As a result of the racial segregation policy, South Africa’s education system in the early 1990s was characterized by very deep gaps. The white minority in the country received a disproportionate share of the education budget and black Africans were severely discriminated against. Almost all of the white children attended primary school, while the corresponding figure for Africans was about 70%. For secondary schools, the proportions were about 90 and 20%, respectively. The quality of teaching also varied greatly. As a result, about a third of black Africans over the age of 15 were illiterate. In the countryside, especially in the former so-called homelands, illiteracy was estimated at 50-80%. The average reading and writing skills are now (2011) around 90%.
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Until 1995, South Africa’s education system was further divided into 19 authorities with unequal allocation of resources. The division followed the racial division, and for the African population the indigenous languages.
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For the ANC-led unity government that took office in 1994, education became a high-priority area in the quest to democratize society and bridge the socio-economic gaps through apartheid. One of the first measures was to establish a unified national ministry, which included is responsible for new curricula and new course material. Compulsory free 10-year schooling for all South African children, regardless of race, religion and gender, began to be introduced from 1995. Other main points were expanded preschool activities, investment in literacy, adult education and disadvantaged groups in the countryside, and an ambitious school building program. However, it may take decades before the transformation that has been initiated can create a level playing field for all South Africans.
The higher education, which is one of the best in the African continent, is located at about 20 universities and so-called technology and teacher colleges; the minimum requirement for admission is a graduation from secondary school. The proportion of black university and college students is now just over half.
Foreign workers in their own country
1950s became a decade when the apartheid system was regulated and controlled in detail. The school and education system was subject to sharp racial divides, with a “bantu teaching” which was to foster submissiveness. Passport laws were further tightened so that no Africans were allowed to stay in cities without permanent work or residence permits. They were to carry a passport at all times that told them all about their place of residence, work, ethnic affiliation, etc. In the 1970s, 6-700,000 were convicted annually for a violation of the passport law. The laws also set clear boundaries for professional organization – i.e. with a ban on strikes, while at the same time introducing laws that reserved special jobs for whites and which prohibited Africans from holding a higher position than a white in the same workplace.
In 1963, an African could not vote, could use passports, could not leave certain zones, could be arbitrarily detained, could not belong to a union or support a strike, could not be admitted to schools or universities where whites also went, could be transferred to others areas of the country against its will, did not have access to public service, could not conduct public demonstrations against racial segregation policy, etc. The great survivability of the racist regime was largely due to the international capital’s interest in investing in the country – attracted by the large amount of cheap black labor. Foreign investment – especially North American – quadrupled in the period 1958-67. African Ancestors its protectionist policy created the necessary infrastructure for the establishment of a major industry with the aim of developing such an extensive industry that it could supply the entire southern part of the continent.
Throughout the 1960s, extensive migration of rural workers took place towards the cities. Poverty in their Bantustans, the miserable agricultural lands and the absence of educational opportunities and social services were the main causes of this development. The influx affected other groups in the cities, such as the mulattoes who feared that their opportunities for integration into the white economy would be diminished.
All Africans were registered in «home countries» or bantustans. In this way, they could be counted as foreign workers who stayed temporarily as laborers in white areas. In the 1970s several such bantustans were given a form of “independence” as a step on the road to a South Africa with exclusively white inhabitants. Thus, black migrant workers would have “rights” in a formally independent mother country. Bantustan policy was also a prerequisite for the systematic forced transfer of Africans to the reserves. In the 1960s alone, about three million were torn from their homes. This also affected the Asian and colored (colored) population. Transkei and Bophutatswana were two such bantustans who became “independent” in 1976 and 1978, but were not recognized by any country other than South Africa.