The Education Crisis in South Africa ll

(July-September 2002. This is a response to Minister Kader Asmal’s proposals on “Mergers” and transformation of institutions of higher education)


Education serves, first, society; second, the individual person; and, third, the civilization, of which both the person and society are members.


It serves society by producing the labour skills needed by society to survive, to reproduce itself, and to develop.


Education serves the individual by equipping the person with skills and knowledge that shall enable one to make a living within a particular society. However, the human being “cannot live by bread alone”. Each person has biological, spiritual, social, and cultural needs, including the need for art; the human being also has a need to be developed, not for socio-economic, cultural, or political reasons, but as an end in itself.


Education also helps to shape and to add a unique quality to the civilization to which both society and the individual belong. What is a civilization? When we speak of China, India, Russia, the West, or Africa, as a civilization, what do we have in mind? We have in mind the totality of the creations of masses of people who have been living, and intimately linked, together, over a period of many decades and centuries. The result of this living together over many decades and centuries is a common complex of culture which binds these masses of people together –a complex of culture consisting of language or languages; of religion, a world-view, and a pattern of historical experience; a certain technology and manner of using that technology; an identifiable pattern in architecture, art, music, poetry, literature, and dance; a certain body of knowledge –philosophy, science, medicine, and values; a certain pattern of behaviour; a certain cuisine, manner of dress, and general habits, etc. A civilization is generally so massive and of such power that it acts like a magnet, drawing outsiders to it, influencing others and being influenced by others; in addition, the massiveness and power of a civilization inevitably tend to push its influence beyond its territorial borders, either peacefully or forcefully. A civilization is all these things and more, as long as they all form a set, like a set of pots.

Each civilization is a value, and adds value, to the worth of the totality of Humankind. Thus we speak of the unique value of Judaic-Christian civilization, of Islamic civilization, of Indian civilization, of Greek civilization –and we should speak of the unique value of African civilization, in and of itself, and for Humankind as a whole.

These three functions of education, interacting together –the function of education for society, for the individual, and for civilization- should be the sources and major reference points of any policy on education. In the composition of this document, we have in mind a specific society, South African society; the individuals inhabiting the South African nation; and a specific civilization, African civilization.


A correct and effective new policy on higher education for South African society must deal convincingly with these four issues:

  • The development of the economy and society towards eliminating underdevelopment and poverty in the lives of all people; this policy must also be in line with the policy and aspiration of the African Renaissance and the elimination of underdevelopment and poverty in the continent of Africa as a whole.
  • The realization of equity and high quality in the institutions of higher education of the entire country.
  • The effective and constructive transformation of all institutions of higher learning in the country, aimed at removing the negative traits and features which were imparted to them by white supremacy or apartheid, and developing all universities and technikons into world-class quality institutions.
  • Infusing stability and financial sustainability into the life of all institutions.


The function of education with specific reference to South African society arises from the peculiarity of contemporary South African society and its needs. The key challenge confronting the entire leadership of South African society was correctly identified by President Mbeki at the Conclusion of the Debate on his State of the Nation Address this year (2002): “…the central question we will have to answer at the end of the day is whether what we are doing as the legislature, the executive and judiciary, as well as the fourth estate and civil society, is helping to lift from the shoulders of our people, the intolerable burden of poverty and underdevelopment”.

Education plays a very important role in answering the question posed by President Mbeki. Education, by itself, is incapable of eliminating the underdevelopment of any nation. “Knowledge by itself shall not save us”, so said the poet John Donne, in one of his sermons, “but we shall not be saved without knowledge”. It has been calculated that approximately one third of the thrust which brings about development in developing countries comes from education. Indeed, in the most developed economies, it is now taken for granted that “intellectual capital” is the most important aspect of the investment for moving the industrial economy forward.   Education, therefore, must be linked very carefully and correctly to the strategy for economic development, and for development in general. We must check whether education in our country is linked correctly and carefully to a realistic and effective strategy for economic development and elimination of underdevelopment in the lives of the masses of society members.

First, we must correctly identify the nature and scope of the problem of underdevelopment in the country. We must show how education is related to the emergence and sustenance of the problem of underdevelopment and poverty, and also show how education can play a crucial role in eliminating the problem of the same poverty and underdevelopment.

In other words, we cannot talk correctly, and clearly about the restructuring of higher education in our country, without discussing specifically the interaction between education in the country, on one hand, and the economy of the country, on the other hand; without discussing specifically the interaction between education in our country, and the recognition, revival and development of African civilization inside the country and in the Continent as a whole; and without discussing the complex role of education in the development of the human individual.



The South African economy actually consists of three parts: a) industry/manufacture; b) White commercial farms; and c) African subsistence agriculture. (Nattrass, Jill, “The Dynamics of Black Rural Poverty in South Africa”, in Up Against The Fences: Poverty, Passes and Privilege in South Africa, edited by Hermann Giliomee and Lawrence Schlemmer, Johannesburg, David Philip, 1985, pp. 16-27) I have sketched below two diagrams of these three sectors of the economy. The first diagram is a hypothetical model of a healthy inter-relation of these three sectors. The second diagram seeks to portray the existing reality of the relations between these three sectors; this is an abnormal relationship in our economy and society which must be transformed.

DIAGRAM A attempts to show a model of a healthy, dynamic economy, in which all sectors of the economy have vibrant, productive, economic relationships; a relationship in which no sector is a major burden on the other sectors; where each sector contributes, in this economic relationship, wealth, commodities, skills, knowledge as capital, and constitutes a vibrant market for the goods and services of the other sectors. Keep in mind that African rural communities hold approximately 65 percent of the African population, the overwhelming majority of the country. As a developed, active market for commodities, as a source and contributor of skills and knowledge, this would be a major contributing factor to the development, growth, and dynamism of the economy as a whole. This is a model of a growing, dynamic, healthy economy. I must stress that in time the racial element and differentiation in the sectors would melt away.


60-70 % of





The essence of the underdevelopment of our economy consists of the fact that the largest bulk of the population of the country, about 65 per cent of the African population, are involved in subsistence, underdeveloped agriculture in African rural communities. The improper, functioning of the sector of our economy consisting of the rural African community is now the Achilles Heel of the South African Economy. THIS SECTOR HAS A HUGE DEBIT RELATION TO THE REST OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMY. It does not contribute economic power and skills and wealth to the rest of the national economy. IT CONTRIBUTES PROBLEMS. Being the largest population sector of our country, and being in intercourse with other sectors of the national economy, the poor, underdeveloped African rural community sends the virus of underdevelopment and poverty to the entire South African economy and society; this virus infects and corrodes all aspects and dimensions of South African society, including  the sphere of education.

The World Bank has stated that what the South African economy suffers  most from is the smallness of the domestic market. Economists advising our government leaders fail to stress that the cause of the smallness of the domestic market of the country is the fact that this 65 per cent of the African population, scraping a living in rural communities, is effectively excluded from the commodity or market economy of the country. The buying power of this vast section of the national population is extremely low, therefore it fails to make the country a powerful magnet for foreign investment. Investments only come to such societies when there are opportunities. for oil production, or mining of gold, diamonds, or other lucrative minerals. The level of consumer demand for products of manufacture and other industries is very low in such a society. An axiom of US economics is that the consumer demand and buying power of the majority of society members are the driving engine of the US economy. This light of wisdom has not yet shone of the minds of the economists advising our government leaders. The challenge facing our leaders is formulating and implementing a development policy which shall create a big national market in which the 65 per cent of African people currently excluded by underdevelopment shall be incorporated in this national market. The challenge is implementing development policies which shall increase the buying power and consumer demand of the majority of African people –and these  Africans are largely in rural communities.

The crisis of poverty in rural areas is forcing millions of Africans to move to towns and cities. These cities and towns do not have the appropriate infrastructure of housing, schools, hospitals, and employment, to absorb these millions of people.  The so-called informal housing, crime, and diseases emerge, and all sorts of social pathologies. There emerges the syndrome of poverty, unemployment, and crime in the inner cities. Many White business people take their businesses outside the city proper, to suburbs The tax-base of municipal councils and city governments suffers. A fiscal crisis of government emerges, which results in very much diminished funding for social services and maintenance of roads, schools, health care, police services, etc.

The point, then, is that one of the vital organs of the South African economy, the African rural community, is very sick. It is similar to a situation in which a liver, or kidneys, or heart, or brain, of the human body, is very sick, and is malfunctioning: the consequence is that the entire body falls into bad health, and its normal life is threatened.

The African rural community, as a sector of our society, containing approximately 65 percent of the total population of the country, is malfunctioning, is very sick, from the economic standpoint. This sick organ then poisons the entire body of the economy and society of the country. The most urgent task, then, is to find a cure for the illness of this organ.





Two types of institutions of higher education emerged in South Africa in the 20th century. The white universities and technikons of this country (today called the Historically White Universities/Technikons) were established to provide skills and knowledge for the operation of the spheres of the total economy which were white-owned and controlled, and are still white owned and white-controlled.  These institutions of higher education were established to meet the operational and development needs of Industry/Manufacture and Commerce, in cities and towns, and White Commercial Agriculture.

Under White Supremacy and apartheid, the law prescribed that the pool from which scientific, technical, and leadership skills were to be drawn, to serve the economy and society, was to be the tiny white population. Universities and Technikons were established in the country to service this small constituency of society, the white community, and white-owned and controlled industry/manufacture and commercial agriculture. These institutions of education were of appropriate small size, in line with the smallness of the pool from which students were drawn. These were `white’ universities and technikons.

These exclusively white institutions of higher education were serving the operational and development needs of what the University of the Witwatersrand economist, Professor Guy Mhone, has called the “enclave economies” of Africa, which exist as islands in a large sea of African subsistence agriculture; these “enclave economies” are directly linked to the industrial, capitalist economies of the West.

