About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

31 Jan 1992: De Beer, Sam

Click here for more information on the Interviewee

Click here for Overview of the year

POM     Your full title is?

SDB     I'm Minister of Education and Training which means that I am responsible for the education, at this stage, of all the black children in the Republic of South Africa, which means that the education in the TBVC countries and the six self-governing territories are excluded from my responsibility.

POM     We've been around to a number of schools in townships in Johannesburg, outside Johannesburg and in townships outside Cape Town and quite frankly have been appalled at some of the things that we've seen in terms of the condition of classrooms, in terms of just seeing children sitting on the floor or lying on the floor taking notes and the deterioration of the buildings. How has that education become such a mess?

SDB     Can I just reply to that. In the first instance, I think I must say that we have approximately 2200 schools under our control and I will also take you to schools where the standard of the buildings is exceptional. The new schools that we build for our children are absolutely comparable to the schools which are built in all the other education departments. I think what is further very important is to take note of the amounts being put into the building of facilities at the moment by government. In the 1991/92 year the government made an amount additional to the budget available of R510 million and with this money we hope to decrease the backlog which was anticipated in 1988 for 1992 from 10000 to approximately 5000. So in this sense progress has been made.

     What you are referring to and, of course, there are schools which have really become dilapidated in some of the areas, is a culture that I believe we will have to address because I believe that it is primarily the responsibility, I and the Department can provide the infrastructure for education, but it's the responsibility of the community and our teachers and our pupils to look after these schools and these educational properties and to make them their own. I'm afraid up till now the perception has always been that these facilities have been made available by the apartheid government and that's why it's really been disregarded. The extent of vandalism, burglaries, theft still at the moment is incredible. I can cite you an incident during the last few days where a group of children turned up at the school, children who could not pass their academic year, they demanded a pass one, pass all system, which is of course in no educational system in the world acceptable, and we refused that and during the following night the administration block of that school to the value of R3.5 million was burnt down.

     So what I'm saying is, of course, yes, we are facing major backlogs in black education for very good reasons. One being that our pupil population in our Department is on average growing by 6% per year, which is immense. If you add the inflation rate to that it actually means that our annual growth rate in our budget must be over 14% before you really start addressing realities. But what I am saying is, yes, this is true, some of our facilities are really not up to standard but I think we are making progress. But in the final instance this is not going to improve until a culture of learning and teaching really comes about in our schools.

POM     So if you had to look at the black matriculation rate in relationship to the white matriculation rate, to what would you attribute the lower rate of success of black pupils?

SDB     Well I think it would be a major mistake to try and simplify the reasons for that. I think there's an over-simplification of people to try and determine the reasons for this. I think it's a very complicated matter. But certainly to simply blame it on the so-called apartheid system I think is a gross over-simplification because to a certain extent we are dealing with education of a developing world, or call it a third world country.

     Now if you go to the trouble and read the studies that were done by UNESCO about the education in developing worlds and in third world countries, and UNESCO is of course not apartheid orientated, you will find that the general facts about education in a third world country are basically the ones that we are experiencing in black education. Things like the one that I've already mentioned, the immense population growth rate, that is a major factor but I think when we come to the situation, the question that you put, there are many reasons for this.

     One of the major problems that we're dealing with in black education, and very few people seem to realise this, is the language problem. If we would equate the position of a black Standard 10 student with my own children, my own son is now in Standard 10, it would have meant most probably that my son would have had to do his matric in a third language and this is in the case of, I would say, more than 95% of our black matriculants are doing their matric in a second or a third language which is a major problem. So this is certainly a problem.

     I think the involvement, of course, the political situation has also got a lot to do with this. The education of our children for many years was politicised. The black people in this country did not have the normal channels to channel their political grievances and political viewpoints, for many years. They only had trade unionism as one outlet and the other one was education. For many years the education system, schools were used to express their political aspirations and this certainly had an influence on the education of our children. In other words what I am saying is, education in the black world was politicised and this certainly had a major influence.

POM     Are stayaways and school boycotts still routine?

