History of SACHES

Formally, SACHES was established in 1991 at the annual conference of the Kenton Education Association (KEA), a general education society with which it has retained close links, and even overlapping memberships. The organization, guided by its founders Harold Herman, Peter Kallaway, David Gilmour and Crain Soudien, came into being as both a comparative and history of education society.  Its founders felt the need for a society that would devote itself to the issues of comparison and history because, critically, especially with respect to the former, none of the existing societies in the region paid particular attention to the issues of CE. KEA, the leading English-speaking education association, focused its work on curriculum and sociology of education.

The establishment of SARE as a peer-reviewed journal was an important initiative in SACHES. The journal was preceded by conference proceedings edited by Herman and Bergh (1995) and formally emerged under the editorship of members led by Kallaway at the University of the Western Cape in 1995. The journal has subsequently come to be published in conjunction with an important journal devoted to alternative education in the region, Education with Production, the vehicle of the eponymously named movement in the region under the leadership of the renowned educationist Patrick van Rensburg, who was also elected as the society’s first Honorary Fellow.

The highlight of SACHES’ history was winning the bid to host the 10th Congress of the WCCES. This meeting took place in Cape Town in 1998 under the leadership of the Western Cape Executive, chaired by Kallaway who became president after Herman had served two (two-year) terms and co-ordinated by Crain Soudien. The congress was a great success and continues to be remembered for the quality of its organization and the level of scholarship it generated. Officially, in excess of 800 delegates from 60 countries attended the meeting, and, critically, the African continent was well represented with scholars who came from its furthest reaches, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and so on.

Particularly challenging has been holding the membership intact and drawing in new members. The organization, interestingly, remains challenged by the issues of the region. Despite the intense efforts of its leadership, and here the work of Weeks must be recorded in editing the society’s electronic newsletter, the contradictions of South Africa’s relative privilege in relation to the region, and the consequent access of its scholars to greater levels of support from their universities, has configured and projected the role of South Africans in the organization in complex ways.

In terms of these developments - the difficult issues of regional dominance, in the context of the country’s racial problems, despite being the subject of regular discussion at meetings - it has been difficult to plot a way forward for the organization. Central has been an abiding anxiety within the leadership of the organization to avoid becoming a patronage agency – offering largesse to the region in the form of, for example, travel bursaries and stipends – while recognizing that its members don’t all have equal access to resources. In this challenge, the organization is confronted with the essence of the development conundrum confronting the region as a whole. What will it take to stimulate its core business of building scholarship in an environment of generalized poverty?

Critically, as SACHES approaches the end of its second decade of existence, it is as conscious as it has never been before of the nature of the issues which provide it with its raison d’etre. Struggle as it is having to with maintaining its membership, it has stimulated and is hosting an internal discussion in its journal and its meetings which is directly addressing the questions of where it can go, what it can do and how it might deal with the challenges of being a relevant scholarly society in a time and space that is not especially conducive for its development.