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Yesterday and Today

On-line version ISSN 2309-9003
Print version ISSN 2223-0386

Y&T  n.7 Vanderbijlpark Jan. 2012




Citizenship education for Africans in South Africa (1948-1994): A critical discourse



Johannes Seroto

Educational Foundations Dept University of South Africa (UNISA)




The paper presents a critical discussion of the provision of citizenship education for Africans in South Africa during the period 1948-1994. A conceptual analysis of Johnson and Morris' critical citizenship framework and its four dimensions, namely, ideology, the collective, self and praxis, is presented. Utilising this framework, the author examines the goals and aims of the former National Party government in their project to provide citizenship education through history, social science and civics teaching in schools for African students. The study suggests that the goal of the state in promoting citizenship education during the former political dispensation as seen through the four dimensions did not create space for critical thinking and dialogue, crucial elements for critical citizenship education. Recommendations with regard to the form and content of citizenship education in future are made.

Keywords: Citizenship; Citizenship education; Critical citizenship education; Critical thinking; Curriculum.




The promotion of 'critical citizenship' has become a fundamental and crucial area of the state's social responsibilities. The modern state faces the imperative to establish and maintain an authentic, free and democratic society, while ensuring that critical thinking is cardinal in society. Citizenship education in South Africa is not immune from this challenge. Mathebula (2009:81) argues that even though South Africa has established a democracy, the question of citizenship remains at the crossroads and "is stretched and pulled in different directions". The post-apartheid government is striving to mould a new kind of citizen and a new democratic nation that can move beyond the racist policies of the past and which is governed by virtues such as respect for individual worth, fairness and justice. Certainly there is a prevailing need to re-conceptualise citizenship education in South Africa from a critical perspective.

A comprehensive discussion about critical thinking within this limited space is not feasible; however, I will provide a brief overview of some key issues and definitions in the debates surrounding critical thinking and operationalise the term for this study. Critical thinking has been a dominant element of social studies education for the past four decades or more (Beyer, 2008; Engle & Ochoa, 1988; Newmann, 1991). Scholars hold diverse views about critical thinking (Bailin, Case, Coombs & Daniels, 1999; Beyer, 1985; Walters, 1994). McLaren (1994) argues that thinking is multi-discursive, located in socio-cultural, economic and political contexts and inherently ideological. For the purpose of this study, critical thinking is understood as a form of critical social practice (Koh, 2002). Critical thinking is viewed as a culturally and historically situated critical social practice (Street, 2003). Segall and Gaudelli (2007) argue that social critical thinking means that students can challenge taken-for-granted meanings and suppositions, questioning how knowledge is constructed and used. They can also interrogate issues of power, justice, identity and the ways content and practices are shaped by different ideologies. Students can go to the extent of making informed conclusions about certain content and practices that are advantaged and/or disadvantaged by the current ideology of schooling, and that certain views are privileged while others are marginalised. Questions relating to education, such as, who makes curricular decisions, how and why these decisions are made, and whose interests these decisions represent and who benefits at the end, may be posed. The curricula of history and social studies should be used to inform decisions about the content of education. An investigation of the inclusion of critical thinking in citizenship education in the pre-democratic era in South Africa is important as the findings of such an inquiry should inform what should be included in post-democratic citizenship education (Engle & Ochoa, 1988).


What is citizenship education?

Lagassé (2000) defines a citizen as a person who lives in a nation state and has certain rights and privileges as well as several obligations to the state, such as allegiance to government. Citizenship is a symbiotic relationship between the state and the citizen. Crick (2008:126) contends that the type of citizen who is valued by society is defined in terms of the nature of his/her relationship with the government. Galston (1989) further categorises citizens into what he calls the 'autarchic' and the 'autonomous' citizen. Instead, McLaughlin (1992:245) distinguishes between 'minimal' and 'maximal' citizenship. The autarchic or minimal citizen is basically obedient to government, whereas the maximal citizen is actively involved in questioning and has achieved a critical perspective on all important factors (McLaughlin, 1992:236, 242). The autarchic citizen is 'law abiding' and 'public spirited' but can be characterised by limited 'rational deliberation and self-determination' (McLaughlin, 1992:236). Koopmans, Statham, Giugni and Passy (2005:7) agree with Galston and McLaughlin when they state that a set of rights, duties and identities link citizens to the nation-state. From the definition of different types of leadership provided by Westheimer and Kahne (2004) and Veugelers (2007) on minimal/maximal types of citizenship, three categories of citizens are evident. They are: adapting citizens (with good manners, obedient and act responsibly); individualistic citizens (participate in society from an individualistic perspective); and critical democratic citizens (concerned for social justice, cooperative and motivated to change society). Staeheli and Hammett (2010:671) contend that citizenship should not just be seen as status constructed to reflect universal ideals, but it should also be seen in relation to political, economic and social processes that operate within particular temporal and geographical contexts.

