SA Journal of Education, Vol 29, No 3 (2009)

A transitiological study of some South African educational issues

Corene N de Wet, Charl Wolhuter


In this study enrolment numbers and levels, as well as language-in-education, were viewed from a linear, comparative perspective. In the era prior to 1994,
black and white learners not only attended separate schools but the segregated schools had different policies regarding medium of instruction. Resistance to the language policy regarding black education culminated in the 1976 uprisings.
This led to the scrapping of both Afrikaans and black home languages as language of instruction in black schools. After the uprisings, black schools followed a policy of decreasing bilingualism. After 1994, in the spirit of democracy,
official and educational status were granted to eleven languages. Deep-seated distrust and fear, that home-language education would lead to impoverishment,
social and political isolation, and disempowerment, caused the majority of South African learners to prefer English rather than their home language as language of instruction. From a linear comparison, it transpires that the language-in-edu-cation situation in the classroom has changed very little since 1994. Enrolment numbers and levels, particularly the disparities between white and black, were other points of criticism regarding the education system before 1994. Prior to
1994, compulsory education had only been fully implemented with regard to the white and, to a lesser extent, Indian and coloured sections of the population.
The vision that the ANC had in 1955, that “the doors of learning shall be open”, was only reflected in policy documents and laws. Both primary-school and
secondary-school enrolment numbers showed an increase after the ANC government came to power. The net enrolment numbers (1995–2004) for primary education showed a decrease from 95.0% to 87.4%,but the enrolment numbers
for secondary education showed an increase from 56.0% to 67.2%. Despite the latter positive statistics, it would appear that the objective of universal education has still not been realised in South Africa.

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