The Bantu Education Act

A pillar of the apartheid project, this legislation was intended to separate black South Africans from the main, comparatively very well-resourced education system for whites.

Authored by Dr HF Verwoerd (then Minister of Native Affairs, later Prime Minister), it established a Black Education Department in the Department of Native Affairs.

They were tasked with the compilation of a curriculum that suited the “nature and requirements of the black people”. African children students were to be educated in a way that was appropriate for their culture.

No consultation occurred on this.

All the definitions of culture, appropriate education content and levels, all the decisions about purpose and outcomes of the system were controlled by the apartheid government.

Its stated aim was to prevent Africans receiving an education that would lead them to aspire to positions they wouldn't be allowed to hold in society.

Instead Africans were to receive an education designed to provide them with skills to serve their own people in the Bantustan “homelands” or to work in manual labour jobs under white control.

This legislation was condemned and rejected as inferior from the time of its introduction.

This cornerstone of apartheid ideology-in-practice wreaked havoc on the education of black people in South Africa, and deprived and disadvantaged millions for decades.

Its devastating personal, political and economic effects continue to be felt and wrestled with today.

The apartheid National Party had power to employ and train teachers as they pleased.

Schools reserved for whites – where education was free – compared to those in Europe, while those for blacks were abysmal and were not free.

By the 1970s, per capita governmental spending on black education was 10 percent spending on whites.

The Act was repealed in 1979 by the Education and Training Act, which however continued racially-segregated education.

Segregation was constitutionally done away with in 1984 and a new South African Schools Act came into force in 1996.  –  

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