This African subsistence agriculture of the overwhelming majority of society has been seriously damaged by the recklessly exploitative relationship existing between the world capitalist economy, of which white controlled industry and agriculture are a part, and the masses of African people. This relationship has not brought about any development to the African economic community.

As industrialization matured within the white community enclave of South African society, the need for technical and leadership skills began to vastly exceed the quantity which could be produced within the tiny pool of the white community. In addition, the democratic revolution which was growing and maturing within the womb of South African society, demanded the democratization of the training and recruitment of talent in society. The oppressed population began to develop a thirst and hunger for development as an end in itself. It was under these pressures that the white leadership of society established universities and other institutions of higher education for Africans, Indians, and Coloureds. However, these universities, particularly those serving the African community, were targets of special malice. Being grossly and neurotically fearful of Africans (the overwhelming majority of society), from whom the country was originally conquered, White rulers made sure that funding for these universities, facilities, curriculum and methodology of instruction, were severely limited, distorted, and tightly controlled by the White supremacist State. These malicious measures were meant to prevent these universities from becoming genuine universities according to world standards. While the White universities and technikons were guided by the `world standard’ in the development of tertiary education, the universities and technikons serving Africans, Indians, and Coloureds, particularly those serving the African and Coloured communities, were strictly guided by the repressive needs of the white supremacy.  The supreme irony is that these malicious white supremacist policies in the sphere of education became the biggest barrier to the further development of South Africa as a modern economy and as a modern society.

Here is an important point: since the prevailing economics of the country was a reflection of the economic experiences of the white community, concentrated in, and controlling, the “enclave economies”, the policy on higher education was also focused on the operational and development needs of the “enclave economies”, i. e., white-controlled industry/manufacture and commercial agriculture directly linked to the industrial, capitalist economies of the West. As African subsistence agriculture of the overwhelming majority of society was a mere footnote, or afterthought, of the prevailing economics studied at universities, and informing advisers to government, so the economic experience and education needs of the masses of African people were a mere afterthought or footnote of education policy.


I stress the point that the so-called Historically White Universities and Technikons were established initially to meet the economic and leadership needs of the White community –specifically the needs of industry and commerce, in the cities and towns, and of commercial agriculture in White rural communities. The advance of industrialization and modernization in the country then revealed these universities, serving a small population, to be insufficient. That fact, plus the political demands of the oppressed masses for education and freedom, pushed the White supremacist leadership of the country to establish universities and technikons for Africans, Indians, and Coloureds. What is important is that these universities and technikons, for Africans, Indians, and Coloureds (the so-called Historically Black Universities and Technikons) were still to add to the  labour and leadership skills for industry, commerce,  and commercial agriculture, produced by so-called Historically White Universities and Technikons. As education, by itself, has no capacity to eliminate underdevelopment, so the Historically Black Universities and Technikons have totally failed to raise the masses of Africans and Coloureds to the same level of labour and leadership skills as that reached by students from the White community. As white supremacist capitalist development created a large circle of underdevelopment for the overwhelming majority of society (Africans and Coloureds), so the educational system of the country, at lower levels as well as at tertiary levels, totally failed to meet the educational needs of Africans and Coloureds, as well as in producing the labour and leadership skills within this population required by the modern industrial economy and society.


The restructuring of the system of higher education in our country must also relate to the three functions of education we discussed at the beginning –the function of education for a) society,  b) for the individual, and c) for civilization.  In addition, the restructuring of higher education in contemporary South Africa must relate specifically to the three sectors of the South African economy mentioned earlier: 1) industry/commerce, 2) commercial agriculture, and 3) African subsistence agriculture. In other words, the restructuring of our system of education must relate to the development needs of industry/commerce, and of commercial agriculture; even more important and fateful for the nation, as well as for the African continent as a whole, the restructuring of our system of education must relate to the urgent need to eliminate the large circle of underdevelopment within which the overwhelming majority of society, Africans and Coloureds, live their lives.


We reiterate the point that both the White universities and technikons, and the universities and technikons established for Africans, Indians, and Coloureds, were meant to meet the operational needs of a modern industrial economy and society. We must stress that even when the new universities and technikons for Africans were linked to the establishment of Homelands, and, ultimately to `independent’ Black `nations’, their specific purpose was perceived by the architects of apartheid to serve the needs of industrializing and modernizing Homelands. The important point to stress is that the repressive framework and mindset of white supremacy nullified all possibilities of industrialization and modernization in Homelands.


In addition, the repressive framework and mindset of white supremacy accentuated the repressive function of universities and technikons for Africans and Coloureds, rather than their capacity to meet the genuine labour and leadership skills of industrialization and modernization of a modern society.


The score card, then, is that White universities and technikons were designed and empowered with the capacity to meet some of the labour and leadership skills of industrialization and modernization, while their distant cousins, universities and technikons for Africans and Coloureds, were largely denied the capacity to meet the genuine labour and leadership skills of industrialization and modernization. The impress of material, intellectual, and spiritual repression in their very design and operation was a legacy too powerful, deep, and pervasive for them to produce genuinely educated minds and spirits.

(For an analysis of a similar problem in the USA, see the classic book by Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro,  1933, republished by Africa World Press,  Trenton, 1990)


Genuine education presupposes freedom. As South African society was an intensely, cruelly, and pervasively repressive society, akin almost to a large prison or environment of slavery, even the knowledge developed and conveyed to students in White universities and technikons was warped and poisoned. In the education of the entire population of the country, the environment, the educator, and the student bore a strong, limiting imprint of oppression. The fact remains, though, that the technical, operational needs of an industrial economy were met better in the education received in White universities and technikons, than in universities and technikons established for Africans, Coloureds and Indians. [However, the overhead costs, inefficiencies, and ravages upon the economy and society effected by Whites educated in such a context must have been considerable, even though this is a category of problems hardly yet attended to (what, for example, accounts for the very limited development of psychology, sociology, and, especially, psychiatry, in South African universities under white supremacy? What warped South African industrialization in such a way that the machine-tool industry was hardly developed? Under white supremacy the capacity of the masses of workers in the country to design and make machines was not developed; what accounts for domestic industry remaining largely, abnormally, dependent upon imported machine parts, therefore holding the country’s `current account’ hostage to what a University of Pretoria economist called a “debt trap”? What accounts for the notoriously low productivity rates of White labour during the epoch of white supremacy? This is part of what I call the overhead costs, inefficiencies, and ravages upon the economy and society effected by Whites educated in institutions born of an environment of the severe repression of white supremacy in South Africa. To that you have to add the harm to the economy and society effected by the cutting off of development opportunities to the overwhelming majority of the society, African people (Historically Black Universities belong to this section of analysis of South African history and society). All this is the debit account in what would be a comprehensive bookkeeping of white supremacy in South Africa. See the following studies: W. B. Vosloo, editor, Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth, Pretoria, HSRC, 1994; Stephen Gelb, editor, South Africa’s Economic Crisis, Cape Town, David Philip, 1991].


The fact, then, is that the repressive function and mindset of white supremacy rendered the successful education of Africans and Coloureds extremely difficult to achieve, from pre-school, to primary, right up to tertiary levels.

From the above, it is clear that the entire educational system of the country needs to be reconceptualized and restructured.

We are, however, dealing with the restructuring of institutions of higher education. We must go step by step, or approach the gigantic problem, which involves all institutions, phase by phase.


LABOUR AND LEADERSHIP NEEDS OF THE THREE SECTORS OF THE                                                                                


Let us recall the three sectors of the South African economy, discussed earlier. The three sectors are: 1) industry/commerce, 2) commercial agriculture, and 3) African subsistence agriculture. The question to ask, then, is: what is the score card of the existing universities and technikons with respect to the need for labour and leadership skills in these three sectors of the South African economy?


7.  THE ACTUAL SCORE CARD (top score: 100)  [My assessment –HWV]

                                                                   HWUs                           HBUs

Industry/commerce                                      50                                  30


Commercial agriculture                                60                                  15      


African subsistence agriculture                      0                                   0




From the point of view of dealing with the African rural community, the site of African subsistence agriculture, the current nature of which is the fundamental problem and location of underdevelopment in the South African economy, and in South African society, both the Historically White Universities/Technikons, and the Historically Black Universities/Technikons are of no functional use whatsoever: both score zero, indeed, it should be negative zero. I repeat a statement I made earlier: education, by itself, does not have the capacity to eliminate the underdevelopment of any country. John Donne’s utterance is most apt: “Knowledge by itself shall not save us, but we shall not be saved without knowledge”. This is an issue of the development strategy of the country, within which education policy fits, an issue to which I shall return later, when I shall also specify the role which institutions of higher education can play in helping to eliminate the underdevelopment of the African and Coloured population of the country.



From the point of view of meeting the operational, technical needs of industry/commerce, and commercial agriculture, there is a major difference in the score received by Historically White Universities and Technikons, on one hand, from the score received by Historically Black Universities and Technikons, on the other hand. The Historically White Universities and Technikons receive a low pass of 50, indicating that a lot of improvements are still needed. An indicator of an unresolved problem in HWUs is their significant failure to equalize the pass or success rates between African students, on one hand, and White and Indian students, on the other hand. Here are the words on the problem, from the Memorandum of Clarification on Transformation and Mergers in Higher Education, issued by the Minister of Education (August 2002):

“Marked shifts have taken place in the student enrolments at the historically white institutions, with the percentage of black students in 2000 being 71% at Port Elizabeth Technikon, 62% at the University of Port Elizabeth and 49% at Rhodes. However, the average undergraduate success rates of African students is lower than that of their white counterparts, by a differential of more than 15 percentage points.” (p. 31)

This is a general problem in all Historically White Universities and Technikons.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that from the point of view of meeting the operational and technical needs of industry/commerce, and commercial agriculture, the Historically White Universities and Technikons score considerably higher than Historically Black Universities and Technikons: In meeting the operational and technical needs of industry and commerce, HWUs get a low pass of 50, while HBUs get a failing mark of 30. In meeting the operational and technical needs of commercial agriculture, HWUs get a mark of 60, while HBUs get a mark of 15.





