Resistance against the Apartheid State

These differences in approach to Comparative Education, predictably, are exacerbated as political conditions in South Africa deteriorate during the middle of the seventies. As Bergh and Soudien argue (forthcoming), shifts in discourse coalitions took place, which coincided with the “heterodoxy of the time.” This heterodoxy, an eruption of new political and sociological movements and accompanying social analyses, expressed itself in the emergence of the black consciousness movement and a resurgence of radical and working-class activism around the country. The Soweto student uprising catalysed a range of student, civic, labour and political movements. In attempting to comprehend these developments, the social sciences themselves undergo a major radicalization, culminating in a break in the English universities with their traditional pragmatism, a new caution amongst Afrikaner academics and a powerful upsurge of militancy at the historically-black universities. Indicative of this for our purposes was Herman’s (1986) inaugural address in 1986 which urged Comparative Education to break out of its North-South paralysis and to focus its attention on the questions of social development. Similar developments were taking place at the liberal English-speaking white universities where the issues of the Third World were assuming greater prominence (Steinberg, 1987:64). The Afrikaans universities could not stand aloof from these developments. While, generally, they remained faithful to the ideology of Christian National Education, faculty members, particularly those who in the earlier period had expressed their discomfort with the new Afrikaner dogma, began looking for new ways of teaching Comparative Education (see Bergh and Soudien, forthcoming).

As a consequence of these developments, old alliances and loyalties were loosened and occasionally ruptured, the most dramatic of which was a break between the Afrikaans and historically black universities. Bergh and Soudien (forthcoming) describe the impact of these developments as yielding new coalitions. These were strengthened after 1994 when the new democratic government came into power.

The realignments that took shape in this new period were critical in reconfiguring the Comparative Education landscape. The effervescence – an urgency in debates, research and teaching - that marked the field in the eighties gave way to a different kind of social engagement. While certain Afrikaner academics began to turn their backs from and even denied their membership of older discourse coalitions, it was the turn of the liberals to confront the complexities of their new relationship with the democratic state. From having been critics, the liberals and radicals were called upon to assist in the building of the new order. The challenges of this precipitated a turn away from the kind of Comparative Education that had been practised in the eighties. Theorizing had to be replaced by planning and development. The impact on courses in the field was immense with the name of Comparative Education all but disappearing from titles of courses and only one chair, after Herman retired in the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, that at the University of the Northwest, remaining in the entire country and even in the region.

By the turn of the millennium, Comparative Education as a taught course had largely been removed from the formal curriculum. It no longer existed in the major English-speaking universities and in leading black universities such as the University of the Western Cape. It continued to be offered in particular Afrikaans’ universities such as the University of South Africa, the University of the Northwest and in some universities in the region such as the University of Namibia (see Faculty of Education, University of Namibia Prospectus, 2005), the University of Lesotho (see Interestingly, the University of Zululand continued to have a CE department, but not a chair to lead it. Significantly, the focus in these universities, as had explicitly become the case elsewhere with the replacement of CE with courses such as Education and Development, had turned to issues of development.