SDB     Well up till 1990, as you know at the end of 1990 we had our worst matric results ever and that was a very bad year because of the actions taken in this regard. During last year this situation improved a bit and there were very positive signs that discipline was beginning to return to our schools. I have no doubt in my mind that this is of the utmost importance. We are not going to succeed in preparing our children to face the challenges of the future if there isn't, as I've said already, a culture of learning and teaching which means that there will have to be constructive discipline, which means that our communities will really get involved, take a very lively interest in the education of their children, where teachers can once again win the respect of our pupils and where our pupils will not be used or let them be used as cannon fodder for the political aspirations of a few people and where they will really sit down and study.

POM     One of the things that we've heard over and over again is the lack of qualified teachers and that part of the lack of respect of pupils for their teachers, they don't respect the qualifications, the teacher in fact is not a teacher.

SDB     This is a very important aspect. It's something which I certainly intend giving serious attention. But we've also made great progress in this regard. Can I just give you some details as far as this is concerned? In 1986 about 82% of our secondary teachers were fully qualified. By fully qualified I mean a final school year certificate and three years training after school. In 1991, 94% of our secondary teachers were fully qualified. As far as the primary school teachers are concerned, in 1986 about 21% of our primary teachers were fully qualified and the figure now is roundabout 61%. This certainly is a factor, yes, it's a factor and there's no doubt about it that you can't succeed in upgrading the effectiveness of your education if you can't upgrade the qualifications of your teachers.

POM     You point to population, the lack of a culture of learning and political disturbances or political violence as being three of the major reasons possibly accounting for the low matriculation rate. Are there other things you would point to as well?

SDB     Yes. A very important aspect of course is the content of our syllabi. Up till now I think we have been providing our children with an education which is not really relevant to the working world. In other words an education of value. People dream about heavens opening up to them after they have finished school and they get involved in an academic training and they reach their final school year and they succeed and then they are unemployed. So we are at the moment addressing this problem very seriously as you will most probably know. A new curriculum model was announced by my colleague, Mr. Pienaar, during last year which is now being further studied and we're waiting for comments from all the private group sections also. But there's no doubt about it there will have to be more stress on vocational, career orientated education. We at the moment are only turning out about 1% - 2% of our final school year students in a career orientated direction, while if you take a developed country like Germany it is between 30 and 40%. So in this regard I think this is also a very important aspect that we will have to encourage our children to take up a more technical orientated education.

POM     To just go back a bit, one of the things that I have difficulty in understanding is that the government would have known that economic growth would be tied to the availability of skilled labour and that the white population couldn't alone provide the adequate amount of skilled labour required for economic growth and that therefore policy, if only in the interests of the state and the government ...

SDB     In the interests of South Africa?

POM     Yes, it would have been oriented towards providing high quality black education because it would benefit everybody, not just the black community.

SDB     Yes. Of course.

POM     How did that short-sightedness arise in the past?

SDB     Well that is now going back into history and I think one must see it against the background of the apartheid policy. When Dr Verwoerd, I think it was in 1953, announced the government's policy, up till that stage black education primarily was the responsibility of the churches. When the government really took over responsibility for black education in 1953, within the apartheid policy, and in the wisdom that they had at that stage (you know hindsight is also always an exact science and I don't want to criticise that), but within the framework of that policy you will remember that the ideal was that most black people will return to their own homelands and it was the policy that those remaining in South Africa should be trained for a subservient position.

     As time progressed, I became involved in black education in 1984, but even before that when the de Lange report, I don't know if you have heard of this? In 1980 to 1982 there was the de Lange Commission who looked at the future of education very intensively and after that the government accepted some of the most important recommendations of the de Lange Report, which inter alia stated that the government accepts the responsibility to provide equal education and equal education opportunities for all in this country. So what I'm saying is that when it became apparent that the policy of apartheid was not going to work the government changed that viewpoint and realised that it is in the best interests of South Africa that every child in this country must get the best possible education. And can I say that during the time that I've been involved in black education, and in 1984 I became the Deputy Minister of Dr. Viljoen, as you know, that during our time we never had any other attitude other than to give the best possible education to the black child because it is not only in the best interests of that child, but it's also in the best interests of the future of all South Africa's people that that should happen. And that is also why the government committed itself to moving towards a situation of parity in as short a time as possible. Unfortunately, economic realities ...