To assure continuity of current service to industry and commerce, and to commercial agriculture, a service which needs to be considerably, even radically, improved, we propose, as current Phase One, the retention of Historically White Universities as they are; and, as Phase Two, on the morrow, formulating and putting in place policy measures which shall contribute towards their improvement, as institutions of learning, and forging relationships with neighbouring universities and technikons, whether HBUs and technikons, or other HWUs and technikons, which shall increase efficiency, quality, equity, and cost effectiveness of the entire educational process in society. These relationships with other institutions do not necessarily mean mergers.


Mergers between Historically White Institutions and Historically Black Institutions, which are being proposed by the Minister (e. g., the merger of Potchefstroom University and the University of the North West; the merger of  Port Elizabeth Technikon, the University of Port Elizabeth, and the Port Elizabeth campus of Vista University; the merger of Rand Afrikaans University and Technikon Witwatersrand, incorporating the East Rand and Soweto campuses of Vista University; the merger of Technikon Northern Gauteng, Technikon Pretoria and Technikon North West; the merger of the University of Pretoria and the Mamelodi campus of Vista University; and the merger of Vaal Triangle Technikon and the Sebokeng campus of Vista University) will almost certainly throw paper over the serious, deep, historical problems of the country, as they manifest themselves in the field of education, instead of dealing directly with these problems, and resolving them, first, as a prelude to possible, viable, voluntary mergers and association of equals in the future. The State enforced mergers of such radically different institutions, servicing such historically and culturally different constituencies, shall most likely end up being “bureaucratic utopia”, to use a phrase from the 1920s.

Whether we consider the University of Natal, or the University of the Witwatersrand, or the University of Cape Town, or Rhodes University, or the University of Port Elizabeth, or any of the Historically White Technikons, there is a serious problem of inequality in success rates, between African students, on one hand, and White and Indian students, on the other hand. The Minister of Education acknowledges that problem, in the following comments from his Memorandum of Clarification on Transformation and Mergers in Higher Education:

University of Natal and University of Durban Westville: Analysis of student success and graduation rates suggest that both institutions are under-performing, pointing to considerable wastage of resources. In particular, the success rates for African students continue to be lower than those of  white and Indian students. (p. 18)

University of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth Technikon, Rhodes University: Of particular concern, also, is the issue of equity and in particular the low levels of success rates and graduate outputs of African students…Marked shifts have taken place in the student enrolments at the historically white institutions, with the percentage of black students in 2000 being 71%  at Port Elizabeth Technikon, 62% at the University of Port Elizabeth and 49% at Rhodes. However, the average undergraduate success rates of African students is lower

than that of their white counterparts, by a differential of more than 15 percentage points.This problem is further exacerbated by the lower than average undergraduate success rates of students in the historically black institutions. The overall implication is that the chances of African students passing courses in institutions in the Province are considerably lower than those of students in other provinces. (p. 31)

Historically White Universities/Technikons in Gauteng: The success rates of African students in contact undergraduate programmes tend also to be considerably lower than those of  white students, particularly in historically white institutions with a success rate differential on average 13 percentage points. The Province as a whole is also under-performing with all 8 institutions producing far fewer graduates than they should, given their enrolment levels. Student failure and dropout rates are also unacceptably high in most of the eight institutions. (p. 37)

Merger of Technikon Northern Gauteng, Technikon North West and Technikon Pretoria: All three Technikons face problems with output equity. In the case of Technikon Pretoria this was particularly marked because of the large gap between the success rates of African and white undergraduate students. White students have far greater opportunities for successfully completing their qualifications than do African students. In the case of the other two technikons, graduation rates are exceptionally low indicating poor overall                      performance compared to other institutions. For example, in Technikon North West the  average undergraduate success rates is less than 60%, and about 70% of any cohort of entering undergraduates drop out without obtaining a diploma. In fact, students entering this institution have lower chances of passing their courses and eventually graduating than students of any other university or technikon. (p. 40)

University of Cape Town, University of Stellenbosch, Cape Technikon: Student equity continues nevertheless to be a problem. African and coloured students continue to be under-represented in the three historically white institutions. Furthermore the African students who do gain admission to the Province’s institutions tend not to be enrolled in science, engineering and technology and business and management programmes which guarantee high levels of private returns. A further equity problem is that success rates of African and of coloured students in the contact undergraduate programmes offered by the three historically white institutions are considerably lower than those of white students. Since higher proportions of African and coloured students

compared to white students tend to drop out of these institutions, it is clear that

opportunities for success at a Western Cape higher education institution are not equal. (p. 42)

The gigantic problem of the underdevelopment of the African and Coloured communities, reflected in their low success rates in historically white universities/technikons, compared to white students, the the gigantic problem of the deep imprint of repression and mindset of white supremacy on the environment and spirit of learning, and on the educator and student, must be confronted and dealt with first, before we can even put on our agenda the issue of mergers.


The comparatively wealthy, liberal, historically white universities, such as the University of Cape Town, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Natal, and Rhodes University, with the best intentions and will in the world, started before 1994 to initiate efforts to integrate African students within their campuses and classrooms, and to overcome inequities of educational backgrounds between African students and White students, and they have not achieved much success up to our time!  WHAT MAKES THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION TO IMAGINE, TO SUPPOSE, THAT THE STATE POLICY OF MERGERS SHALL CONTRIBUTE CONSIDERABLY TO MELTING AWAY THE HISTORICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, AND EDUCATIONAL FACTORS WHICH MADE AFRICAN STUDENTS WHAT THEY ARE, AND WHITE STUDENTS WHAT THEY ARE, AND UNIVERSITY FACULTY MEMBERS WHAT THEY ARE, AND SOUTH AFRICAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION WHAT THEY ARE?


How is the merger of Technikon Pretoria and Technikon North West going to resolve the problems and difficulties of Technikon North West, which the Minister himself identifies? How is the merger going to resolve the problem of equity between White and African students within Pretoria Technikon, which the Minister has himself identified?


Alan Paton and other Liberals very early judged the National Party proposed solution of the racial problem in South Africa, in the form of Apartheid, as a “pipe dream”. I cannot help seeing and judging the Minister’s proposed solution of the problem of higher education in this country, largely through mergers of some “historically white” and “historically black” institutions, as another “pipe dream”. The apartheid “pipe dream” forced members of this society to waste 50 years before dealing directly with the real problem of the country; and the detour of apartheid created vastly more and new complicated problems, which are even more difficult and menacing than the original problem was at the beginning. Let us avoid another costly waste of time, another detour which shall not take us anywhere else except to more complex problems which shall be more difficult to solve for having been neglected for too long. There is, indeed, throwing paper on gigantic, serious problems which should be dealt with directly.


The Minister should actually present to us specific, convincing plans and programmes for resolving the gigantic problem of inequity between African students and White students, not what amounts to wishful thinking. Can the deep, serious, historical, religious, and white supremacist circumstances which created the characters and mindsets of Potschefstroom University and the University of the North West, for example, be wished away, or removed, without a serious, step by step, plan, as appears in the Minister’s thinking?:

The proposed merger will be important to de-racialise higher education in the North West. As in the case of the other mergers between historically black and white institutions, the new university has the real potential to build a new identity that could draw on the best traditions of each of the two merging partners. A major challenge for the new university would be to integrate students from diverse backgrounds and communities through the development of an inclusive institutional culture able to accommodate race, gender and class diversity. This will not be an easy task, especially given the entrenched histories of the two institutions and the distances between the campuses. But, the unique opportunity to break with the past should not be missed. (p. 27)

The successful bringing together of two institutions that have very different origins, cultures and identities could enhance transformation in the South African higher education system. The new institution could be one with a new identity, which emphasises common values and shared commitments, but which, at the same time, enriches what each institution believes are, at present, its unique values and commitments. (p.29)     

Is this a serious programme of action, containing practical, concrete, problem-solving steps, for dealing with a serious historical problem? What will make this plan to work, besides the wish, and the dream, noble as they may be?

We need first to deal with concrete historical, learning, psychological problems, as they have created the educational crisis in higher education, and as they have created the problem of the failure of our education system to add value to our development aspirations as a nation and as an African civilization. A formula is grossly out of place here, and so are wishes.


10.   UNDERDEVELOPMENT OF THE AFRICAN RURAL COMMUNITY AS          THE ROOT CONTEXT HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF THE UNDERDEVELOPMENT OF HISTORICALLY                                                                                                                                                                                      BLACKNIVERSITIES/TECHNIKONS


Here, it is extremely important to stress the fact that the underdevelopment of Historically Black Universities and Technikons has been a reflection of the politics and economy (political economy) of South Africa as shaped by white supremacy; it has been a direct reflection of the underdevelopment of the masses of African people and Coloured people; in so far as it involves the universities and technikons established for Africans, I must stress that this underdevelopment of institutions of education for the masses of African people has rested upon, and continues to rest upon, the underdevelopment and marginalization of the African Rural Community in relation to the industrial commercial economy of South Africa and the world industrial economy. Analytically, this takes us back to the issue of the three sectors of the South African economy. In conventional South African economics, we have been informed that the contribution of the sector of African subsistence agriculture to South Africa’s GDP is actually a minus percentage figure (Nattrass). However, if, as I propose, we change GDP to mean Gross Domestic Poor, then the sector of African Subsistence Agriculture contributes between 80 to 90 per cent to South Africa’s total poor, and to the illness of the South African economy and underdevelopment of the country. It was for this reason that the so-called Homelands governments, founded upon these communities, were unable to fund themselves: they received almost the entire financial resources for their budgets from the White government in Pretoria. The abnormal relationship between industry/commerce, and commercial agriculture, on one hand, and the African Rural Community, resting upon African subsistence agriculture, on the other hand, is the source of the major weakness and illness of the South African economy, as I argued earlier; furthermore, this very same abnormal relationship between industry/commerce, and commercial agriculture, on one hand, and the African Rural Community and African subsistence agriculture, on the other hand, is the source of the education crisis in the country as a whole. The underdevelopment lodged at the very heart of the political economy of the entire country gives rise to the underdevelopment and crisis lodged at the very heart of the education system of the entire country.

