The association started with 35 members in 1991 with Harold Herman as its first president, Peter Kallaway the Vice-President, Nick Taylor the Secretary and David Gilmour as the Treasurer. In time Crain Soudien replaced Nick Taylor and this executive, based in the Western Cape, developed as the organization’s founding leadership. A number of important initiatives that would come to give the organization its character developed out of the work of this executive and a small group of key members such as Anne-Marie Bergh and Petro van Niekerk at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. The first was to seek membership of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES) and the second was to establish a journal called the Southern African Review of Education (SARE).

In terms of the first initiative, obtaining acceptance by the WCCES at its Council meeting in Prague in 1992 was a considerable challenge and required considerable diplomatic and behind-the-scenes work on the part of a number of people. SACHES was forced to confront the fact that South Africa’s racial history, even as the country was attempting to divest itself of that baggage, and even as it sought to position itself as the one society that self-consciously addressed the issues of the country and region’s divided racial history, remained the most critical feature of its identity. Come into being as a deliberately inclusive organization as it might have, this fact was not apparent to, or accepted by key individuals inside of the WCCES who raised questions about SACHES’ links with South Africa’s apartheid past.

Crucially, the process of establishing the organization’s credentials as an open and inclusive organization, awkward as it was both in the WCCES and SACHES, served to emphasize for all concerned how central the issues of race and difference, and the importance of working through these, were to the organization. Having gained acceptance into the WCCES in the course of 1992, importantly, the organization came to be known, and in many ways distinguishable, within it for promoting inclusion, both within the region and in relation to the questions of the marginalization of the south – precisely the opposite picture projected about it in its first official engagements with the WCCES.