POM     I'd like to talk about some of that because you yourself in your news briefing to the media earlier this week said it would take 40% of the total budget if ...

SDB     If we wanted parity tomorrow. I mean that is going to be the implication.

POM     - parity today, which obviously is not possible. I've two questions. One is that will the demand to achieve parity, will it necessarily result in less expenditure per capita on white education? I mean must white education inevitably suffer because you can't maintain one and bring the other up to that extraordinary high level at the same time?

SDB     Yes. I think what is very important is that we are saying that the system, the education system, will have to change. If I have to answer that question of yours against the background of the present system, most probably that would have been the result. We are now looking, the government is at the moment looking and there's a report today in Die Burger on the front page about this, we are now looking at ways and means of changing this system, the present system because we are heading to a new education system and we are now in a transitional period. We are certainly looking at ways and means to address this issue during this transitional period to try and upkeep the standard of education in the white education department also.

     I think you will agree with me, just as it is of the utmost importance to upgrade the education of the black child in this country, and because that is in the best interests of South Africa, it is also in the best interests of South Africa that the education which is of a high standard should also be maintained as long as possible because if we want to address the challenges of the future we cannot allow those people who are making a valuable contribution and who are at this stage, as it were, the golden goose or the goose that lays the golden eggs, it is of the utmost importance that we also will have to try and upkeep standards as far as possible.

     So what I'm saying is that we are trying our utmost to find ways of keeping up standards in white education. I have no doubt in my mind that government spending in white education will to a certain extent not grow to the extent that expenditure in black education will grow. Well that speaks for itself. If we are committed to moving towards parity it will obviously mean that spending will still have to increase in black education while the increase will be less in white education. But we hope by trying to obtain more community involvement in white education that the standards of white education will not necessarily drop because of that.

POM     When you say we are developing proposals, are you talking about - is there a consultative process here, say, with the ANC with regard to what black educational policy should be or is it determined solely by the Department and how do you see the black education being run under a transitional arrangement, like under a transitional government?

SDB     I was also asked this question at the news conference. You were there?

POM     No.

SDB     Oh, that's unfortunate. I was also asked this question on our relationship towards the ANC and other groupings. My policy has always been, and I hope will also be, of this kind and I also announced this in my speech at the press conference, that I have an open door. I am here to serve the education of our black children. I hope that it will be possible to listen and to communicate with as many people as possible. I, as Minister for black education, try to run this Department in a non-political way and therefore it is my policy, and I've often said this in the past, I will negotiate and I will talk to all parties involved who have a vested interest in education.

     I was asked during last year whether it would be possible to prepare a delivery package which would determine a year programme of undertakings by the Department. The Department and I have now made a very intensive study of this and we have prepared that package. I also had a board of advisers, all black people, the Board of Education and Training. I have discussed this document with them and I have their full approval. They also made some amendments as far as this plan for this year goes and I have now invited the ANC to discuss this with me. So, yes, as far as I am concerned I welcome all involvement. I've done this over all the years and if we can by doing this get the full participation of all groups concerned I want the education system, the education of our children to be normalised.

POM     But there isn't as yet any formal consultative process with the ANC?

SDB     Yes. We had a working group last year. This was the consequence of a discussion that the State President had with a group of educationalists from different groups of people, it also included the ANC, and when first Mr Mandela discussed this matter with the State President it was decided that this working group must come about and it included all Ministers of Education, all Departments, as far as I remember, all the heads of departments of Departments of Education. In August this working group reported back to the State President and at that meeting on 19th August last year these two matters, the one that I've referred to already, the delivery package was discussed and also the State President referred to the possibility of an Education Forum being established. Professor Gerwel, who was the Chairman of that group meeting the State President, he suggested that they will come back to us in this regard. I have learnt, after this I became the Minister responsible in September last year, since then I've learnt that the ANC was trying to bring about a Patriotic Front also in the education field. I'm aware that they are trying to establish a discussion group next month, but formally I have had no feed-back on the invitation which we directed at them in August last year.

