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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


LUDLOW, Helen. The government teacher as mediator of a "superior" education in Colesberg, 1849-1858. Historia [online]. 2012, vol.57, n.1, pp.141-164. ISSN 2309-8392.

This article is set in the socially fluid context of a northern frontier town in the nineteenth-century Cape Colony. It examines the identity of James Rait, the young teacher at Colesberg Government School from 1849-1858. Rait was charged with implementing the complex curriculum of the New System of state education which had been introduced to the colony in 1839. Both the curriculum and textbooks were strongly rooted in Scottish educational discourses and this article investigates the teacher as mediator of a particular construction of knowledge and dispositions. It reflects on this role as the teacher who taught over 100 children of diverse cultural, class and racial backgrounds. It also examines the teacher's attempts to manage his growing incapacity to sustain a respectable manly identity. This was because of the incommensurate demands of his career and family on his ailing body and limited income. Disease can be seen to feminise the body; and while illness increasingly removed Rait from his classroom, his wife and particularly his female assistant were to bridge the domestic and working worlds and make up for his deficiency.

Keywords : liberal education; state education; colonial project; government teachers; nineteenth-century Cape Colony; Colesberg; race; gender; health.

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