Apartheid and South Africa's Student Refugees

by A. C. Jordan - 1965

The author bases the present expose of conditions in his country on personal experience, documents provided (not without some danger) by friends still in South Africa, and first-hand study of student refugees in Tanganyika. In the United States, our own record of racial injustice prevents our being the pot to call the kettle black; but the South African kettle is indeed sooty, and its human grime both defines a problem and issues a warning which all the world, including America, can ignore only to its peril.

Himself an exiled South African, Professor Jordan bases the present expose of conditions in his country on personal experience, documents provided (not 'without some danger) by friends still in South Africa, and first-hand study of student refugees in Tanganyika. In the United States, our own record of racial injustice prevents our being the pot to call the kettle black; but the South African kettle is indeed sooty, and its human grime both defines a problem and issues a 'warning 'which all the world, including America, can ignore only to its peril.

THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA has today a population of 16,000,000. These people fall into four main ethnic groups:





(indigenous Blacks)

(Whites, mainly of Dutch and British origin)

(of mixed Black-White origin)

(mainly of Indian origin)





Of these groups, only the Europeans have citizenship rights. Only they can be elected to any of the political institutions that make the laws of the country. Therefore, it is only they who decide who shall have the right to education, the right to own property, the right to seek work wherever one wishes, the right to freedom of association, the right to speak —in short, the right to human rights.

Ever since the Whites gained complete control of South Africa, segregation and discrimination have been their policy. But until the Nationalist Party (mainly Boers or Afrikaners of Dutch origin) came into power in 1948, the practical application of this policy varied from province to province, city to city, and institution to institution, depending on the socioeconomic interests of the White group. Wherever they held power, the Boers always tried to apply the policy uncompromisingly. Where the British dominated, on the other hand, things were less cut and dried; but whatever concessions they made were confined to those social activities that were not considered to be a threat to White supremacy. In the educational system of the Cape Province, for instance, the standard of education was much the same on paper, but there were separate schools for the various ethnic groups, and, in government grants, there was a vast difference in favor of the White schools; they had much better school buildings with very superior equipment, and the number of pupils per teacher was small and easily manageable. As a result, the work done at the White schools could always be of much better quality. White children had yet another advantage. For them, education was free and compulsory up to the age of 16. There has never been any such privilege for non-White children. Consequently, the White schools always produce greater numbers of better qualified boys and girls than all the non-White schools put together. The Department of Public Education in Cape Town had one Superintendent-General of Education, but there were racial sub-sections of the Department, each under a Chief Inspector.


In varying degrees, depending on the "colour traditions" of the respective provinces and localities, the English-medium universities—Cape Town, Witwatersrand (in Johannesburg), Natal, and Rhodes (in Grahamstown)—were "open" to non-Whites. Details of the limitations are to be found in a publication of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) entitled The African in the Universities. The University of Cape Town admitted non-Europeans to all faculties and courses, with the exception of the faculty of medicine, which was not open to the African section. "The reason for this exception is that there are only two training hospitals in Cape Town, which the Provincial authorities will not permit to provide clinical facilities for the training of African medical students."

The University of the Witwatersrand admitted students of all races to all courses, with some restrictions in the faculty of medicine:

In the faculty of dentistry, non-Europeans will only be admitted if sufficient apply to form a separate class numbering ten. This again is because non-European students would not be permitted to be present at the treatment of European patients. The requisite number of non-European students has never applied for admission to the dental faculty, and consequently none have ever been admitted.

The University of Natal offered courses to non-Europeans in the faculties of arts, education, commerce, and social science. The courses and examinations were the same as those for European students, but they were taught in separate classes. For Europeans, courses are available in the faculties of engineering, architecture, law, agriculture, and fine art, but they are not open to non-Europeans. The University of Natal has a medical school primarily for non-Europeans.

Rhodes University admitted non-Europeans "only in exceptional circumstances" for postgraduate courses only. Between 1951 and 1959, Fort Hare University College (for non-Europeans) followed the same syllabuses as Rhodes University, and the students wrote the same examinations; but financially and administratively, Fort Hare was independent of Rhodes University.

Mention may also be made of the University of South Africa, a correspondence college that admits students of all races but has separate libraries and holds separate vacation courses and graduation ceremonies at separate places for White and non-White students.


None of the "open" universities allow "racial mixing" for purposes of sport, dances, and such other social activities.