The proportion of the population of the country trapped in this underdevelopment is enormous: it is actually the majority of the African population in the country, which is the overwhelming majority of the population of our society. Let us consider the actual statistics.

The revised statistics on the population of the country, issued by Statistics South Africa in 1997, informed us that, of the total national population, 55.4 percent constitute the urban population, and 44.6 percent constitute the non-urban population.

These statistics are somewhat misleading; they conceal the truth about the overwhelming majority of the population,  the African population. If you add figures for the African population with figures relating to Whites, Coloureds and Indians, the measurement for the African population goes down, whatever you happen to be measuring, e. g., average income, urban-rural population distribution, etc. For example, Statistics South Africa tells us that, for KwaZulu/Natal, 56.5 percent of the population were in rural areas in 1997, while 43.4 were in urban areas. This is when figures for Whites, Indians, Coloureds, and Africans are combined, and averaged. However, when Africans, the overwhelming majority of the population of KwaZulu/Natal, are considered separately, the figure for rural inhabitants is approximately 74 percent!.

That is not quite enough, however, for planning purposes. Let us look at some Provinces. In KwaZulu/Natal, which is the largest by population, we are told that 56.5 percent were in non-urban areas in 1997, while 43.5 were in urban areas; in Eastern Cape, the third-largest Province, 62.7 percent were in non-urban areas, while 37.3 were in urban areas; In Mpumalanga Province, 62,7 percent lived in non-urban areas, while 37.3 lived in urban areas; in North West Province, 65.2 percent lived in non-urban areas, while 34.8 lived in urban areas; in Northern Province, 88.1 percent lived in non-urban areas, while 11.9 lived in urban areas.

The anomaly in our nation seem to be the Gauteng Province, the second-largest, in which 96.4 percent lived in urban areas, while 3.6 percent lived in non-urban areas. If you ask yourself what the urban areas of Gauteng were and still are, the answer is: mainly Johannesburg-Pretoria-East Rand areas.

Now ask yourself the very crucial question: from which rural areas do Johannesburg, Pretoria, and East Rand cities draw their population? The answer is: KwaZulu/Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, and Northern Province.

If you consider the largest urban centres of KwaZulu/Natal –Durban and Pietermaritzburg- and ask yourself the question: from which rural areas do Durban and Pietermaritzburg draw their population, the answer is: rural KwaZulu/Natal and Eastern Cape –and you can also add Swaziland and Mozambique.


Two facts flow from these statistics: a) the people trapped in this underdevelopment actually constitute the vast majority of South Africa’s population: b) the underdevelopment of the African rural community gets transmitted to urban South Africa, therefore infecting the entire body of the country with the virus of underdevelopment. This has a direct impact on education.

I repeat a point I made earlier: education policy, by itself, cannot and shall not eliminate the underdevelopment of a country; furthermore, changes in education policy, alone, cannot eliminate the underdevelopment and crisis in the system of education itself: changes in education policy must go hand-in-hand with changes in development strategy of the country as it relates, first of all, to the economy. This brings us, then, to the urgent need to eliminate the underdevelopment of the African Rural Community, founded upon African subsistence agriculture, and to integrate properly this vast sector of society and economy within the modern commodity economy of South Africa. Herein is the key leading to the solution of the underdevelopment and crisis in the system of education in the country as a whole.

Having stressed the unity of the underdevelopment of the African population, in the country as a whole, on the one hand, and the underdevelopment of Historically Black Universities/Technikons, on the other hand, we must still accept the fact that there are development policies which must be implemented in the internal life of Historically Black Universities/Technikons. These development policies are all the more crucial for the country, as the African population is now the largest pool from which labour, scientific, and leadership skills needed by the country are to be drawn.


The key point, then, is that we need to formulate development policies specifically for Historically Black Universities and Technikons. The formulation and implementation of these development policies applicable to HBUs and Technikons must be attended to prior to attending to the issue of Mergers. Mergers of institutions of universities and technikons, within the particular South African context, can only be a by-product of the development of HBUs and Technikons, a development policy which should first put them on par with HWUs and Technikons. Development policies for HBUs and Technikons cannot be a by-product of Mergers!


The plain fact is that the overwhelming majority of South African society, which is African, must be properly educated, as a pre-requisite for the further development of the economy and society. Therefore, we cannot run away from focusing on the African population, as well as on the institutions of learning currently servicing the masses of the African population. The masses of African people cannot be absorbed or incorporated within the institutions of learning which were originally designed to service the tiny pool of the white community; what is also important to realize is that the culture and power structure within the universities and technikons originally established to service the white community cannot be an effective vehicle and instrument for educating the masses of African people who have been formed by African culture and conditions of underdevelopment. Neither the culture nor the power structure prevailing in universities and technikons originally established for the white community can take over institutions of learning servicing the masses of African people and make a success of the educational endeavour necessary to eliminate underdevelopment in the country and move the economy and society of our nation forward.



We need to put in place policies and programmes for the specific upgrading and development of the skills of the leaders and leading cadres of Historically Black Universities/Technikons. We shall gain a lot by pondering over the steps which were taken by industrializing countries of Asia, such as Taiwan,

South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Brazil, Mexico, and by the leading sectors of the economy of India. A large proportion of the leading cadres of industries in these countries were educated or trained at the best Business Schools or Graduate Leadership Schools in the developed countries of the USA, England, Germany, Australia, Canada, and other fully industrialized countries. Japan also made very good use of these educational and training facilities of developed countries, especially of the USA, in its rise to the top of the development ladder.

A few years ago, a story appeared in a major British news-analytical magazine about a similar experience. A large South Korean corporation sent a host of its leading cadres for a specially designed upgrading, development course lasting 6 months at Cornell University. The benefit to the corporation was reported to be remarkable.

We can also come to an agreement with some leading Graduate School in the USA, Britain, Canada, or Australia, to design a special intensive, upgrading-development course for Vice-Chancellors, or Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Financial Managers, Deans, etc., lasting for some months, which can help to address the leadership problems of HBUs and Technikons. There are various possibilities in the methods by which such development programmes can be financed. In other words, such a project need not be financed by South Africa itself.



There is a need in our system of education for a major change in curriculum and methods of teaching. I have in mind particularly a new balance in the relationship between science, mathematics, languages, and humanities, from elementary school to tertiary education. This must be discussed thoroughly and widely, and planned carefully, on the basis of our needs and the experience of other countries.

Consider the experience of the former Soviet Union. In 1917, the masses of Russian people were roughly at the same educational level as where the masses of African people are in our time. By the 1980s, however, roughly one-fourth of the scientists and mathematicians of the entire world were in the Soviet Union (Ernest Mandel, Beyond Perestroika, London, Verso, 1989, p. x). The question for us is: How did the education system of the Soviet Union achieve this remarkable result? How did it manage to successfully teach mathematics and the hard sciences to children of peasants and of ordinary workers? I suspect the secret to this achievement is methodological, i. e., the methods that were used to impart scientific and mathematical knowledge to children from ordinary homes of peasants and workers. If so, it is very important for us to know that secret, for, judging by the failure of African schools to successfully produce science and mathematics students, the methods in use to impart scientific and mathematical knowledge to these students must be a dismal failure. Through discussions and exchange of views between our science and mathematics educators, and Russian educators in the same fields, we can perhaps discover this secret, and decide whether or not it is usable in our situation, or to adapt it to our needs. We should be planning for these discussions and exchange of views between our educators and educators from many other countries which have had greater success in the endeavours in which we are involved.



The truth is that the problem of education for African and Coloured people in South Africa begins with underdevelopment and poverty. We now know very well that constant hunger, poverty, and underdevelopment maul and deform the capacity to learn: they harm the preparedness of the mind and emotions for learning.

In addition, the virtual absence of pre-school education for African and Coloured children also severely harms the intellectual development of these children. Latest findings on the development of IQ in children are particularly alarming, when viewed against what is not happening in the education of Africans and Coloureds. The following report is worth careful study, in relation to our situation: “After birth the brain’s higher intellectual centers show explosive growth. Around age eight or nine, connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex are pruned back. The rule that governs this elimination is simple: use the connection or lose it. Children without a rich early-life exposure to reading or numbers may be at a disadvantage that can register later as diminished intellect.” (Time, October 31, 1994, p. 55)

The next point to mention, which has a vast, negative impact on the education of African children, is that most of these children, particularly in the poor Provinces, and in rural areas, study without books! Many African schools do not receive the necessary books and other learning material at the beginning of the academic year; in many schools, books are delivered some moths after the school year has begun; in some schools, again many, these required books never come at all.

We should also mention, of course, the virtual absence of facilities for the effective teaching of science and mathematics, including the terrible scarcity of qualified science and mathematics teachers.

It is no wonder, then, that the average African and Coloured student is at a great disadvantage in learning science and mathematics at university or technikon level. It is also no wonder that, as Minister Asmal has remarked about African students in Gauteng, “those in contact education programmes tend not to be in science, engineering and technology and business and management programmes which guarantee high levels of private returns.” (p. 37)

The recommendation, here, is that a course in Applied Sciences (applied physics, etc), and Applied Mathematics, should be developed for all incoming university students in HBUs. Approaching science and mathematics initially through the “applied” avenue tends to break down the abstract appearance of science and mathematics, as presented in textbooks, by bringing science and mathematics concepts down to the level of practical experience. The comprehension of abstract concepts of physics and mathematics, by African students reared in underdeveloped and poor environments, shall always be extremely difficult, especially when it is presented in English, a foreign language which the average African student has not mastered.