The concept of citizenship education is complex and ambiguous. It has been reviewed and debated in recent literature. In most instances the context within which citizenship notions have been defined has changed tremendously, especially during the 21st century. The term citizenship education is habitually characterised by the use of various terminologies used to describe social and political education. Kerr (2000:209) uses the minimal/maximal model to distinguish between civic education (education for the minimal citizen) and citizenship education (education for the maximal citizen). According to Davies and Issit (2005:389), civic education is the provision of information about formal public institutions. Marshall (1964) argues that the civil aspect of citizenship should offer citizens individual rights, such as, equality before the law, freedom of speech and the right to own property.

Starkey (2002:5) propagates a holistic approach to defining the concepts of citizenship and citizenship education. DeJaeghere (2006:307) suggests a need to introduce a 'critical approach' towards defining and understanding citizenship education. The aim of adopting a critical approach is "to provide the conditions for collective social change through a combined focus on knowledge and participation" (DeJaeghere & Tudball, 2007:49). DeJaeghere and Tudball (2007:51) maintain that including the critical approach in citizenship education will bring in a new perspective in developing students' sense of subjectivity or the 'self'. According to Giroux (1983), education should be used to form sound character and advocate 'emancipatory' rationality.

I use the critical citizenship education model propagated by Johnson and Morris (2010), which is grounded in critical thinking, as an underlying theoretical framework for this study. The four distinguishing elements of Johnson and Morris's critical citizenship education framework are: a concern for ideology rather than abstract logic; a collective (social) focus rather than an individualistic one; a context-driven (subjective) rather than contextneutral (objective) frame of reference; and a drive towards praxis (reflection and action) in addition to the development of knowledge and skills (see Table 1).



The critical citizenship frame of reference presented by Johnson and Morris (2010) is appropriate to evaluate the type of citizenship education that is provided in any country because the terminology that is used (namely, politics; social and collective; subjectivity and praxis) is well associated with the one used in curriculum studies. Just like any other theoretical framework, Johnson and Morris's framework has limitations (see De Lissovoy, 2008). These limitations may be addressed, partly by reinterpretations of literature on citizenship education in future.


Research problem

Citizenship education, in one way or the other, is linked with the process of state formation and the inculcation of patriotism and loyalty to the state. Curriculum issues in South Africa during the colonial period were linked to the educational activities of the early white colonists and the missionaries. The educational agenda during the different historical epochs prior to 1948 became a hybrid of politics and evangelicalism (Myers & Myers 1990). A comprehensive and careful examination of historical events in South Africa can provide a clear picture of how the attitudes of a group of people can develop and be applied in an organised way to the benefit of the dominant social institutions. Citizenship or civic education, as an aspect of the curriculum, has been used in a variety of ways to promote an autarchic type of a citizen. Using the conception of critical citizenship, discussed above, this study therefore addresses the following questions:

  • How were South African citizens conceived by the government during the period 1948-1994?
  • What were the goals promoted in the citizenship curriculum?
  • How were the elements of critical thinking, according to Johnson and Morris, implemented in the curriculum for citizenship education during the period 1948-1994?


Aim of the study

The focus in this article is on how citizenship education was used by the powers that be those in power (the former National Party government) and the ways state power was used to manipulate and (mis)use citizenship education in an endeavour to create passive, individualistic and uncritical citizens who would suit the former government's agenda of domination and subjugation. The critical citizenship education model of Johnson and Morris is used to analyse citizenship education in South Africa during the National Party government rule (1948-1994).


Research methodology

The nature of the field research undertaken for the purpose of this article was qualitative. The study is theoretical and interpretative and does not follow a positivist approach. Holosko (2006:12) articulates that qualitative research is "concerned with understanding the meaning of human experience from the subject's own frame of reference'. The Johnson and Morris framework is used to analyse the following citizenship curricula documents: The Report of the Commission on the Native Education (Union of South Africa, 1951); The Department of Native Affairs policy documents (1956a and 1956b); Department of Native Affairs policy document of 1957 and Department of Bantu Education policy document of 1967.