The Afrikaans-medium universities—Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein, Potchef-stroom and Pretoria—never admitted non-Whites, and Potchefstroom has always kept its doors closed even to White non-Protestants (Jews and Catholics).

Towards the end of the Second World War, the French Canadian Catholic Mission founded Pius XII College in Basutoland, primarily for African Catholics in Southern Africa. On applying to the University of South Africa for recognition as a kind of constituent college of that university, the authorities of Pius XII College were forced into a gentlemen's agreement that they would "respect the traditions of South Africa" and not admit any White students except, if necessary, individuals who were immediately associated with Catholic missionary work in Basutoland itself.

In 1954, the Government of South Africa stopped all "foreign Natives"—that is, Africans from outside the Union—from studying in any of the institutions of higher learning in the Union of South Africa. The ban did not cover White students from these foreign areas.

The basis of unity between British and Boer in South Africa is, of course, White supremacy. Through the policy of apartheid, which brought them into power in 1948, the Nationalist Party, now led by Dr. Verwoerd, seeks to evolve a ruthless machinery wherewith to eliminate all inconsistencies and bring about strict uniformity in the practical application of political, economic, and social segregation and discrimination in order to perpetuate the policy of White supremacy to which the Whites, as a group, are committed.

In view of the numerical superiority of the non-Whites, equality of racial opportunity in any sphere of activity would be a threat to White supremacy; and in the modern world, this is more obvious in the educational sphere than in any other. It was for this reason that on coming into power, the Nationalist Party's first line of attack was the education of the Africans. In introducing the Bantu Education Bill in 1953, Dr. Verwoerd stated quite openly in the House of Assembly Debates (Hansard, Vol. 83) that the purpose of the Bill was to bring "Native" education into line with "the policy of the state." The Department of Native Affairs, of which Verwoerd was minister at the time, had been created specially to administer all things "Native" within the framework of segregation and White supremacy. Hitherto, the African had been receiving a kind of education that failed to produce the kind of "Native" acceptable to "the policy of the State." It "made him feel different, made him feel he is not a member of a Bantu community but a member of a wider community." Since it was the Department of Native Affairs that formulated "Native policy," deciding what the African would be allowed to do or debarred from doing, the education of the "Native" must be transferred from the provinces and brought under the Department of Native Affairs. So went Verwoerd's argument, and, in a clumsily constructed and ungrammatical portion of his speech, he reminded the "opposition" that they were as much committed to the policy of White supremacy as he was:

Honourable members always profess not to be in favour of equal rights, and therefore they should now support me in principle in what I am saying. If they, like we on this side, are not in favour of equal rights, and if they are, like we are, in favour of the Native's development within his own sphere and his the service of his own people, then such a person should be reared in that idea from the start.


The Bantu Education Act did not de jure affect university education, but it was clear to any sensible person that if it worked as intended, the Act would destroy higher education for the Africans in a decade. Long before the Bill was passed in 1953—in fact, as early as 1949, after the terms of reference of the Eiselen Commission on Native Education had been published—the African people's fight against Bantu Education had begun. In this respect, a principled lead was given by the Cape African Teachers' Association (CATA), as indicated in a resolution passed unanimously at this organization's annual conference in Cape Town (June, 1952). In reply to the Report of the Eiselen Commission Report on Native Education (1951), which, among other things, recommended the control of African rural schools by tribal authorities, the CATA resolution said,

Whereas it is the considered view of the Cape African Teachers' Association:

(a) That the African has no "special" qualities and aptitudes peculiar to himself and different from those of other human beings,

(b) That the economic forces in South Africa have completely broken down the whole basis of the tribal system, and that it is not only fraudulent and reactionary, but also unrealistic and futile to attempt to revive tribalism through the agency of the schools or in any other manner,

Now, therefore, this conference of CATA:

(1) Rejects entirely the recommendations of the Eiselen Commission on "Native" Education,

(2) Calls upon all non-European teachers to organize the people and explain to them the recommendations of the report and the disastrous consequences of their application; particularly the control of education by tribal authorities, the registration of schools along tribal lines, and the imposition of special "Native" syllabuses and vernacular media of instruction, which are designed to limit the scope of African education in order to produce underdeveloped beings, with no hope of ever aspiring to, and claiming, opportunities and rights equal to those enjoyed by Europeans,

(3) Warns the African people against the danger of accepting portions of the report which appear to be progressive, as all the recommendations are inseparably bound up with the fundamental aim of educating the African child for a subordinate position in Society.


