Apartheid in South Africa

In response to today's International Law lecture on apartheid in South Africa, I asked a friend of mine who is from South Africa how they teach about apartheid there.  Never having been to South Africa - let alone attended school there - I have only learned about it from an outsider perspective.  This is his response to how apartheid is taught in South Africa.

How is the history of apartheid taught in South Africa?

We are exposed to it basically every day from something about it being on the news to magazine and newspaper articles to documentaries to racist rants online. It's everywhere. Many people feel utterly saturated by the entire concept by the time it's taught to them in high school that they quickly lose interest. That's what happened to me but I got interested in it again in university.

In primary/high school it's mostly just touched on. We're taught that pre-1994 SA was filled with evil white people who put a system into place to oppress anyone who was non-white and they were violently struck down if they tried to resist. Then along came Mandela in 1994 and he saved South Africa. We study some specific examples like the Sharpeville Massacre and how SA was sanctioned internationally but not much else.

In university it's taught far more in-depth and in uni I discovered for the first time that there had been a conflict during this time called the South African Border War (which is what I study in my research). And of course uni goes far more in-depth and you discover it wasn't just a collection of super-evil people keeping apartheid going but that white people also fought against it and that there were many, many other terrible incidents beyond the Sharpeville Massacre. But you're also taught that the ANC got violent and bombed innocent civilians in relation to apartheid forces doing the same.

In other words we're taught initially that the ANC and Mandela were the shining knights coming to SA's rescue to destroy the evil apartheid system but later if you dig deeper you see that even though the apartheid system was awful, the revolution that threw it over was far from bloodless and that the current system is just as corrupt, if not more so, than the old one and we're all just waiting for apartheid-style laws to rear their ugly head again (which is kind of already happening - look up "Protection of State Information Bill").

The victors write the history and it becomes apparent as you grow up that yes, apartheid was terrible and we're glad it's gone, but the ANC is no longer the amazing party it was and of course skew how apartheid is seen in the schools.

For your question specifically, the history of apartheid is everywhere in our country, we're saturated by it and any overseas group that make even the smallest documentary on it are shown here IF it shows the ANC as the good guys only and doesn't acknowledge their violent methods in the late-apartheid struggle. It's not like in Germany where they just don't talk about it, everyone here knows about it and in schools it's taught in a very specific manner.

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