Various political parties, civil rights groups and columnists support the view
that one of South Africa’s foremost socio-economic challenges is overcoming
the scarring legacy which the Bantu Education Act of 1953 left on the face
of the country. In light of this challenge, a need arose to revisit the position
and place of Bantu Education historiography in the current contested
interpretation of its legacy.
It is apparent from the plethora of literature available on this topic that
academics are not in agreement about whether or not the passing of the 1953
Act was a watershed moment in marginalising education for black pupils.
On the one hand, it would seem that the general consensus is that the 1953
Act was indeed a turning point in the formalisation of education reserved for
pupils of colour – thus a largely “traditional” view. On the other hand, the
Marxist school, as coined by P Christie and C Collins, argues that securing a
cheap, unskilled labour force was already on the agenda of the white electorate
preceding the formalisation of the Act.
The aim of this article is two-fold. Firstly, to contextualise these two stances
historically; and secondly and more chiefly, to examine the varying approaches
regarding the rationalisation behind Bantu Education by testing these
approaches against the rationale apparent in primary sources in the form of parliamentary debates and contemporary newspaper articles.