The purpose of the campaign on which the teachers embarked after this conference was not to send deputations to persuade the rulers not to carry out their schemes but, true to the spirit of the resolution, to organize the people to reject and fight Bantu Education. So, in spite of intimidation by the Department of Native Affairs through its local native commissioners (White), by armed police who searched the teachers in the presence of their pupils during school hours, by the Special Branch (Security Police) who raided teachers' homes for "subversive literature," by school inspectors some of whom told the lie that the Cape African Teachers' Association was "an unlawful organization"—in spite of direct threats through press and radio made by Dr. W. M. M. Eiselen (who by this time had given up his professorship at Pretoria University and had become Secretary for Native Affairs)—the campaign went from strength to strength even after the Bantu Education Bill had become the Bantu Education Act of 1953. The transfer of African education to the Department of Native Affairs was scheduled to take effect as of April 1, 1955. The people were expected to elect representatives to newly created Bantu School Boards and Bantu School Committees. But when the time came, early in 1955, the people were so antagonistic to this system that, in the Cape Province at least, not a single Board or Committee was elected according to the letter of the relevant clause in the Act. The attitude of the African people was that if this "slave education" was going to be forced upon them, at least they still had the right to refuse to be used as instruments to operate it. All the Boards and Committees consisted of government nominees, mostly civil servants, and therefore no contact could be established between government and governed to make a success of the scheme.

As soon as the transfer had taken place, the whole of the official machinery, on local municipal as well as on central government levels, was let loose upon African education. To demonstrate its power, the Department of Native Affairs introduced a systematic province-to-province weeding-out and dismissal of all those Africans in the teaching profession who were known to be uncompromising and outspoken opponents of Bantu Education, starting with the executive of CATA plus 40 other Cape African teachers. Most of the teachers so dismissed were in higher primary, secondary, and high schools, and included highly efficient headmasters. As the waves of dismissals occurred any time of the year, many of the posts could not be filled, and some secondary schools had to drop key subjects within months of the final public examinations. There was also a general moving around of yet-undismissed teachers. In some cases, the whole teaching-staff of a school was transferred from one region to another; in others, the head of one school was sent to a subordinate position at some other school under a different school board.

In terms of the Group Areas Act of 1950, many African schools had to close down because they were "black spots" in White Group Areas. St. Peter's College (Church of England), Johannesburg, one of the very best African high schools ever to exist, was one of those affected by this cruel law. Educational institutions that had hitherto been controlled by missionary bodies were re-organized so as to eliminate all teaching departments and subjects that were "not suitable for Natives." The Cuthbert Library at Love-dale, most famous of all educational institutions in South Africa, was disposed of by public auction. Adams College, the oldest and largest educational institution for Africans in Natal, was liquidated because the trustees of the American Board of Missions, who founded this college, would neither accept Bantu Education nor rent their property to the government for this purpose. For the same reason, in the Diocese of Johannesburg all schools controlled by the Church of England had to close down. Co-educational institutions were reorganized (more correctly, ^organized) by eliminating on short notice either the boys' or the girls' boarding departments and advising the parents of the students affected to apply for admission to some other boarding school for the following year. The Department of Native Affairs did not consider itself under any obligation to make sure that students who were at these boarding schools by contract with the displaced controllers were not stranded as a result of these sudden changes.


In the appointment of teaching staff to the large ex-missionary boarding schools, the first consideration was ideology rather than professional qualifications. Posts that had been held by English-speaking teachers were filled by Afrikaans-speaking supporters of "the policy of the State." As a result, students who had been taught through the medium of English from about the third or fourth year of their primary schooling suddenly found themselves under the tutorship of teachers whose command of English was in most cases poorer than their own. There were disturbances at certain institutions because the Afrikaans-speaking teachers became so sensitive to their poor command of English that they took it out on the students by punishing them for addressing them in this language.

