Apartheid Education and Public School Teachers


My experience with the teachers in Kayamandi highlights the inefficiency of the teacher training system within the public school system. My observations of the teachers acting more like baby sitters than teachers and practicing rote teaching caused me to investigate the qualifications needed to teach in public schools and to uncover the history of teachers in the Bantu schools who would have been the role models for teachers currently employed. In 1954, it was announced by Dr. Verwoerd that “it is Departmental policy to do away entirely with European teachers in primary schools” and to replace them with women who “are generally better than men at handling small children,” in an effort to save money in both teacher training and in salaries.[1] At the time there were approximately 2,000 black teachers employed in Bantu schools, where over 1,000 more were needed. As a way to employ more teachers, girls with at least a Standard VI qualification (age 15) were recruited as teachers of primary schools, after only one more year of general schooling and two years in a basic teacher-training program that would provide them with a Primary Lower Teachers’ Certificate.[2] This quick effort to replace white teachers in township and rural schools with low-qualified young black women resulted in a drop in matriculation in these schools from 20.5% to 11.3%.[3]

In 1951, 45% of teachers in secondary schools were university graduates, but by 1969, this percentage had dropped to 22%.[4] In 1961, 57.2% of teachers employed in Bantu schools had achieved only Standard VI qualifications and had a Lower Primary Certificate. The Lower Primary Certificate was the easiest certificate to attain and the most common as well. Other common teaching certificates included the Higher Primary Certificate (51% enrollment of future teachers in this program), a two year course preparing teachers for teaching in Higher Primary school, and the South African Teachers’ Diploma, or Bantu Education Diploma (3% enrollment of future teachers), which was a two year program including training and an additional five courses in arts or four courses in science.[5]

The Lower Primary Teaching Certificate (LPTC) was highly detrimental to the Bantu school system. The education commission of the province of Transkei believed that “the general quality of the teaching is not high enough and that education in the Transkei cannot absorb immature and inadequately qualified teachers,” and it was their strong opinion that the LPTC course be terminated.[6] The commission saw the faults and inadequacies of the training course in preparing teachers both academically and professionally for their future positions, and fears mounted that “these immature young women [would] generally be unable to cope successfully with the responsible and challenging tasks awaiting them.”[7] Despite these concerns, the LPTC was too far underway and was quickly producing much-needed teachers so abolishing it was nearly impossible.

Not only were the teachers in public Bantu schools severely ill-prepared for the task of teaching, but also their teaching effectiveness suffered greatly from oversized classes. Due to enrollment increases in combination with understaffed schools, the ratio rose from 41 students per teacher in 1953 to 60 students in 1969.[8] Young and inexperienced teachers in the primary schools were responsible for grasping the attention of a large group of young children, keeping that attention, and teaching. With a large group of children, this task may be close to impossible, and this was the reason for both rote learning and passive teachers like the ones whom I encountered.

When teachers are ill-prepared for the task of teaching, instructing even a small class of students will not produce knowledgeable students and positive outcomes. It is true that the attention of the student would be easier to hold without the distraction of seventy other students in the class, and holding lessons rather than handing out busy work would be more feasible with a smaller class. Nevertheless, the teacher training programs that produced Bantu teachers were so ineffective that teachers could only practice rote education and were unable to improvise or trust their own judgments in the classroom. Teacher training institutions focused on a formal and scant education that stressed not the mastery of technique and the practice of teaching but the examination at the end of the course when certification was determined. Therefore, just as students in the Bantu schools learned through rote learning, so did their teachers when going through training school.

Rote learning would not be a large issue for teachers if they were to receive practice in the art of teaching, comparable to student teaching practiced in the United States. However, due to the time constraint for the production of teachers, such practice was not considerable. The two-year program also cut down on subject matter within the curriculum. In several provinces within the country subjects such as algebra, geometry, writing, translation, and nature studies were eliminated from the course of study. Instructors taught to prepare all examinees for the range of questions expected on the exam, with the intention that they pass. The result was new teachers fresh out of training school who relied on the use of textbooks and tedious book work to carry the lesson, for they themselves found the syllabi placed in front of them meaningless and were unsure of how to actually teach the material.  Without the knowledge of teaching techniques and the ability to put these techniques into practice in training situations, teachers were thrown into the classroom without the ability to judge the workings of the classroom and the students’ understanding of the topics and to make adjustments accordingly. Teachers did not know how to trust their judgments about changes to make in lessons, activities, and the presentation of the material. Thus, teachers stuck to a straight path and rote learning, moving forward with blinders covering their peripheral vision, unable to see students and situations falling outside of that standard practice.

At the end of their examination and training, teachers were inspected on their actual class teaching, their reading, recitation, and board work among other things. The teacher was typically passed without regard for mastery of skill or effectiveness. Overall, teachers produced by Bantu training institutions were not teaching via principles or methods, but through patterned lessons and the guidance of textbooks. If teachers are not skilled and gifted at teaching, at effectively imparting knowledge, and at making a student interested and eager to learn, then passive students are likely the result. “Many Native children, who at first come eagerly to school, are disheartened by the meaningless tasks to which they are set, and have no great difficulty in inducing their parents to allow them to withdraw.”[9] Busy work (such as the surplus of coloring I witnessed in grade R) given to a large class is a simple solution for teachers but is a detriment to the student in terms of educational skills, eagerness, and effort.

One of the biggest issues surrounding the inadequate teaching staff of Bantu schools was the lack of supervision in place to monitor and support the young and in-experienced teachers. Management of previous Bantu schools should have consisted of regular assessment of teachers in practice, where supervisors attend classes and observe the teacher’s conduct of lessons, relationship with the students, and overall understanding and performance of the students. Ideally, teachers should have had a supervisor who could guide them in the most productive direction with regards to their individual classes. They should have received constructive criticism and an explanation as to why their teaching methods may not have been working effectively within the classroom. Ideally teachers would have undergone frequent discussions with these experienced advisors and would have been given the opportunity to get advice on issues and assistance with achieving their goals. Despite the immense benefits this would have provided to the cast of weak and unsuccessful teachers, the Department of Native Affairs did not have the desire or the money to provide Bantu schools with such skilled advisors as were available in white schools. Thus, teachers were left to command their overcrowded classes as they wished, resulting in busy work that is easy to correct in mass numbers and a surplus of playtime.



  1. Horrell, 51.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Horrell, 85.
  4. Hunt Davis Jr., 46.
  5. Horrell, 91.
  6. Horrell, 94.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Hunt Davis Jr., 46.
  9. Loram, 109.


Apartheid Transition Copyright © 2011 by Andy. All Rights Reserved.


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