Bantu Education boycott

From the book: My Spirit Is Not Banned by Frances Baard and Barbie Schreiner

- 'The Bantu Education Act will make African mothers like fowls who lay eggs for other people to take away and make what they like with them.'Lillian Ngoyi

In 1953 the government passed the Bantu Education Act, which the people didn't want. We didn't want this bad education for our children. This Bantu Education Act was to make sure that our children only learnt things that would make them good for what the government wanted: to work in the factories and so on; they must not learn properly at school like the white children, Our children were to go to school only three hours a day, two shifts of children every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so that more children could get a little bit of learning without government having to spend more money. Hawu! It was: a terrible thing that act. Verwoerd - he was the minister that time - he wanted the Africans to stay in the reserves except when they had to become and work for the white people. He didn't want our children to get a proper education; he wanted to keep them down with this education system. Before that time the education was a little bit better, the missionaries ran mostly the schools, but now all the schools were going to be run by the government.

In December 1954 at the ANC conference we rejected this new education plan and we started to organize for a boycott of government schools. I used to go about with other people explaining to the parents what Bantu Education is about, what does it mean, and how are the children going to be affected, because some of them didn't understand. And we told them, 'If you agree with us that this education is bad for our children then we are going to boycott this education by taking our children out of schools to show the government we are not satisfied.'
Many parents were anxious too. They didn't want their children to get that Bantu Education. They took their children out of the schools so much that in the government schools there was no child who attended school. But we couldn't leave the children like that, out of school and learning nothing. So every morning we used to have buses standing to collect all the children to take them to the veld. We used to take them there and get some teachers to teach them. We called them cultural clubs because we weren't allowed to call them schools, and we weren't allowed to have teachers either; we had to call them club leaders. It was illegal to have a school that wasn't registered with the government, so we had to pretend that the cultural clubs weren't schools. We weren't allowed to have books or blackboards or anything like that either. Some other people organized things for the children to be taught, (I know Helen Joseph was very involved in that) and we used songs and stories to teach the children. They would sing a song about history, Dingaan or Shaka or whatever, or there would be a story they can hear about geography or what. The teachers would draw in the sand instead of writing on a blackboard. And they went on like that.

I was not teaching in those clubs even though I had trained as a teacher, but I was involved in organizing the clubs and the training courses for the club leaders. We trained all those people so they would know how to teach without books and so on. We used to have training sessions with someone from Johannesburg or Cape Town maybe, who would come to show the teachers how to use the songs and the stories and how to teach the children like that. So the children used to sit out in the veld, and they would tell stories and sing songs. And they would have physical exercises too every day. Then in the afternoon the buses would fetch the children again and bring them home. Some of those children even wrote exams during that time, J.C. and so on, and they passed them too.

It went on like that. But then the government saw that their teachers are idling, there's nothing in the school for them and all the children have gone to where we have these clubs. So they started now sending the police to intimidate the children, to arrest the teachers, those who had volunteered to teach. The government used to send the police to the parents: 'And if your child is not at school, you know what is going to happen to you?'

Some people were afraid: 'what can we do? Let's just let our children go back to school.'

So the parents started to send their children back to the government schools because they were afraid of what the police would do to them if they didn't. But some of the children didn't go back to those schools for a long time. Some of the cultural clubs stayed until 1960 or so. Even now you can see that the young people are very unhappy with this Bantu Education. That is why they are boycotting the schools and demonstrating.

It is still the same now as when they started this thing. The people are still fighting that we don't want this education that the government wants to give us. And the government is still using the police to say that the children must go back to school.

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