The dismissal of the best qualified teachers, the closing down or disorganization of some of the largest and best ex-missionary boarding schools, and the employment of poorly qualified teachers would have caused enough dissatisfaction. But this was aggravated by police activity, of which more will be said later. All these factors did such damage that there was a rapid, heartrending deterioration in the whole tone of African education. Of the 2,082 African candidates who wrote the school-leaving certificate (twelfth grade or fifth form) examination between 1956 and 1959, only 455 were able to matriculate (qualify for university entrance). The successes were as follows: 164 out of 768 in 1956, 135 out of 745 in 1957, 113 out of 660 in 1958, and 43 out of 629 in 1959. And 1959 was the year in which the government introduced the university apartheid act, which was officially (and ironically and cynically) named the Extension of University Education Act.

By means of this Act, retribalization was introduced in its nakedness into university education. The Act provided for the creation of colleges for separate non-White groups and for the eventual closing of the doors of all White universities to non-Whites. Two tribal colleges were created for the Africans, one in the Northern Transvaal for the Sotho, Tsonga, and Venda-speaking; one in Zululand for the Zulu-speaking. In addition, one was created for the Coloured people in Cape Town and one for the Asians near Durban. A separate bill was introduced to annul the affiliation of the University College of Fort Hare to Rhodes University so that Fort Hare could serve as a tribal college for the Xhosa-speaking only. All the students at these tribal colleges would henceforth write the examinations of the University of South Africa, which has no resident students. In other words, these tribal colleges were going to be statusless "constituent colleges" of a correspondence college.


The purpose of this act is stated by Mr. Maree, minister of a newly created Bantu Education Department, in the House of Assembly debate (Hansard, Vol. 12, 4442-4595) on the University College of Fort Hare Transfer Bill. The Governing Council of Fort Hare had submitted a memorandum trying to dissuade the government from taking over Fort Hare. Among other things, they had mentioned that they regarded Fort Hare "as a valuable experiment in race relations." In reply to this, Mr. Maree said,

What constitutes the "valuable experiment" in race relations which they are undertaking at Fort Hare? In the first place, it consists of the fact that the staff of Fort Hare, both White and Black, are accommodated together on a basis of equality. In the second place, it consists of the fact that White and non-White serve on the council and the senate on a basis of equality. These customs must inevitably create the impression among the non-Whites that apartheid is something that disappears as soon as one has attained a certain academic level. Not only does it create the fallacious belief that the disadvantages and defects of apartheid can be overcome by attaining a certain academic level, but it also arouses among the non-Whites the subtle expectation that academic training will remove discrimination in South Africa.

Mr. Maree went on to say the experiment at Fort Hare "must create the impression that a university education is not a means of preparing themselves for the service of their community, but it is a golden key which will open the door to the White man's way of living. The sooner this particular experiment at Fort Hare is brought to an end, the better it will be for race relations in South Africa."

Of those who oppose the transfer of Fort Hare, he said, "... it is quite clear to us that they are moving in the direction of estranging all the non-Whites from their cultures, of Westernizing them, and of turning them into imitation Whites."

According to the provisions of the Act, non-White students already studying in the "open" White universities and non-Xhosa-speakers already studying at Fort Hare could remain where they were to complete the courses for which they had registered. The Coloured, S-T-V, and Zulu tribal colleges were scheduled to commence at the beginning of the academic year 1960. The Asians had a year of grace.


The Annual Report of the Department of Education, Arts and Science, gives the 1959 enrollment at the South African universities as follows: Whites, 35,095; Coloured, 822; Asians, 1,516; Africans, 1,871. For the same year, degrees were distributed in this fashion: Whites, 3,713; Coloured, 43; Asians, 81; Africans, 107. Similarly, diplomas and certificates were issued according to this pattern: Whites, 1,142; Coloured, 29; Asians, 16; Africans, 51. These figures must be wryly remembered when the rulers of South Africa report that there are no less than 2,000 "Bantu" graduates in the country. With a current population of three million, the Whites turn out nearly 4,000 in a single year, whereas the Africans, with a present population of 11 million, have produced only half as many graduates since 1652!

To open in 1960, three of the tribal colleges had to depend almost entirely on the matriculation results of 1959. It will be recalled that under the conditions then obtaining, the African high schools turned out only 43 successful examinees to be shared among these institutions. Fort Hare, of course, with its mixed non-White population, retained its non-Xhosa students. In consequence, it enrolled a total of 360, whereas the University College of the North (S-T-V) opened with only 87 and the one in Zululand with only 41.