Such a course, one in the science faculty, and another in the mathematics faculty, shall also familiarize the African and Coloured student with science and mathematics, a world to which they were insufficiently and badly introduced at elementary and high schools. This shall help to ignite interest in science and mathematics in the imagination of a larger proportion of African and Coloured students at university level, and increase the potential for successful mastery of science and mathematics courses, and other disciplines requiring logic lodged in science and mathematics. An important principle to adopt in our system of education is that the education of scientists and mathematicians must be in a larger curriculum context which also includes mandatory courses in the humanities; just as the education of students in the humanities must take place in a larger curriculum context which also includes mandatory courses in the sciences and mathematics. More space and time must be allowed in the degree requirements for all students, for fitting comfortably the balance we are recommending between the humanities, mathematics, and the sciences. To achieve such a balance successfully shall probably require a four-year, first degree. A study of the work of the Committee which recommended the introduction of a new degree structure at Columbia and other Ivy League universities of the USA, in the 1950s, shall probably be of great help to us in considering our own educational problem.

We must also stress that promoting the sciences and mathematics in the imagination of masses of African students requires a huge, concentrated, high-powered advertising campaign, in which government leaders and other prominent people in society participate. We must recall in our minds the gigantic public campaign for the promotion of mathematics and the sciences which took place in the USA, after the launch of the first Sputnik by the Soviet Union. There was a new “buzz word” in America: The United States must “catch up” and surpass the Soviet Union in the successful teaching of the sciences and mathematics in US schools! This campaign was so high-powered, enormous, and concentrated that it had a sizable impact on the imagination of the generality of American youth and public. I still remember the impact of that campaign on my imagination, as a young person living in the USA at the time. This historical experience, and how this public campaign was conceived, designed, and implemented, in the USA, is available for study. A similar public campaign and advertising job in needed in our country to ignite the interest of the generality of African students, in particular, in the sciences and mathematics.    


11.2.2  LANGUAGE


The language issue is also at the heart of the education crisis in our society. Language is the gateway to culture, knowledge, and people. The more languages one masters, the more one has access to other cultures, to more knowledge, and to more people. More specific to the learning process, we must stress that the mastery of language in which the subject is taught is the prerequisite to the mastery of subject matter. To this extent, the Eurocentric character of our education, at the heart of which has been the use of European languages, has constituted a barrier to the successful education of the masses of African people. The African student has to make the acquaintance of the subject through a language not his or her mother-tongue. If the African student did not master the particular foreign language in childhood, alongside mother tongue, then the foreign language in which instruction proceeds becomes a tension-generating factor, for most students, which interferes with the mastery of the subject matter. The problem of non-English speakers, in schools in which English is the language of instruction, is the following: instruction does not build upon the linguistic and conceptual resources possessed by the student from his/her home and residential environment, but seeks, as it were, to implant linguistic and conceptual apparatuses from somewhere else. Naturally, the new plant, which has not grown organically from the body and soil of the student, does not stand secure, if it is not `rejected’ by the body and the native soil.

Language is a medium of learning in educational institutions. In normal schooling, either the language of instruction is mastered early, as mother tongue, or it remains a type of barrier to easy and comfortable understanding and discourse. This means that African children and students, to whom English, in most cases, is a foreign language, shall most frequently be underachievers in standard tests, compared to children and students who grow up speaking English.

Multi-lingualism seems to be the answer to this problem. Some evidence indicates that when multi-lingualism is introduced from the early stages of education, the languages mastered by children when their brains are most explosive and absorbent in development, become powerful linguistic and conceptual resources for learning. The following report is of relevance to this problem: “Later this year, two professors from George Mason University in Virginia will release a study of 42,000 non-English-speaking students…the study found that children who had received six years of bilingual education in well-designed programs performed better than 70% of all 11th graders, including native speakers, on standardized English tests. One of the report’s authors, professor Virginia Collier, says children placed in an English-language environment before they are fluent `are just left out of the discussion in their mainstream classes. It shows up in the long-term, when the academic going gets tough.’ The George Mason study also found that the highest achievers are products of avant-garde experiment in so-called two-way schools, where half the curriculum is taught in English, half in a foreign language. An example is the Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in the District of Columbia, whose students are 58% Hispanic, 26% white, 12% black and 4% Asian. After six years of Spanish-English curriculum, the school’s sixth-graders score at ninth-grade level in reading and 10th-grade level in math.” Time, November 13, 1995, p. 45)

As education policy, we should move towards implementing Multi-lingualism in all our schools. However, the early years of education should be in mother tongue. Multi-lingualism should also be implemented during early years of schooling. We do not have in mind, here, merely being able to speak the language, but preparing to make these languages of instruction in schools. This is not an impossible aim. It was done, this very century, in the case of Afrikaans. Students today can learn medicine and other hard sciences in Afrikaans. In fact, all languages had to be developed and adapted for teaching the modern sciences and other modern subjects. Therefore, this is nothing unusual to conceive of, with respect to African languages.



Most African and Coloured faculty members in Historically Black Universities/Technikons received their education and training in the very same Historically Black Institutions. The peculiar limitations of these institutions, as universities, which were imposed upon them by the malicious intents of white supremacy, also brought limitations to the education which these institutions passed on to their students. I earlier referred to HBUs and Technikons as poor, underdeveloped cousins of Historically White Universities/Technikons. It is no wonder, then, that the output of HBUs in science and mathematics, and the competitive quality of the education received therefrom, and research output, have been lower than the record achieved by Historically White Universities/Technikons.

The White faculty members employed at HBUs have generally been products of Afrikaans-speaking universities, but generally not from the elite Afrikaner institution, University of Stellenbosch. Initially, these universities were meant to lift up the underdeveloped, poor section of the White community, Afrikaners; accordingly, they bore the imprints of the underdevelopment and poverty of the Afrikaner community, in comparison to the English-speaking community and its English-speaking universities, which had the elite status within institutions of higher learning in the White community. The Afrikaner personnel who took up positions within Historically Black Universities were, as it were, initially deployed there by the Apartheid State to implement the policy of apartheid as educators. Accordingly, the education they imparted to African and Coloured students was doubly loaded –first, by the underdevelopment of the Afrikaner community, in terms of the quality of education, compared to the developed English-speaking community and its universities; second, by the politics of the National Party in relation to Africans, Coloureds, and Indians.

We then need to formulate a development policy for the faculty members of HBUs and Technikons. Our recommendation is that the Ministry of Education should re-kindle and expand overseas scholarship programmes such as the Educational Opportunities Council (EOC), and others, which enabled South African students to go abroad to pursue studies for graduate degrees, specifically for M. A.  and Ph.D. degrees. These study programmes would be designed specifically for faculty members of Historically Black Universities and Technikons. We must stress that those few individual faculty members of HBUs, who managed to receive such scholarships, before EOC considerably curtailed or ended its programme, returned from such studies abroad having been transformed. They were now familiar with another yardstick of university education. We are suggesting that such upgrading and development of staff at institutions of higher education in the USA, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and at the developed institutions of higher learning in newly industrializing countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, and in the well developed universities of other regions of the world, such as The University of the West Indies. I would mention, also some universities in African countries, such as the universities in Nigeria and Ghana, which have good names and a good tradition. However, the economic collapse which has occurred in many African countries has brought about a considerable lowering of capacity in most African institutions of higher learning. Besides that issue, funding for such a scholarship in underdeveloped, or developing, countries would cause difficulties for South Africa, since these programmes may have to be funded directly by the South African government. Developed countries, which were funding scholarship programmes such as EOC, may be convinced to fund such a project as part of foreign aid. This, of course, shall call for detailed, innovative negotiations with governments and foundations and private donors in developed countries.


Such a development programme, if planned wisely, and implemented systematically, in all faculties of HBUs/Technikons, can, within a decade or 15 years, have a tremendous, positive impact on the output of students and research in HBUs and Technikons. This shall also contribute towards developing a good, effective educational counseling system in our schools.


The many well-educated lecturers and professors in our universities, from other African countries, are products of such scholarship programmes which emerged out of bilateral arrangements between governments of their own countries and governments and donors of developed nations.




Large-scale poverty and underdevelopment are affecting every aspect of national life. A little more than a year ago, the Deputy-Minister of Trade and Industry, Lindiwe Hendricks, revealed the following: “Our recent survey finds that one out of two people in rural SA do not have food to consume in a day.” (Business Day, 21 November 2000, p. 2) The very high rate of unemployment is a part of this economic crisis, or adds to it. This crisis involves mainly Africans countrywide, and Coloureds in the Western Cape and Northern Cape. This is the gigantic challenge facing our new democratic order, and institutions of higher education.

As this economic crisis affects government budgets, crime, health standards, housing, and everything else, we should also focus on it as a major cause of financial problems of HBUs.The response of the leadership of HBUs to the financial crisis of these institutions has been unwise: they raise fees almost every year. Some Historically Black Universities have priced themselves out of the market for students. Considering the glaring income inequalities between the poor and well off in this country, some HBUs are effectively more expensive, in relation to their base population, than Historically White Universities, when you consider fees and boarding. This is what should be considered ridiculous and unsustainable. What should be done, in fact, is to lower fees in these institutions, to bring them closer to the income level of the population base they service. Shrinking student numbers in these institutions are largely due to the economic crisis in the lives of their parents. This same economic crisis, incidentally, is a major explanation for the shrinking matriculation students in our high schools.

The National Working Group on the Restructuring of the Higher Education System correctly referred to “knowledge as the driving force of social and economic development in the 21st century”. State investment in education, particularly for the poor, who are the majority of society, is a must in developing countries. Let us make higher education affordable to the population at-large.