POM     In August of 1991?

SDB     Yes.

POM     How would you see a transitional arrangement working? Would there be a merger of education departments into one Department of Education?

SDB     Yes. Can I just, before I come to that question, just say that as far as - you see on the one hand we're talking of the future of education in South Africa and that of course is a very wide field because that includes the Department of National Education and it includes all the other different Education Departments, self-governing territories and what have you. So that is one action which is very important and if we talk about a future South African educational dispensation, all these parties will have to become involved. There's general acceptance of the fact that if you talk about a future dispensation for education all these parties will have to get involved in negotiations and discussions which I anticipate will have to go hand in hand with the constitutional process and which I anticipate will come about when the transitional government is established. But in the meantime I, as Minister of Education and Training, who is primarily involved in black education, and to be quite frank with you I think the Department and the area where the real challenge at this stage lies, I can't wait for that development to take place which will most probably be in six or seven or eight or nine months, whatever it may be. It may even be longer than that. I have a day to day responsibility to try and provide the black child, while that is still my responsibility, with the best possible education. So I am on my own still going on and that's why I'm at the moment negotiating about the delivery package for education and in my field I will certainly consult and talk and listen to all parties with a vested interest in education as far as possible.

POM     So your position would be that you are in the process of preparing a delivery package, that you have asked for comment from the ANC?

SDB     Yes, and all other groups.

POM     And that the ANC, particularly because black education is such a political issue, that they simply haven't got back to you because either they haven't got their act together or they have not prepared a coherent or cohesive position.

SDB     Yes. I think you are fairly correct, yes.

POM     The model system, these four different models that are now out there, there's an open school policy.

SDB     Yes, that has come about since I've been appointed here as Minister and I felt very strongly in favour of the model, the so-called Model D which is the new model which came about after Mr Marais became Minister of white education and I became Minister of black education. And the Model D, as you know, is where we have white schools in the process of becoming redundant, our policy is that those schools should not be declared redundant but should then be declared open and the whole philosophy behind it is that the staff component is kept intact and that that school still remains under the administration of the Department of Education in the House of Assembly and that they do it on an agent basis for my Department. So far, I speak under correction, but I think there are six schools already functioning and doing so in a very effective and successful way. We couldn't accommodate all the black children that wanted to go to these Model D schools.

POM     Two questions, one is it would seem that a black child's ability to go to one of these schools or to go into a Model B school or whatever, is dependent upon the ability, the transportation, the ability of the family, of the parents to get the child there, that there's a transportation element involved.

SDB     Well except where these children live in the immediate area.

POM     Except where they live in the immediate area.

SDB     And there are many of them of course.

POM     I'm talking about the larger picture. Soweto might be a good example. If you live in the centre of, or stay 50 miles away from Johannesburg your capacity to go to school there ...

SDB     Yes, well that applies to all people of course.

POM     So in a way your ability to go to a white school, unless you live adjacent to one, is related to the ability of your family to get you there?

SDB     Yes.

POM     It's related to economics.

SDB     But that applies to all groups. I used to travel 30 miles a day when I was at school. I was at school in Johannesburg but I lived near Pretoria and I had to travel 30 miles a day to go to school and I wouldn't prefer any other way of doing it if I had a choice today.

POM     What I'm saying is that most of these families would simply not be in a position to have the child taken every day from where the child lives to a school in a white suburb. It's just not economically feasible.

SDB     Well there are at the moment, in the process during the last year, and I was at that stage as Minister of Works I was actually involved in this process, where we made redundant schools available also to private education institutions in the Johannesburg area and then it is not that expensive to travel from, say, Soweto to the mid-Johannesburg area. There are many children who can afford that and many of these schools are functioning very successfully.