These numbers include non-matriculated students admitted to a newly created teacher-training course known as the Bantu Education Diploma, the purpose of which is to train teachers for the new system of secondary education. Before its introduction, some teacher-training institutions (e.g., Adams College in Natal, Healdtown in Cape Province) offered post-matriculation training for teachers, and Fort Hare offered the University Education Diploma, a postgraduate teacher-training course, following the Rhodes University regulations. With the creation of the tribal colleges, these courses were "transferred" and relabeled as indicated. In 1960, it was an open secret that of the 41 students at Zulu-land, only 11 were qualified as degree aspirants. The rest were working toward the Bantu Education Diploma. Even though it further weakens, as increased separatism must, the already tenuous fiber of African secondary education, the creation of the Diploma has served as a cover to justify the tribal colleges on the ground that they provide teachers for the lower schools. The actual result is an increase in non-matriculated enrollees and a tragic decrease in qualified applicants.


The appointment of staff to the tribal colleges followed the same pattern as after the Bantu Education Act. The whole situation is summed up in an article in Africa South (In Exile) by Professor Leslie Blackwell, head of the Department of Law at Fort Hare until the transfer in 1959:

Of the five Principals, four are Afrikaners, while the fifth—who bears an English name and is, presumably, English-speaking—was the main exponent of the Government's policy of academic apartheid two years ago, when the Select Parliamentary Committee sat to take evidence on the University College of Fort Hare Bill.

About Fort Hare in particular, Blackwell continues,

Fort Hare was an English-speaking institution; it had been so from the beginning. All the students, and most of the staff, were English-speaking. Eight of the staff were dismissed when the Government took over, and eight others, mostly African professors and lecturers, have resigned. Their places have been filled, to a man, by Afrikaners. Fort Hare is not only being dismembered; it is in the process of being turned, so far as the language of its students will permit, into an Afrikaans institution. This has, of course, occasioned the most profound resentment and bitterness among Africans and Indians especially.

The reason for the Fort Hare dismissals was stated by the Minister of Bantu Education as he was quoted on October 5, 1959, in the two leading English-language daily newspapers in Johannesburg:

I disposed of their services because I will not permit a penny of any funds of which I have control to be paid to any persons who are known to be destroying the Government's policy of apartheid.

The next issue of the Johannesburg Sunday Times, October 11, carried a resolution passed by the students of Fort Hare on the dismissal of their professors. The students stated that their stand upholding the principles of education as universally accepted remained "unchanged and uncompromising," and that their outright condemnation of the university apartheid legislation remained steadfast. In conclusion, the resolution said,

We wish to warn the architects of White domination, the whole country and the world at large that we will not be held responsible for the disastrous repercussions of this apartheid policy, which in the foreseeable future will destroy the entire social, political, and economic structure of our country.


The atmosphere, described by the Fort Hare students in their resolution as "making the normal pursuit of academic activities almost impossible," was made worse by police activity. The police activity that had contributed considerably to the deterioration of educational standards in the ex-missionary boarding schools was extended to the tribal colleges in their first year of existence. With the knowledge of the school or college authorities, police spies were planted among the students. Police raids became frequent, and student protests against this practice resulted in mass expulsions. Protests against expulsions resulted in yet more expulsions. If there were demonstrations, the police were immediately called in, instruction suspended, and all the students made to pack up their belongings under armed police supervision and leave the institution under police "escort" to wait at their homes until they were invited to apply for readmission.

The "disturbances" that occurred in some of the institutions are recorded and briefly described in the annual Survey of Race Relations for 1960 through 1962. The alleged causes in the Survey are based mainly on official and newspaper reports. From the point of view of the students, the causes were very different. Since the state of emergency that was proclaimed after the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, the students in most African colleges have found their situation intolerable. At the faintest rumor of a political disturbance or impending protest demonstration anywhere in the country, African institutions are immediately raided for "dangerous weapons" or for "subversive literature," floodlit, and patrolled by armed police for weeks on end. At Fort Hare, the Special Branch has virtually a permanent office. The rough handling of students, male and female, by raiding police has led to positive rioting; and this, of course, has led to arrests and imprisonments. Students as well as suspect African teachers have been dismissed in large numbers since early 1960, and those of them who went to the cities after dismissal or imprisonment were hampered by special laws from either working or prosecuting their studies.