We recommend that University and Technikon fees should be related to the income of the household paying for the student, in the same manner in which the annual tax the individual pays to the State is calculated on the basis of the level of income of the individual concerned.




We return now to the relation between the education system of this country, specifically the universities and technikons, on one hand, and the three sectors of the South African economy (industry/commerce; commercial agriculture; African subsistence agriculture) on the other hand. We argued that both the Historically White Universities/Technikons, and their underdeveloped, poor cousins, Historically Black Universities/Technikons, have been oriented to meeting the skills and leadership needs of industry/commerce and commercial agriculture; that the Historically White Universities/Technikons are not serving the needs of the African Rural Community and of African Subsistence Agriculture in anyway whatsoever. I stressed, too, that the HBUs, which were placed in African Rural Communities, within the territorial boundaries of the envisioned “independent Homelands”, according to Apartheid theoreticians, have almost totally failed to meet the needs of these rural communities.

None of the existing institutions of higher education in the country are meeting any of the development needs of African Rural Communities and of African Subsistence Agriculture. The question, then, is: can these institutions of higher learning be redesigned, or re-oriented, in such a way as to be able to meet the needs of the large proportion of the South African population currently trapped in underdevelopment and poverty in these rural communities? Is there a special role which can be played by the Historically Black Universities and Technikons in eliminating underdevelopment and poverty in these communities, therefore, in removing the major stumbling block to the forward movement of the South African economy?

Our answer to both questions is, yes. However, we stressed, too, that education, by itself, cannot eliminate the underdevelopment of any country; that this is an issue of development strategy adopted and implemented by the leadership of that society; that the correct education policy shall only be a powerful arm of a correct development strategy. Two issues, then, are involved here, a) a correct development policy, and b) a correct education policy.

We begin our deliberations on this major issue with the report that South Africa’s attraction capacity for foreign investment has been judged to be very low. “South Africa has been branded by the United Nations (UN) as an underperforming economy in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), and has been lumped together with countries such as Ethiopia, Columbia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. The classification by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) covers both actual success and potential performance in attracting FDI. The data is contained in Unctad’s 2002 World Investment Report, which was presented to SA journalists yesterday by Jorge Maia, the Southern African Development Community officer of the Industrial Development Corporation. Maia said SA had been ranked 113th out of 140 in terms of attracting FDI, and 77th out of 140 in terms of potential in attracting FDI. The rankings were based on various `social, political, institutional and economic variables’. Unctad said `underperformers may need to improve various aspects of their investment environment to upgrade their position in the potential index.” [Business Day, September 18,2002]

I argue that the South African economy is very weak because it misses the power and thrust which would come from the contribution and drive of approximately 70 percent of the African people, located in African Rural Communities, if they were effectively incorporated and engaged within the national commodity economy. These people, comprising well above half the national population, deriving their livelihood insecurely from subsistence agriculture, are effectively excluded from the modern market economy. They have virtually no power in the national economy, as consumers and as producers. That is why South African economists long concluded that the contribution of African subsistence agriculture to GDP is a negative percentage point. What most of these economists (amongst which are influential advisers to government) fail to realize is that the exclusion of this high proportion of the country’s population from the national market economy is precisely why the country’s domestic market is small. If, as is the axiom in US economics, the driving engine of the economy is the level of consumer demand and buying power of the vast majority of that country, then, surely, the driving engine of the South African economy is very small, indeed, precisely because of the underdevelopment and poverty of millions of people in African Rural Communities. If we change GDP to stand for Gross Domestic Poor, instead of Gross Domestic Product, then the contribution of African Rural Communities to GDP is approximately 80 per cent. This Gross Domestic Poor, in turn, becomes the social basis for a high crime rate in urban as well as rural South Africa, and all other sorts of social and sexual pathologies, including the difficulties of controlling and reversing Aids and Tuberculosis statistics. All these factors become a conglomerate that create a poor “investment environment”.

Our prevailing economics, being mainly a reflection of the economic experiences of the White community, which is an extension of the Western industrial capitalist economy, misses this whole crucial point. This issue touches on institutions of higher education, too. The economics taught in the Historically White and in Historically Black Universities, is a wrong economics. We need a new economics in this country, which is going to be largely a reflection of the economic experiences of the majority of the African people, who are the overwhelming majority of the country’s population. Right now, the greatest deficit in the power and dynamics of our economy, is the power that should be injected into the national economy by the effective incorporation and contribution of the masses of African people in rural and semi-rural areas, as producers, consumers, and buyers. The elimination of the underdevelopment and poverty of the African Rural Community, and of the Coloured Rural Community in the Provinces of the Western Cape and Northern Cape, is the greatest challenge facing our economic policy. Eliminating this underdevelopment and poverty shall not be initiated and driven by Foreign Direct Investment, but by domestic investments, amongst which the State shall play the leading role. In so far as our economists and Bretton Woods economists advise government that the forward development of the nation’s economy hinges on Foreign Direct Investment, they have missed the secret source of the crisis of the South African economy. The elimination of the underdevelopment and poverty of African and Coloured rural communities, which is the Achilles Heel of the national economy, cannot and shall not be a by-product of Foreign Direct Investments or of private investments in urban South Africa. On the contrary, the growth and dynamism of the entire national economy, and of the urban economy, shall be stimulated and thrust forward by the elimination of underdevelopment and poverty in African and Coloured rural communities. Therefore, the anchor of our economic policy, of our development strategy, should be the direct policies aimed at eliminating the underdevelopment and poverty of the African Rural Community. What happens in rural areas shall radiate throughout the country; the monies that accrue in the pockets of rural people shall be spent, mostly, in purchasing goods and services produced in urban areas, and that shall be the source of dynamism and growth to the urban economy. Such a policy shall generate dynamism and growth at both ends, bringing about the fusion of the creative energy and imaginations of urban and rural people. 

What specific policies shall work towards eliminating underdevelopment and poverty in the African Rural Community? We should first target African subsistence agriculture, and put in place policies aimed at increasing the capacity of every household and village to produce enough food for itself. Assuring food security in every village and household should be the first objective. Phase two of the policy should be to increase the capacity of those households that wish and show an inclination to become commercial farmers.

Another policy activity is to increase the capacity, and to boost the imagination of those individuals, households, groups, or villages, or companies, that want to develop rural industries or agribusiness. Another policy activity should be aimed at developing the infrastructure of transportation; boosting the imagination of rural people in designing and constructing culture-friendly and appropriate housing (not duplicating township houses in African rural areas); developing proper health care facilities, and boosting and empowering the imagination of rural people in fostering health care; developing the infrastructure for education, and mobilizing local cultures to facilitate education in rural areas, not just the education of the young, but also the education of adults; supporting and empowering the development and production of the arts; and research and development of traditional African crops. We are talking here about the totality of rural development.

The Universities of Transkei, Zululand, North West, Fort Hare, Venda, The University of the North, located as they are in the very midst of the underdevelopment and poverty of the African Rural Community have their development mandate very clear before us: namely, to play a direct role in helping to eliminate underdevelopment and poverty of this largest proportion of the African population in the country. It is in that sense that the vision of itself, and of its role in the development of the Eastern Cape, particularly of the Transkei region, formulated by the leadership of the University of Transkei, must be welcomed and applauded as a crucially important move in the right direction.


It is precisely on the vital issue of the particular role of universities and technikons in eliminating the underdevelopment and poverty of the immense sector of our economy, namely, African rural areas, that the Minister’s Plan for “transformation and mergers in higher education” is most vague and disappointing. The remarks on the relevance of higher education for rural development and elimination of rural underdevelopment seem to hang in the air, simply because the paradigm within which everything fits is an urban-centred paradigm. There are quite a number of references to “regional needs”, and to “rural areas”, but these references do not lead us to concrete proposals for addressing these regional needs and needs of rural areas. These seem to be ad hoc issues, or footnotes, in an otherwise urban-centred, industry-centred paradigm. Yes, cities, and industries, are powerful, but the African Rural Community is also presently very powerful as a current barrier to the further development of the South African economy and further development of South African society. Therefore, the paradigm informing the development strategy must identify and place rural development and the elimination of rural underdevelopment as the anchor of the strategy. Cities and industries, as powerful as they are, must fit in within that development strategy. The Ministry’s mindset, however, gives first place to cities and industries:

“In the case of higher education it is also important to ensure that higher education institutions are spread across different regions and population centres…However, the nature of higher education, in particular, its resource requirements, its role in knowledge production, its interface with government, commerce and industry, as well as cultural and intellectual centres, suggests that density of population is in itself not a sufficient criteria for determining the location of higher education institutions. In this context, it is desirable that while spread across the country, the major locus of higher education institutions must be in the main economic, political and social centres of the country.” (p. 10)


Can you imagine what would have happened to the geographic location of universities in the USA, or in Britain, if this was the guiding thought to educational development? Where would Oxford and Cambridge be?

Agriculture and rural development played a leading role in the development of institutions of higher education in the USA. Indeed, many of the gigantic State universities of our time began as agricultural schools, and as important, powerful arms for facilitating community development.

The Historically Black Universities and Technikons should be particularly well-placed to link up with these projects and policies of rural development and the initiation of the Agricultural Revolution in the African Rural Community. Development is, first and foremost, an educational process and challenge. Before the human being creates anything with his or her hands, he/she first creates it in the imagination. Therefore, the elimination of underdevelopment and poverty in the African Rural Community shall offer enormous space and challenges for Historically Black Universities and Technikons to play a prominent and creative role in this gigantic project. The education and challenge, and stimulation and fertilization of the imagination, shall be in both directions: the imagination of the masses of rural people shall be stimulated and fertilized by the education brought by faculty members and students of HBUs and Technikons, on the one hand; and the imagination of faculty members and students of HBUs and Technikons shall be stimulated and fertilized by the knowledge, traditions, and productive activities of African rural people, on the other hand. This is not even to mention the enormous challenge of eliminating illiteracy in rural areas, and the enormous challenge of eliminating the illiteracy and ignorance of urban-bred people with respect to the cultures, folklore, science, philosophy, arts, religion, medicine and health care of rural people, now and in the past. There is an enormous and inexhaustible scope for research and study, here, for young and old, for urban and rural, for men and women, for Whites, Indians, Coloureds and Africans.