POM     I suppose I'm asking in relation to a larger question which I relate to the experience of the United States. In Boston, for example, the required bussing of school children to equalise racial ratios effectively turned schools that was a majority white school system into a minority system. Whites simply took their children out of schools and put them into private schools. Do you see that as being any kind of potential problem on the horizon? The second refers to the ghettoisation of education in inner cities in the United States where again the black children who had more economic means, the middle class blacks, either moved out of black areas and lived, integrated into white suburbs, so that the black areas became progressively poorer and their schools lost the brighter pupils and standards just fell and have continued to fall. How do you prevent something like that from happening here?

SDB     Well I think we have a lot to learn from what happened in the USA and that is one of the reasons why I always appreciate meeting Americans because I think they have a very good idea of the challenge that we are facing in this country. I don't believe, I think bussing wasn't a success in the USA and I don't think bussing can in any way be a solution for our problems in this country because it is very expensive on the one hand and because I believe that forced integration simply will not work. It is not acceptable under the present circumstances. I think if you go down to grassroots level and you see the emotions which are at the moment already running very high about education, I don't think that bussing in any way can work and I think we will have to deal with education in a very sensitive way. So I don't see bussing as a solution. I said this at the press conference and I'll give you my speech.

     The new system, the new education system has also become a slogan for many years and for many years a lot of people have been building their hopes for the future on this new unitary education system and I'm one of them. But we must on the other hand be realistic about this because this new system is in the first place, we will have to remember that schools will still remain where they are. Schools will still stand where they are, they are not going to move and the tendency would still have to be for parents to send their children to the nearest schools. Managers involved in my Dept. of Education will have to know that if there's one unitary education system they will have to compete for a position in the new system with some of the best education managers in the world. My children will have to accept the fact that they will have to compete with children coming into that, being with them in that system where they have a success rate of 99%. And so I can go on. My teachers will have to compete with some of the best qualified teachers in the world. So the new education system is not going to change the challenges overnight.

POM     A lot of parents that we've talked to in townships, we posed the choice to them, which would you prefer to send your child to a white school in a nearby suburb or to your local school, provided the quality of the local school and the quality of the education provided at your own local school was the same as the quality of education provided in the white suburb? Invariably the answer is that they would like to send their child to the local community school provided they can get the same or as good an education. That suggests on one level that people want things separate but equal.

SDB     Yes, I agree with that.

POM     Whereas in the USA separate but equal was found to be against the constitution. But do you see things developing differently here?

SDB     Obviously we can learn a lot from what happened in the USA but all things are not equal. If we equate the situation in South Africa with the USA although there are many similarities there are also many differences. In the first place the composition of the population is about exactly the opposite, what is the word? It's the other way around. In your country the minority of people are blacks. In this country they are the majority. So that is a big difference. Another major problem, and I know that you are these days also having problems with languages, you have the Hispanics and what have you. But the language situation in this country is quite different. You might not know this but even now at this stage in my department we have ethnic schools, even up till now. Even in Soweto there is a tendency for ethnic groups to go to certain schools. So the language problem is a major problem. White schools, at the moment, are primarily either Afrikaans speaking schools or English speaking schools. I think there will be a tendency of black children that when they do go to white schools in the urban areas to rather go to English speaking schools than to Afrikaans speaking schools. So new patterns are going to develop. I think another similarity which might happen here, and which also happened in your country, is that private schools became sort of a new development and I can foresee the possibility in this country that a lot of new schools may come about which are actually going to be private schools and where standards will be maintained in a different way than can be done in public schools.

POM     It would be really private schools that would be established for the purpose of not having to take black students?

SDB     There might be groupings in this country who would do it for that cause but I think the tendency would be to establish private schools to upkeep standards. In the school where my son is at the moment in Paarl, he's at Paarl Boys' High which is a fantastic school, they have now become a Model B school and they have this year taken up 30 or so children of colour and basically, as far as I can ascertain, this has been no problem whatsoever because the children that were taken up complied with certain standards.

PAT     Is that a competency test?