This then led to the great exodus of students, of which most people have heard only vaguely if at all. All over the country, in the cities as well as in the rural areas, dismissed students and teachers were counted among those detained or sentenced to terms of imprisonment during the state of emergency after the Sharpeville Massacre, including those who escaped into the British Protectorates while on bail and those who left the country after serving terms of imprisonment. Since the middle of 1961, the numbers crossing the border into Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland have been swollen enormously by male and female university graduates and undergraduates, nurse trainees, and senior and junior high school boys straight from their schools.


Quite disillusioned, and not waiting to be expelled or imprisoned, many students have walked out to seek a genuine education anywhere outside the Republic of South Africa. It is impossible to estimate how many hundreds or even thousands did this before the government decided to patrol the borders a year ago, or how many have succeeded in crossing in spite of the police patrols. Nor must it be forgotten that since the introduction of Bantu Education, some parents have been sending their children to the British Protectorates, particularly Basutoland and Swaziland, for primary and secondary education, and to Pius XII College for university education. The 1959-1960 Survey reports that there were 76 African students from the Republic studying at Pius XII. According to information given by a senior teacher at the Basutoland High School in Maseru in December, 1959, that high school had received so many applications for admission in January, 1960, that no less than 232 had to be turned down for lack of accommodation. The policy of the South African government now is not to allow any Africans trained outside its Republic to teach there and, what is more, to regard every African entering the Republic after some years of absence as "a saboteur trained abroad." For these reasons, hardly any of these young people return or intend to return to South Africa for some time. They join the numbers that attempt to reach the independent African states beyond White-dominated Southern Rhodesia. Once past that loyal ally of their own country, South African refugees are succored by African political organizations and granted asylum by friendly African governments. But this does not mean that their troubles are over.

In August, 1963, a sample was taken of the South African refugee students who had been granted asylum by Tanganyika. They included university graduates, teachers of long standing who wanted teaching posts, and younger men who wished to further their studies; there were undergraduates seeking universities that would give credit for the intermediate courses already done, matriculants just ready to begin undergraduate studies, pre-university senior high school boys and girls, and post-primary boys and girls at various junior secondary school stages. The female students included fully qualified nurses eager for advanced training, probation nurses who wished to qualify, and young girls who wished to train as stenographers and for general office work. In addition, there was a large number of young workers, urbanized youth who, though their formal schooling ended at higher primary school, were nevertheless in some respects better equipped for further training than the average boy or girl who had just completed a junior secondary school course at a rural school.


Their greatest problem—to find financial aid for education—went hand in hand with the problem of differences in systems of education. The South African matriculation is equivalent to the British fifth form (American twelfth grade plus). The university colleges in East Africa follow the British system in which the university entrance qualification is the sixth form (Cambridge Higher Certificate or London General Certificate of Education with some Advanced Levels). In order to qualify, a South African matriculant has to do at least two subjects on the Advanced Level. There were some overseas institutions that had scholarships to offer to university graduates who wished to specialize, or to those who desired technical training only. But there were also a few that were open to undergraduates, and even pre-university boys and girls, with credit for any work previously done. A few students have managed to obtain scholarships from such institutions. Many who failed to obtain scholarships reported that they lacked supporting documentary evidence for their qualifications. This was perhaps the most cruel of the refugee students' problems. In the circumstances under which they left South Africa, most of them could not bring any certificates or testimonials with them. There were some who did not even know the results of their last public examinations because they had found it necessary to flee between the writing of the examinations and the publication of the results. The examining bodies concerned would not so much as acknowledge the receipt of letters of inquiry, and no refugee was prepared to endanger the lives of friends and relatives at home by communicating with them on this matter. As is well known, university offices of admission and scholarship trustees are always skeptical about such explanations, especially in countries where upheavals of this nature are unfamiliar.

A depressing aspect of the life of the refugees in Dar Es Salaam is the utter frustration resulting from a lack of something to do to earn one's living. If there were industries in Tanganyika, many of these young people would perhaps develop a sufficient liking for the necessary skills that they would forget about university degrees and turn happily to careers as skilled laborers. But industrial opportunities are few, and old hopes are virtually the only resources of the student refugees.

A typical refugee school, established by the African-American Institute in Dar Es Salaam, provides tutors and caters mainly to refugees who have already gone some way towards fulfilling university entrance requirements. It also provides modest sleeping accommodation for a limited number of students. In 1963, there were only two full-time tutors, the rest being volunteer graduate students from Harvard. The teaching staff worked under extremely difficult conditions. Almost each and every student came to seek help in just one or two subjects in order to qualify for a promised scholarship, and no two students seemed to want the same subjects. As a result, there were as many timetables as there were students. There was also the problem of language. The refugees included some from the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique who could not be taught in English. As none of the tutors knew Portuguese, the only thing to do was first to teach them the elements of English, another time-consuming step in a life of frustrating delays.