We are, indeed, talking about an enormous Cultural Revolution, which shall transform not only the African Rural Community, but also faculty members, students, methods of teaching and learning, and courses in our institutions of higher education. This shall also bring new possibilities in the bridging of the gap between theory and practice in education and training. (Note, for example, the enrichment to the education of doctors and engineers brought about by the adoption of a “problem-based approach”, which brings about a much closer relationship between the textbook and practical reality.) We are talking about a situation in which almost half, or more, of the lectures may take place in the field of activity outside the classroom; in which the incongruity between the textbook and practical reality becomes discoverable on the spot by the students and faculty, and revisions of textbooks, and the writing of new textbooks, may be the joint work of students and faculty, as a result of this common experiencing of the actual world as the laboratory of knowledge and practice.

The recommendation, then, is that Historically Black Universities must be developed and upgraded, in the manner suggested and recommended above, before the Ministry imposes “Mergers” on them. The human material we are dealing with (the African and Coloured students) is not yet sufficiently and properly prepared, educationally, to make the huge financial expenditure needed for the transformation of these HBUs into technikons, or 50%-70% technikons, a wise expenditure. It is most likely a good guess to say that such an expenditure of hundreds of millions of rand per year, for equipment, machinery, and staff, for this purpose, shall be an unnecessary and wasteful expenditure. There is informed speculation, within government, that the Minister’s plan for “mergers” and restructuring of universities and technikons may require about R800 million per annum, over and above the usual budget for education. Is this experiment really needed?  Does the Ministry really know how much is needed to  transform, say, 60% of the University of Zululand into a Technikon?  Does the Ministry really know what educational preparedness, of students and staff, is required to make such expenditure worthwhile and wise, to make it an expenditure which shall bring good returns to society? The evidence seems clear to us that such preparedness on the part of African and Coloured students (note the pass rate of African and Coloured students in mathematics, science, and technikon courses), and of staff, makes this financial investment, at this stage, premature and unwise; the evidence seems clear to us that we shall be rushing into erecting “white elephant” structures and forcing “white elephant” transformations in Historically Black Universities. As Lenin used to warn his comrades, “in matters of culture, haste and sweeping measures are most harmful.”. Let us be warned, too.


The preparation of African and Coloured students for successful completion of course work in Technikons and science faculties of universities, shall not be an overnight task. This preparation shall be through the transformation of curriculum in the manner proposed, and other measures suggested above. We shall have to work in a determined, concentrated, and wise manner over a period of years to accomplish the ultimate we desire. Undoubtedly, we shall see and have partial and exemplary successes, and conditions leading to these successes need to be nurtured and strengthened; but a success involving the generality of African and Coloured students shall take some years. Let us not endanger that desired end by rushing the country into a detour of historic error, similar to the detour of historic error of Apartheid, onto which the National Party forced the country. This detour shall not lead the country forward to the green pastures of success: we shall soon reach a dead end, and we shall be compelled to drive back, and rejoin the correct path. But, by that time, so much in the country, and in culture, may have been damaged!



It is clear that we must enter a new age of engendering cooperation among all universities and technikons of the country. There can be a plan, for instance, for the sharing of qualified staff, particularly in the case of institutions of learning which are close to one another. This can be helpful in finding substitute faculty members in cases when someone from an HBU has gone abroad for further studies. The gigantic project of rural development, and initiation of the African Agricultural Revolution, shall undoubtedly call for joint participation of staff and students from Historically Black and Historically White Universities and Technikons. Other possibilities of cooperation exist. We should, for example, study the cooperative arrangement existing between Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachussetts, in the State of Massachussetts, USA. [see Five College Cooperation: Direction for the Future, Report of the Five College Long Range Planning Committee 1969, Amherst, University of Massachussetts Press].



We stressed at the beginning that one of the functions of education is to help in shaping, enriching, and developing the civilization to which the individual and society belong. With the African Slave Trade, and the conquest of Africa by Europe, Africa was denied the status of a civilization. The German scholar, Frobenius, who specialized on Africa, wrote the following: “…traffic in human beings has never been an easy business to answer for. It demanded a justification. So the Negro was transformed into a semi-animal, an article of trade…The concept of the `barbaric Negro’ is a European creation…” [Leo Frobenius 1873-1973: An Anthology, edited by Eike Haberland, Wiesbaden, 1973, p. 58]

In the issue of contemporary Africa, we face the biggest, emotion-packed riddle and problem of all humankind. This is more than a gigantic drama and tragedy, which is still awaiting a Homer greater than Homer, a Dante greater than Dante, a Goethe greater than Goethe, and a Freud greater than Freud.

It is now almost universally accepted, based upon the latest scientific findings, that Humankind first emerged in Africa. Africa is, therefore, the Mother of Humankind. This Lady, Mother Africa, not only gave birth to Humankind, but she raised, and helped to develop, infant Humankind. After sometime, some of her children-grown-to adulthood, left Mother Africa for other regions of the globe.

We are told that this occurred not too long ago, relatively speaking, more or less 60,000 years ago. In these different regions and climes, some of the children of Mother Africa even changed skin colour and hair texture, and size and shape of lips and noses.

Two British scientists have recently proclaimed: “Under our skins we are all Africans…” (Stringer, C., African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity, London, Cape, 1996)

Here is the substance of the drama and tragedy: a few tens of thousands of years later, these very descendants of Mother Africa, having forgotten their original relationship with their Mother, came back and abused and violated their ancestral Mother, looked contemptuously upon their own close cousin brothers and cousin sisters who never left Mother Africa, chained and carried away millions of these close blood relatives of theirs to be slaves in the Americas and the Caribbean Islands.

Are we not faced here, in the matter of the relationship between Africans and the rest of humankind, with a psychic problem worthy of a Freud greater than Freud? Africans, Europeans, Asians, Arabs, Jews, and Indians, are close cousin brothers and cousin sisters long lost to one another spiritually and mentally. The greatest challenge and task before us all, the most important item on the agenda of humanism in our time, is to restore the original relationship between Africans and all other peoples of the world. This challenge embraces the totality of our being; it embraces the spiritual, psychological, cultural, and mental world, as well as the material world. For, with the Fall of Africa fell entire humankind.

Even though Humankind first emerged in Africa, the tragic and ironic result of the African Slave Trade was the expunging of Africa from world history. Goethe once likened world history to a great fugue, in which the various nations of the world, one after the other, stand forth to make their contribution to the great fugue. With the African Slave Trade, a large section of Humankind, Africans, were denied the right to stand forth, to make their contribution to the great fugue. Racism penetrated deep into historiography, and into all the scholarly disciplines, including the sciences.

African institutions of higher education face the challenge of playing a major role in the re-emergence of Africa as part of world history, in the development of Africa, and in the development of Africa civilization. The challenge facing African universities, with respect to African civilization, is unique and unprecedented in human history.

Civilizations have risen and fallen: the glory of Rome and Italy, of Greece, are no longer alive. African civilization also rose and fell –with this difference, however, from the fall of civilizations in other epochs: with the African Slave Trade, the creators of African civilization were reduced from human status to `semi-animal’, and Africa was denied the status of a civilization. In the entire history of the rise and fall of civilizations, this was unique to Africans.

Africa became, as it were, a non-living possession of Western civilization. Educated Africans were educated as part of Western civilization, but unlike their Western counterparts, they were placed in a suffocating status of not being able to engage themselves in developing a civilization of which they felt a part. Whites, Indians, Coloureds, and Arabs, in Africa, formed their own separate communities, almost completely sealed from the communities of the overwhelming majority of society, Africans, thereby saddling themselves with a terrible handicap of not being acquainted from the inside with the people and culture of Africa. This is a major problem for us, in this era of democratization, when the majority of society, the non-Western African people, and the non-Western culture of the majority, are supposed to be the motive power and guide for the future development of our new democratic society. Racism, whether of the English, Afrikaner, French, German, Portuguese, or Belgian type, prevented any spontaneous synthesis of African and European cultures. Europeans in Africa remained European, and educated Africans became Europeanized. Europeans, Indians, Arabs, Coloureds, and educated Africans, became alienated from the mass base of African society and culture, with educated Africans somewhat better-off than the others.

A hiatus emerged between Western-educated society, on one hand, and principles and patterns of African civilization, on the other hand. Knowledge of the principles and patterns of African civilization became lost in the consciousness and mental set of African intellectuals -not to even speak of non-African communities.

The peculiar situation, here, is that knowledge of the principles and patterns of African civilization remained with ordinary, uncertificated men and women in urban and rural areas, especially in rural areas. The tragedy of African civilization is that Western-educated Africans became lost and irrelevant as intellectuals who could develop African civilization further. Historically, intellectuals of any civilization are the voice of that civilization to the rest of the world; they are the instruments for the development of the higher culture  of that civilization. The tragedy of Africa, after conquest by the West, is that her intellectuals, by and large, absconded and abdicated their role as developers, minstrels and trumpeters of African civilization. African civilization then stagnated; what remained alive in the minds and languages of the overwhelming majority of Africans remained undeveloped. Uncertificated Africans are denied respect and opportunities for development; they could not sing out, articulate, and develop the unique patterns of African civilization.

Now that Africa is attempting to rise from the prostrate position to which she was thrown, she finds herself in an awkward situation. She needs to develop a system of education founded upon, and developing, her civilization -the civilization of the overwhelming majority; yet her intellectuals, by and large, are strangers to this civilization. In our country, the White and Indian intellectuals, who are disproportionally influential in policy-making, and as experts, are a hundred-times worse off than educated Africans, in their familiarity with principles and patterns of African civilization. This brings serious distortions and errors into policies in the sphere of culture and education! Knowledge of languages is the crucial gate for entrance into any culture.

