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Samuel Buchanan

His 342
April 12, 2016
Bantu Education
Through Mark Mathabanes autobiography, of growing up in a South African ghetto, he
shows the atrocities of apartheid. Mathabane reveals to the reader how unequal their society was,
and how it affected every day life. One of the great horrors of apartheid was the effect that the
Department of Bantu Education had on continuing the cycle of racism and poverty. By analyzing
the Bantu Education system, a clearer picture of how the system of apartheid functioned, as well
as the effect it had on ordinary people, and how anti-apartheid movements could end the system
of oppression. Ultimately the government of South Africa used Bantu Education as a tool to
reinforce the system of apartheid, by stunting the growth of black South Africans.
The main goal of apartheid was to create separate worlds for both whites and blacks.
Nowhere was this more evident, than in the education that black South Africans received, or lack
thereof. The system of apartheid used education, essentially to keep blacks ignorant. Dr.
Verwoerd, prime minister and architect of Bantu Education put it this way the native child must
be taught subjects which will enable him to work with and among his own people; therefore
there is no use misleading himBantu Education should not be used to create imitation
whites.(193) the very purpose of Bantu Education was to continue the separation of blacks and
whites. To ensure this white South Africans orchestrated a system in which the fundamental
aspect was tribal knowledge. This was justified by putting an emphasis on the importance of
heritage, but in the end it was just a system to keep blacks uneducated. Another aspect of Bantu
Education that had sinister effects was the use of native language only within the schools. The
schools only medium of instruction was Tsonga (137). If it was not for Mathabanes insatiable

thirst for knowledge then he too would have fallen into the trap, placed by apartheid. How this
was a trap becomes evident later on when Mathabane finds that English is the most important
language to learn and is required when going beyond just the basic primary schools. By only
allowing schools to teach tribal knowledge and forcing them to use only their specific tribes
language, severely stunted the development and possibilities of black South African youth. In the
end the system was used for that specific purpose. By not allowing blacks to acquire a decent
education, white South Africans were cementing their place within the hierarchy, as well as
limiting the amount of resistance they received from blacks.
Another effect that Bantu Education had was on the lives of ordinary people. This
manifests itself in several forms one of which is the lessons that Bantu Education sought to
teach. These lessons are not for the benefit of black youth, but to continue the system of
apartheid. Debates were simply another tool used by the Department of Bantu Education to
train us for our place in South African life, to define the boundaries of our aspirations.(252)
when Mathabane reaches secondary school his school does not use debates to better the
community or stimulate thought, but to continue the same narrative. This is why they placed the
best debaters to affirm their beliefs, such as defending the view that Country life is better than
town life. One of the other lessons that Bantu Education taught was abuse, if you break the rules
then you are beaten, this conforms to the apartheid system of abuse for minor offenses.
Mathabane received abuse from his teachers for not paying on time, or not having the proper
books. This was another lesson taught by their education system. You had to have the correct
papers to even attend, and then have enough money to pay each month as well as uniforms and
books. Education was expensive; all of the bureaucracy caused by the government was in an
effort to not educate black children. Since I began school, I had heard people around me say that

whites had built black schools only to teach us how to be their slaves.(150) this was the
quintessential lesson of Bantu Education, that this is a white world, and to do as youre told or be
beaten. This lesson was demonstrated day in and day out, and affected the lives of ordinary
South Africans.
Another aspect that affected the lives of ordinary South Africans was the relationship
between Bantu Education and apartheid. While black South Africans were receiving a subpar
education, at best, apartheid provided the white children with a warped, white man perspective of
black South Africans. My teachers tell us that Kaffirs cant read, speak or write English like
white people because they have smaller brains, which are already full of tribal things.(192) this
is one of the many examples in which the apartheid government sought to not only mislead
blacks, but also whites. These efforts were done for the purpose of continuing the separation of
blacks and whites. It would also have an effect on the way in which these groups interacted. By
lying to their children, as well as keeping people in separate worlds, it allowed the use of
stereotypes to inforce the view point that whites are better than blacks. It also allowed fear and
anger to be used to control not just blacks but whites as well, for the purpose of continuing
apartheid. Another big contrast between white and black education were the facilities. While
white schools had big brick buildings with lots of school busses, the Bantu Education facilities
paled in comparison. Mathabanes school did not even have a single school bus. Also white
children were provided a variety of literature and encouraged to read. Never had I seen that
many books in my life; even our school, with a student population of over two thousand, did not
have half as many books.(191) when Mathabane enters the playroom of Mrs. Smiths son, the
differences between the two worlds became apparent, which made him question the system even
more. While white people had the opportunity and resources needed for success this was not the

case with Bantu Education and the system that sought to keep blacks ignorant, illiterate, and their
only job opportunities being the mines, farmers, or as servants.
If the system of apartheid uses ignorance to continue their system, then education, a true
education, is the tool towards freedom. Throughout the autobiography the biggest mantra used by
his mother is that education is the way out of poverty, that it is the key to success. However
Bantu Education itself was designed to stunt the potential of black youth. Within the students a
sense of hate and frustration was growing. They were not being provided the resources, or
knowledge needed to change the system, to acquire freedom. the spark needed was when the
Department of Bantu Education decreed that all black schools had to teach courses in Afrikaans
instead of English.(259) this was the final straw for the students, they would be forced to speak
the language of their oppressors. So the black students - not the ANC, and definitely not
communist outsiders - protested for Bantu Education reform, the police reacted by firing on
peaceful protest, murdering children. The events that occurred in Soweto led to protests by other
students across South Africa. In the end it was Bantu Education that was the cause that unified
the students to stand in opposition to the apartheid government, and demand equal rights.
In conclusion Bantu Education was a tool used for the purpose of reinforcing the system
of apartheid. The fundamental aspect of Bantu Education was to teach the black students only
tribal knowledge, by doing this the government can insure that the black South Africans will
have a subpar education, allowing whites to better control blacks. The main lesson that was
taught by Bantu schools was that blacks should learn their place. This has the opposite effect in
the end when the terrible schooling unifies black students to protest and demand reforms. Finally
the system of apartheid and bantu education had a close relation, while black schools were only
focused on teaching tribal knowledge, the white schools were teaching racist apartheid ideology.