The Race for Education: On the Limitations of Qualifications in the Postcolony
Mark Hunter (University of Toronto)
Paper short abstract:
This paper, based on work in South Africa, considers how in postcolonial societies, education drives processes of class formation but also reworks racial-cultural hierarchies.
Paper long abstract:
Especially in the global South the last sixty years have witnessed a massive expansion in public schooling, or what in educational jargon is called student 'throughput'. Yet to focus on qualifications alone is to miss a crucial point: the more people gain qualifications, the more they are devalued. This makes the cultural resources that schools bestow on learners more important. This paper, based on work in South Africa, considers how in postcolonial societies, education drives processes of class formation but also reworks racial-cultural hierarchies. Following the end of apartheid in 1994 the ANC government placed education at the centre of its plans to build a nonracial and more equitable society. Yet the racial pecking order of South African public schools is seen daily when thousands of black learners travel from 'black' townships to attend schools in 'white' areas. This is not simply a move, from 'race to class apartheid' as some on the left argue; in this high-stakes world, whiteness has a value. The seven percent of public schools built for whites compete by showing a fidelity to whiteness, and they sell to the middle class not only qualifications but also cultural aspects, including a 'white' accent. In sharp contrast, poor South Africans often leave school without being able to speak acceptable English — that is, English with the 'right' accent.
Welfare, redistribution and new forms of the "public good" [Sponsored by AFRICA: Journal of the International African Institute]