In the entire history of civilizations, no intellectuals of a particular civilization have ever been placed in such a tragic situation in relation to the civilization of their own people, such as that occupied by African intellectuals in relation to the culture and civilization of their own people. Our intellectuals, by and large, have no spiritual/intellectual sympathetic relationship with the culture and civilization embracing the masses of African people. This is the case in the entirety of Africa.

Our intellectuals must engage in a most massive and serious process of re-education of themselves on the principles and patterns of African civilization, whose knowledge they have largely lost. The biggest spiritual and mental challenge to African intellectuals is that in this massive re-education of themselves on the principles and patterns of African civilization, the only teachers they have are ordinary African men and women who are uncertificated, and largely in rural areas.

We are talking here about a massive cultural revolution consisting, first, of our intellectuals going back to ordinary African men and women, to receive education on African culture and civilization; second, it shall break new ground in that non-certificated men and women shall be incorporated as full participants in the construction of the high culture of Africa; this shall be the first instance in history, in which certificated intellectuals alone shall not be the sole builders and determinants of high culture, but shall be working side by side with ordinary African men and women in rural and urban life.

For Whites, Indians, and Coloureds, the first challenge is to learn African languages. This can only be done genuinely from the inside of African communities. Language is the most crucial entrance gate into any culture and civilization. This country needs to undergo a Cultural Revolution. I am talking, first and foremost, of Whites, Indians, Coloureds, and educated Africans making a conscious, massive, heroic effort to imbue themselves with the spirit and knowledge of African culture, African traditions, and African civilization. This is the major, first, part of the enormous Cultural Revolution necessary in this country.

Intellectuals must become anthropologists doing field-work, like Frobenius. But, unlike academic, Western anthropologists, African intellectuals shall be doing field-work on their own people, on themselves, as part of a truly great effort aimed at reconstructing Africa and preparing all of humanity for conquering the world for humanism.

The principle to be adopted is this: the unique African pattern of development into modernity should base itself, first and foremost, on the utilization of the resources provided by her civilization.

This enormous creative work of research and development of the principles and patterns of African civilization have already been proposed by the Nigerian scholar, Chinweizu, to achieve what he calls “reclamation” of African languages which have been suffering from neglect and atrophy from colonialism up to now.

AFRICAN LANGUAGES: European languages have had to develop new concepts, words, and flexibility, in order to be the means of communication for industrialization and the scientific revolution. The recent development history of Afrikaans is an example, which can now be used to teach physics, medicine, psychology, etc. Who should be involved in the development of African languages? We are suggesting that this task should not be left solely to university-certificated experts in African languages. Every traditional community has identifiable language experts and poets, who may never have been inside a school. Every village can identify such individuals, who are custodians of the excellence, beauty, and pride of the people’s language. These men and women should be incorporated into the language committees of experts, to work, side by side, as equals, with university professors and lecturers, in charting the formal development of African languages.

TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE: The problem, here, is that the West simply took it for granted that the mind of humanity was full of nothing but error, rubbish, nonsense, and superstition, until Whites emerged with a more superior mind. From the West’s point of view, there was absolutely no need to study and understand the thought of Africans, Asians, and Native-Americans, and there was certainly no question of considering a synthesis of European knowledge and science and the knowledge and science produced by Africans, Asians, and Native-Americans.

The West then proceeded, with amazing folly, to start accumulating modern scientific thought, using the famous “scientific method” and the method of “experiment”, formulated during the “Scientific Revolution”, without paying the least respect to, without building upon, the knowledge accumulated by Africans, Asians, and Native-Americans on the basis of trial and error during tens, and hundreds, of thousands of years of practical experience!

Lately, some Western scientists are beginning to see the gross error in this view. Many Western scientists, prompted by the dire urgency to find a cure for Aids, and by the failure of Western scientists, so far, to get nearer the cure, are calling for a new attitude towards the medicinal knowledge produced by Africans, Asians, and Native-Americans of North and South America. They are calling upon their fellow Western scientists to regard knowledge produced by Africans, Asians, and Native Americans, as hypotheses worthy of the same respect and attention as hypotheses in Western scientific discussions, i. e., as hypothesis to be studied and tested for verification.

No serious scientist, unpoisoned by racism, can fail to argue similarly, when you consider the following fact: in 1991, a prominent American scientist noted that “only 1,100 of the earth’s 265,000 species of plants have been thoroughly studied by Western scientists, but as many as 40,000 may have medicinal or undiscovered nutritional value for human. Many are already used by tribal healers, who can help scientists greatly focus their search for plants with useful properties.” (Time, September 23, 1991, No. 38, p. 49)

Here is another example of how we may proceed differently: we now know that Africans had the knowledge of how to make iron before this knowledge was possessed by people in Europe. “…it seems likely that at a time when the European was still satisfied with rude stone tools, the African had invented or adopted the art of smelting iron…It seems not unlikely that the people that made the marvelous discovery of reducing iron ores by smelting were the African Negroes. Neither ancient Europe, nor ancient western Asia, nor ancient China knew the iron, and everything points to its introduction from Africa.” [The  Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883-1911: A Franz Boas Reader, edited by George W. Stocking, Jr, New York, Basic Books, 1974, pp.311-312]There are many old men, still alive, all over Africa, who still possess the knowledge of how iron was made in traditional African society. But these men no longer make iron. They were supplanted by companies and corporations owned by Whites. These specialists of African civilization have not had a chance to continue practicing their skill, and the chance of further developing the skill as time and circumstances demanded, and making contributions to the history of iron-making up to our time. (Kurt Klusemann, “Die Entwicklung der Eisengewinnung in Afrika und Europa”, Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Geselschaft im Wien, 54, 1924)

The biggest challenge to the industrialization of African economies is designing and producing appropriate technology. The important point is that these abandoned, uncertificated specialists of African civilization, in all fields of technology, should be activated and incorporated, along with certificated experts, into the effort to design and produce appropriate technology for Africa. This is a challenge that must be met by African universities/technikons, and by African scholars. This responsibility should be carried especially by Historically Black Universities and Technikons.The basis for the construction of new technology should be the existing technological expertise and specialization of the civilization.

Industrialization has been a two-edged sword; it has been a blessing and a curse, simultaneously; it is a question of: two steps forward, one step backwards: the sums, the quantities, have undoubtedly increased enormously; but there is doubt about quality of life resulting therefrom. This is emphatically not to reject industrialization, but only to emphasize that we must engage in meticulous, wise, holistic consideration of factors, and planning, as we implement the process of development, drawing our lessons not only from developed societies, our destination, but also from tribal societies which once existed throughout the world, our historic origin.



Almost all the history books on South Africa used in high schools and universities are written by white scholars; and almost all these historians are not acquainted with African communities from the inside, first and foremost, through the African language. These historians have collected their data almost totally from written, archival sources. All African communities have their own histories, kept and passed on through oral tradition, in African languages, in folklore, praise-poems, legends, proverbs, mythology, etc. This is also historical data as crucial as sources written in English or Afrikaans, needing historical interpretation, as historians of ancient Greece have minutely studied The Iliad, The Odyssey, Aeschylles, Euripides, and Sophocles, as possible historical data on ancient Greeks. For the specialist on ancient Greece, the mastery of ancient Greek is a pre-requisite, just as no English historian can be a specialist on Germany or Russian history without a mastery of German or Russian. The only exception to this rigid methodological rule seems to be for specialists on African people.

The correct history of African people shall be written by people who, through thorough knowledge of African culture and languages, can use both oral sources and written sources. This means that such scholars shall need to be in close, broadly embracing contact and communication with ordinary, uncertificated African men and women in urban and rural areas. Serious methodological issues arise here. This should be the great fruitful encounter between African culture and civilization, stored in oral traditions, on one hand, and evidence stored in written documents and archaeological finds, on the other hand. Many questions arise here: the identification of sources, the reliability of sources, the critique of sources, oral tradition as a critique, corrective, supplement, or confirmation, of written and archaeological evidence; written and archaeological evidence as a critique, corrective, supplement, or confirmation of oral tradition.

The same line of approach should be adopted in all humanities and social sciences. This does not mean that Africa becomes closed to outside influences. No civilization has ever developed and prospered in isolation. In isolation, civilization atrophies. But the influence from the outside, at issue, is not that which occurred with reference to Africa under the rule of the West, i. e., the taking over of Africa by Western civilization. The influence of other civilizations and cultures on another civilization is similar to the relation of rivers to the huge ocean. Civilization is the huge ocean; elements or influences of other civilizations and cultures upon a particular civilization are like rivers which lead to, and empty themselves into, the huge ocean. These are assimilated by the civilization, and bring about changes, from within, and become yeast for the further development of aspects of the civilization. So, the fine and finest products of the cultural and spiritual wealth of other civilizations shall be absorbed by the child and student within the African school, but all this shall take place within the context of African civilization.

These are the principles which should guide the selection of the building blocks we must use in the construction of the new Africa, whether we are concerning ourselves with agriculture, health, diet system, government, politics, architecture, youth development, gender relations, education, music and the arts in general, etc.


About Professor Herbert W. Vilakazi

Professor Herbert Vilakazi was born at Nongoma, KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa. He received his tertiary education at Columbia University, and at the New School For Social Research, both in New York City, USA. He has taught sociology and other social sciences at various tertiary institutions in and around New York City (City College of City University, Essex County College in Newark, Livingstone College, and State University of New York). He has also taught at the University of Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University), University of the Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town, and University of Zululand. He served as Deputy-Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission from 1998 to 2004. He has also served as Special Advisor to the Premier of KwaZulu/Natal (2005-2007). He is Chairperson of Vilakazi Development Strategies.
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