional, extras, or addons. Rather, they must be seen as essential and non-negotiable components of any strategy to promote educational equity and accelerated development.

(2) Inequities and negatively perceived differences among constituencies need to be taken into account when developing intercultural understandings, which, by design, were ignored during the apartheid era. If this is not done, the inequities will be reproduced in the present era and no sustainable basis for the transformation of institutions will be created. It is also likely that the sociopolitical consequences of large-scale polarization will continue to entrench intolerance throughout the land.

(3) Institutional transformation programs cannot be based on the unrealistic expectations of previously excluded and therefore weaker parties. Unless all parties can expect concrete benefits, the political will to sustain transformation will be lacking.

(4) Institutional transformation programs must establish both cooperative and integrated efforts aimed at helping South Africans realize the benefits of closer interracial/ interethnic relations.

(5) The success of institutional transformation programs depends on their ability to promote negotiation and cooperation among various constituencies to encourage the unlearning of prejudices, and as a result, release resources for the development of democracy, productivity, and diversity. …

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