The 1985 school crisis in the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The thesis is an exploratory and primarily empirical study with the objective to construct a detailed chronology of the events of the 1985 school crisis particularly in African schools in the Western Cape and to reflect on the relationship between the school crisis and the organic crisis in South Africa and the Western Cape in particular. The data for the thesis were derived from primary and secondary documentary sources and in-depth interview material. A total of 51 interviewees were selected principally on the basis of the specific role they played particularly within the Department of Education and Training institutions as well as in community, political, workers', parents', teachers' and student organisations during the 1985 school crisis in the Western cape. Interviews were open-ended with a semi-structured interview schedule which consisted of topical headings. The thesis's theoretical framework was informed by Gramsci's Marxism am the key concepts employed in the analysis included Gramsci's notions of hegemony and organic crisis as well as Freire's concept of conscientisation. Utilising Gramsci's Marxism, the historical transformations in economic, political and ideological spheres which affected the development of student struggles and the crisis in the Department of Education and Training schools in 1985 were examined. Chapter 1 deals with .the 'Total strategy' as a form of state "formative action" to overcome the general crisis. It also documents in chronological order the main events of the school boycotts and both political and economic struggles on a national level from 1953 to 1984 and early 1985 in order to provide a sound background for the 1985 school crisis in the Western Cape. Chapter 2 which is offered as an empirical contribution to sociology of education covers a series of complex events and processes which constituted the core of the 1985 school crisis in the Western Cape in a chronological order. In the conclusion, Gramsci's concepts of 'hegemony' and 'organic crisis' supplemented by Freire's notion of conscientisation were directly utilised to analyse the slogan 'People's education for people's power'. One crucial observation explicit in the thesis am expressed through verbatim interview extracts was that the school crisis could only be resolved when the apartheid capitalist system in its entirety has been abolished.

Includes bibliography.