Historical continuities in the education policy discourses of the African National Congress, 1912-1992

Sam Govender, Aslam Fataar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article considers the nature and trajectory of the African National Congress’s (ANC) education policy discourses from its founding in 1912, until its repatriation from exile by 1992. The broad issue that this article considers is how to explain why the ANC was inadequately prepared to address the educational challenges of a democratic South Africa. The article considers the relationship between its political struggles against segregation and apartheid and the particular educational focus that it favoured during this period. From its inception, the ANC was actively involved in the political arena, with the purpose of opposing racist rule. The article suggests that its involvement in the education arena was subordinate to its political focus, with consequences for the type of educational change and curriculum orientation that it favoured. Employing a historical-sociological perspective, we divide ANC involvement in politics and education into two broad and distinct periods. The first period from 1912 to 1960 examines ANC involvement within South Africa. The second period from 1960 to 1992 examines the ANC in exile. We end the article with some discussion of the ANC’s education reform trajectory from 1992 to 1995, in other words, its educational orientations during the context of political negotiations, and the first years of a democratic South Africa. It will be argued that during both periods, the ANC focused on struggle politics that relegated education to a position ancillary to its political struggle, which resulted in discursive continuities in its educational orientations. Despite some contestation, these continuities were characterised by their remarkably consistent support for a traditional liberal education across the existence of the organisation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number901
JournalSouth African Journal of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic education
  • African National Congress
  • Bantu Education uct
  • Education policy discourses
  • Exile
  • Historical continuities
  • Missionary education
  • Political education
  • Polytechnic education
  • Traditional-liberal education


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