SDB     A competency, yes. In other words there's no discrimination on colour and I think if you look at the publication of the Law Commission on this issue that comes out very strongly, that on the basis of race and colour you can't discriminate but on educational you can ascertain certain educational standards.

PAT     Are you also looking at the ... system or are you using the ... system?

SDB     No, I'm not quite aware ...?

PAT     ... as part of their subsidy ...

SDB     Yes I've heard of that. At the moment it's not being used here yet.

POM     Again, when you talk about reality and where the physical location of schools are, the reality in the future is that most black students - there will not be the movement of white students into schools in black townships so that in a way the flow of students would be from the townships into white schools without their being a reciprocal flow of students from white areas into black areas. So the reality is that most schools and most townships will remain composed of black students.

SDB     Well if you look at the numbers, in my department the number of first year pupils in grade 1, that's the first school year, is as many as the total white education population in this country. So what I'm saying is that even if all the schools are open you will still have schools which are going to be black schools. What I'm saying is a new dispensation is not going to change and there were great fears in this country when we abolished the Group Areas Act and yet if you look at the country now there really hasn't been a major shift of population because as you indicated early on people tend to want to live with their own people.

     So I'm saying, yes, if the main reason I believe why black parents take their children out of the black townships and put them in schools elsewhere, it's because of the fact that there isn't discipline and because there is intimidation and because there is theft and because there is burglary and because there isn't a culture of learning and teaching in their own schools. And they are worried about the education of their children and they take their children elsewhere because they believe that they can get proper education at those schools. But I really don't believe that colour is a motivating factor in that sense.

POM     I'd like you to go back for a moment to your reference to ethnic schools and how prevalent these are.

SDB     Well can I just make that quite clear? I just want to explain that because I don't want any misunderstanding. We as a department are not organising or structuring ethnic schools. This is a tendency amongst the community. We have no policy whatsoever to establish ethnic schools. We don't do it because it won't be acceptable to black people. But what I'm saying is this is a sort of a private and public morality. Black people stand in public and say we reject all forms of ethnicity, but in reality we know it, we see what is happening today in the major struggle between groups. I think it will be a very unrealistic person to say that ethnicity isn't playing a role in this. So what I'm saying is that ethnicity is playing a role but it is not being in any way structured officially by our department. We have schools and we give all schools equal treatment.

POM     In effect what you're saying, what interests me is the fact of the existence of ethnicity and the manner in which it is often denied to exist. My question is, how prevalent would it be? In a community like Soweto do people generally organise themselves along ethnic lines in terms of schooling?

SDB     No I don't think one would say that this is a general trend. What I'm saying is that there are tendencies where you could ascertain that in a certain school there would be a tendency that one group would go to that school. But even that school won't be, let us say, predominantly a Zulu school. But there are certainly tendencies but it's not a general thing. You know we don't have Zulu schools and Xhosa schools and Tswana schools.

PAT      Is there some kind of a traditional language in those schools?

SDB     Our policy, up till now, has been that for the first three years in the primary school teaching is done through the medium of the home language, the vernacular. After that, and this is the problem that I've been referring to earlier on, you have the situation after the third school year, tuition is done through the medium of English and in certain areas, may I say, the teachers are not very well acquainted with English and the pupils, some of them, I mean you can imagine that some of them come from areas where they don't even have a radio and they are confronted with this situation that they are being taught in a language that they don't understand by people who can't use the language properly. So this is a major problem. It's really a major problem. It is also one of the reasons why we can't use white teachers freely in our primary schools because of the language problem.

PAT     What about Afrikaans?

SDB     Well Afrikaans is taught as one of the official languages.

PAT     But if there's a native language or the local language up to grade III, then English, is Afrikaans ...?

SDB     Afrikaans is not, except where communities ask for that, Afrikaans is not the language of tuition at all in our schools, although I must say there are some schools where the children, in some areas in this country the second language of the black children is Afrikaans. I've experienced this, when I move about on the playground I've talked to these children and they respond to me when I speak Afrikaans to them but they can't when I speak English to them. So there are some areas where the second language of these children is actually Afrikaans but when you come into the classroom, this has become sort of a symbolic thing, they want to be taught in English.