The ultimate solution here must, of course, be the complete overthrow of the forces of racial oppression in the home countries of the refugees. But an immediate solution has to be found to the sufferings of the refugees and, more specifically, to the problem of educating the young people who are faced with frustration and disillusionment after braving so many hardships in their determined search for knowledge. Southern Africans at home and in exile are deeply grateful to the foreign governments and institutions that have granted scholarships to individual students, and to the African-American Institute for its noble effort. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that, generous as they are, these gestures are far from genuine solutions. There is evidence from the efforts they are making that sympathetic organizations in certain countries (e.g., in Scandinavia) fully realize that, in order to be solved, this problem must be conceived and attacked as a whole. Throughout the civilized world, there must be organizations, large and small, whose active sympathy will be aroused once they understand the plight of the refugee students and the measures needed to alleviate their condition.

If the problem is to be tackled as a whole, as here and now suggested, the first step is to locate the refugees, in independent Africa as well as in the British Protectorates in Southern Africa. Since this must not and can not be done without the cooperation of the exiles, whatever body undertakes this task must have the confidence of these people. There must be an efficient full-time organizer who has the respect and trust of the students as well as national organizations. Such a man could certainly be found among the exiled teachers, who are known to have been victimized, banned, house-imprisoned, or otherwise persecuted for their role in the fight against the Bantu Education Act. There should be a committee or committees on which the exiles are represented, preferably by educationists.

There will be a fundamental need to provide educational facilities on all levels. Many adult workers will be anxious to improve their knowledge, especially if the offerings include training in such skills as will open the way to better fields of employment. Second, there are many, especially among the youth from Mozambique, who are still at the very lowest stages of literacy. Third, there is a large number of refugee families in which the children will certainly need educational help. These include children born in exile. A wider definition will therefore have to be found for "refugee student." For the majority, all educational facilities should be provided within the continent of Africa, with more emphasis on technology, nursing, stenography and general office work than on the liberal arts. Scholarships for study overseas should be reserved for those who display outstanding talent for subjects that cannot be provided locally and for those students who really distinguish themselves in their new opportunities.


Economically and educationally, it would not be advisable to create facilities anywhere exclusively for refugees. To minimize the cost and to broaden the vision of the refugees as well as that of their contemporaries in the host country, it would be advisable to approach the government of an industrially developed central independent African state such as Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and make an offer to expand the buildings, improve the equipment, and enlarge the scope and teaching-staff of each of the relevant institutions, existing and contemplated. The government concerned would then, in turn, guarantee admission to a reasonable stated minimum number of Southern African exiles to each institution. Should the need arise, the scheme could be extended to other states. This would certainly be of lasting benefit to the host countries.

It is hoped that university men and women and educationists the world over, will recognize this situation as a challenge to them more than to any other class of people. It is in the name of civilization that the Whites of South Africa deny the non-Whites the right to knowledge. The rulers of South Africa take every conceivable opportunity to tell the world that they are "the guardians, the last stronghold of Western Civilization on the continent of Africa." But no intellectually honest man or woman supports the view that any civilization can be preserved by denying it to mankind. The Whites of South Africa are not the guardians of civilization; they are the guardians of White supremacy—stark, naked herrenvolkism. Let the civilized men and women of the world demonstrate to them that the only condition for the continued existence of any civilization is that as many of the people of the world as possible should be thoroughly soaked in it and share its benefits to the full.

In addition to professional, cultural, industrial, and civic bodies, it would be most gratifying to see university student bodies fully involved in this project. To any intelligent student, the issues involved—man's right to knowledge, re-tribalization versus Westernization—should be challenging enough; and the proposed mode of action as a response should capture the imagination of such students. If, for instance, there are 25,000 students on campus and each student donates one dollar per month, that single campus could make a contribution of $300,000 per year. Indeed, this systematic approach could give birth to an internationally sponsored center of learning of tremendous dimensions and possibilities in Africa, the proudest international cultural monument for centuries to come.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 66 Number 5, 1965, p. 387-398
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 2437, Date Accessed: 5/26/2022 12:44:31 PM

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