Late in 1984 and throughout 1985 an unprecedented wave of militant student action in black schools once again caused a crisis in black education. In 1985 concerned parents formed the Soweto Parents' Crisis Committee (SPCC). They held a national education crisis conference in December 1985, at which an attempt was made to unite student, parent and teacher organisations. One of the decisions taken at this conference was to hold a national conference in Durban in March 1986 and with this in view it was decided to launch the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC) early in 1986. The meeting was supported by the UDF and Cosatu.
In March 1986 the NECC, which by that stage had representatives countrywide, held a congress in Durban to evaluate the progress the government had made with the demands made at the December 1985 conference. The most important decisions taken at this congress included:
q A call to all students to celebrate May Day (Workers' Day) in the most appropriate manner.
q To expose, isolate and oppose Inkatha.
q To declare 16 June a national youth day and to launch a national stay-away action for 16, 17, and 18 June.
q To encourage all progressive teacher, parent and student bodies immediately to implement "people's education".
q A call that all banned organisations (including the ANC) be unbanned and that all political prisoners be released.
q A call on all communities and democratic organisations to launch campaigns at regional and national level to give appropriate support to all forms of rent, consumer and other boycotts.
These decisions indicate that the NECC positioned itself explicitly within the political arena. Under the influence of the NECC the focus gradually shifted from school boycotts to a struggle for "people's education". In practice this meant a demand that time be made on the school calendar for the study of "alternative material". This was provided by the student councils, parent committees and support organisations. The ANC also supported the struggle for "people's education". Accordingly black education was transformed into a political battle-field by the mid-eighties.
The government did everything in its power to prevent these politicization actions. In April 1986 it announced a 10-year action plan for black education, with the aim of eventually providing an equal standard of education for all. The NECC rejected this proposal and insisted that alternative education pro-grammes be introduced. In reply to these demands almost the entire executive of the NECC was arrested and the Department of Education and Training closed a number of schools that had been labelled "hot spots". The school boycott continued in one form or another on a relatively large scale until 1987. In February 1988 the NECC was restricted along with 16 other organisations.
Despite these restrictions, individual members of the NECC continued the activities of the organisation in black education. The NECC also aligned itself with the MDM. In 1989 a new front, the Mass Democratic Education Movement, which can be seen as the education wing of the MDM, was launched. In doing so the NECC "unbanned" itself. Ihron Rensburg was appointed general secretary. During this period black schools experienced crisis upon crisis. As a result of the disruption at schools (mainly of a political nature) the black youth is among the most politicized groups in South Africa.
Restrictions on the NECC and many other organisations were lifted on 2 February 1990. But neither the lifting of restrictions nor calls from UDF and ANC leaders could stabilize the school situation. In December 1990 the NECC declared 1991 as "the year of mass education", saying that, along with the ANC, Cosatu and the South African Democratic Teachers' Union, it planned to launch a campaign to normalize black education.
In 1990 the NECC changed its name to the National Education Coordinating Committee. According to Morde Tulwana, national chairman of the NECC, this formerly strong teaching body is at the crossroads. Since the unbanning of other teaching organisations in February 1990, the role of the NECC has never been spelt out clearly. Its future role is therefore uncertain.