POM     One or two last questions. You talked about the curriculum re-design. In the area of history, which would be a matter of major contention to find a common history, are there people working on the re-design of history courses?

SDB     Yes, yes, that is one subject where there is certainly, there's been a lot of talk for many years about people's education and I don't want to go into the negative aspects of people's education but we have always acknowledged the fact that there are also very positive aspects in people's education and I think if people's education referred to relevant education that certainly, I believe, is a matter of great importance and it is of absolute importance that in the devising of new curriculum education must be relevant. There's no doubt in my mind that in a subject like history, for instance, that curriculum must certainly refer and have relevance to the world of the black child. And that is something which will certainly have to be and is at the moment being taken into serious consideration.

POM     But at the moment the education, the history a black child would learn would essentially be the 'white version' of history of how South Africa came into being?

SDB     Well we are prescribing different text books and in this regard there is some freedom of movement in the schools in selecting their own text books but there is, I certainly believe that there is, this is something which is getting serious attention and we acknowledge will have to get further attention on the way ahead.

PAT     Are there available text books that go back to pre-colonial times in terms of the development of traditional, of the African culture in this area? Do such text books exist?

SDB     Yes. This is a very specific question and if you have a problem in this regard I would like to put it to the education experts.

PAT     It's more of, we've been trying to get a written pre-colonial history of the area and we've asked various academics.

SDB     But I'm aware of the fact that different authors are being prescribed and I think also that would have more acceptability in black circles. But if you want this kind of detail I can certainly find it for you.

POM     Last question. How long do you think it will take?

SDB     The million dollar question!

POM     Save this for the very last! Just roughly, how long it will take to achieve parity on expenditure so all the population groups and the per capita income on education for African, Indian, Coloured and whites?

SDB     Well this is also going to relate very closely to the progress we're going to make in bringing about one education system. If we say that this one and this is what we believe, the new education system which will be brought about is going to be non-racial, non-discriminatory, non-sexist, it will mean that the moment this education system comes about we will not be able to determine any more disparities because everybody will be treated the same.

POM     And this would become part of what a transitional government would do?

SDB     I think this would certainly be one of the most important areas that a transitional government will have to address immediately.

POM     OK. Thank you ever so much for all your time.

SDB     Yes, I hope I haven't ...

POM     You didn't have a problem with any questions, constitutional matters?

SDB     But it's a delicate area at the moment.

PAT     We're told that, it's a universal statement, that for students to go into university education have to do their examinations in Afrikaans and that's why ...

SDB     Would you just repeat that?

PAT     When you take your examination for college, university, higher education, that you have to have a working knowledge in Afrikaans, that some aspects of the examination are given in Afrikaans.

SDB     That's nonsense. I don't know where you got that.

PAT     I got it from a number of parents who say the reason they put their children in some of these private education schools was to learn Afrikaans.

SDB     A child in matric, a black, a certificate for a child in matric does not even have to have Afrikaans as a subject. It's not compulsory for a black child, that's what I'm saying, to take Afrikaans as a matric subject.

PAT     And to enter a university?

SDB     Yes. I hope I'm right but I can't see if Afrikaans is not a compulsory language in matric how it can be compulsory to do an examination for it. That's nonsense. We have foreign students studying at our universities so I really can't see that. I can't see how that can be the case. It doesn't make sense to me.

PAT     Next time it comes up I'll pursue it more. One of those things that are just said and you take it.

SDB     There are also a lot of misconceptions.

PAT     Obviously.

SDB     And I said this quite recently at a press conference that when you can't find anything to say, it has become custom to say, "But it's apartheid's fault." Fortunately, we are rapidly moving into a situation where that excuse will not be valid any more. But people will have to realise that you can't succeed in life with a pass one, pass all sort of mentality. Success in the academic world can only be achieved through hard work and some of my pupils will have to realise that very soon if they haven't yet.

POM     OK. Can I get a copy of your speech?

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.