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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


OOSTHUIZEN, Izak  e  VAN DER WALT, Hannes. From apartheid to a fundamental rights dispensation in South Africa: Did political transformation result in an improvement in education?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2023, vol.63, n.1, pp.139-153. ISSN 2224-7912.

During the years of apartheid governance in South Africa, insufficient emphasis was placed on the recognition of human values and fundamental rights such as freedom, equality, equity, and human integrity. In many respects, this neglect had a damaging effect on the South African society, in particular on the rights of people of colour to free and equal access to basic education. National educational provisions categorised education into four separate departments of education, one for each of the South African racial groups. This approach was in force for the best part of the 20th century, despite the fact that various international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1959 strongly insisted on equality, and free access to education for all. The latter Declaration, in its preamble, placed special emphasis on the interests of the child, stating that all of mankind owed the child the best it was able to impart. The aim of the research reported in this article was to identify the processes entailing a pendulum-swing from racial discrimination in education to the adoption of statutory mandates that would ensure equal access to education for every citizen in the country. The investigation also attended to case law that gave legal expression to this turnaround in education. The investigation culminated in the critical question of whether, in terms of some recent comparative international ratings of learners ' reading and numeracy skills, the quality and standard of teaching and learning in South African schools had benefited from the transition to a democratic dispensation, or whether teaching and learning had been neglected in the process. A hermeneutic-constructivist approach was followed in searching for answers to these questions. The swing towards equal access to education in South Africa began in the 1990s. The first step was the promulgation of the Interim Constitution of 1993, followed by the final Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in 1996. The chapters on fundamental rights in both these Constitutions entrench equality, freedom and human dignity as core values. These values also appear as fundamental human rights in chapter two of the final Constitution. In both these contexts - as values and as fundamental rights - everyone is entitled to free and equal access to education. During 1996, and in the years immediately thereafter, several legislative decrees were promulgated, and several official policy documents based on these values and rights were published. The stipulations embodied in the National Education Policy Act and in the South African Schools Act, both promulgated in 1996, are of particular significance in the project of ensuring free and equal access to education in South Africa. A series of court cases subsequently followed that addressed incidences of unfair discrimination in education, among others discrimination based on race, cultural practices, religion, age, pregnancy, and citizenship. Although it is still early days and there is still a lot of ground to cover, it is already evident that the seed of a fundamental rights culture in South African education has been sown and that the plant is on its way to maturity. One concern remains, however, and that is whether the very heartbeat of educational practice - the standard and quality of teaching and learning in the classroom - has benefited from the transition from an apartheid dispensation to a democratic one. Several recent comparative international ratings of learners ' numeracy and reading skills seem to point to neglect with respect to learners' prowess in reading with understanding, and acquiring numerical literacy.

Palavras-chave : fundamental rights; equality; apartheid; change; education; teaching and learning.

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