Citizenship in South Africa: A brief historical background

Although this paper focuses on the period 1948-1994, a brief and selective overview is given of the colonial and Union period in order to provide the context for the ensuing exposition. The history of formal education in South Africa can be traced to the 1600s. During the Dutch settlement after 1652 there was little activity with regard to the provision of education to South Africans, since the Dutch East Indian Company's focus was on trade. The education that was provided during the Dutch settlement by the missionaries in particular was enough to meet the needs of the colonists. The principal aim of citizenship or civics education was designed in such a way that it aimed at the inculcation of personal moral virtues which had Christian Protestantism as its underlying philosophy. In 1804, Governor JA De Mist introduced secular or liberal control of education at the Cape Colony. The aim of introducing secular education was to ensure that adequate civic education produced good citizens (Sabine, 1960:490). In 1910, the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and the Free State were united to form the Union of South Africa. However, the Union remained a British colony and missionaries continued to play a major role in the formulation, control and determination of the scope and limits of African education (Christie 2006:67). Mission encounters did not only examine the process of religious or cultural encounters, but it sought to refine the relationship of missions to the politics of colonial society. Notion of citizenship that prevailed during the Union government period was one that encouraged adapting types of citizens who had good manners, were obedient and could act responsibly. The second group was individualistic citizens. Citizens were regarded as legal members of the state and had rights and obligations to the state. In practice, citizens did not participate in the political system in any meaningful way (Banks 2008:136). A series of segregation policies in the form of a legislative act, which removed and restricted the rights of certain cultural groups in every possible way - politically, economically, socially and geographically - was evidence of the type of citizens the state wanted to produce. Geographical segregation became an institutionalised occurrence with the majority of Africans especially those situated in the rural areas of South Africa. The 1913 and 1936 Land Acts are two examples of legislation adopted by the Union government which segregated Africans and limited them in their rights as full citizens of South Africa. The 1913 Land Act adopted the principle that certain portions of land should be reserved exclusively for occupation by Africans. It not only set aside areas as reserves, but also prohibited Africans from buying land outside these defined territories. In total, 13, 7% of the total area of South Africa was demarcated as reserved land for occupational use by Africans only (Union of South Africa, 1955:44-46) and was situated within areas defined as "rural", including parts of the former Natal, Transkei and Ciskei (Joyce, 1989 sv "Natives' Land Act, The 1913"). The state was seen as a tool in the hands of a more politically influential sector, which used it to advance a specific group's interests. The government was not prepared to accept any integration with the Africans, and wanted to maintain the principle of white supremacy in white areas. Africans were to become geographically and socially segregated by the ruling colonial group. Economic intermingling was, however, to take on varied forms, depending on the particular needs of the more politically influential sectors within the dominant white group. In this case, citizenship, as a status, was more rooted in a legislative framework. This type of citizenship, which was characterised by a differentiated conception of citizenship, did not encourage marginalised groups to attain civic equality. The Land Act of 1913 laid the basis of a 'South African citizenship' that was later permeated by racism, that is, a systematic process of discrimination based on one's race or colour. The total area designated as reserves by means of the 1913 Land Act was later found to be too small and more land for the settlement of Africans was made available through the promulgation of the Native Trust and Land Act of 1936. This Act provided for a trust fund for the acquisition of an additional 6, 2-million hectares of land for incorporation into what would later be called "bantustans or homelands" (Union of South Africa, 1936:98).

In 1948, the National Party government under the leadership of Dr DF Malan took power. The National Party immediately began to accelerate and implement its policy of 'separate development', instilling and cementing a differentiated conception of citizenship by establishing a series of segregationist legislative Acts of Parliament which enforced the segregation of Africans and white people in different areas. The rationale behind the introduction of these laws was that Africans had their own traditional territories where they should enjoy citizenship and the vote. Two such Acts which ensured that this philosophy was carried out were the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 and the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959. The introduction of "bantustan" policy was a deliberate constitutional plan of government to ensure that Africans were granted citizenship and civil rights in their own "homelands" or "bantustans". The National Party government persistently upheld the myth that there was a separate African society and a separate African economy as advocated by the then Minister of Native Affairs, Dr HF Verwoerd (cf. Hansard, 1954, col 2619).

In the following section, I will attempt to show how citizenship education evolved in the period 1948-1994, using Johnson and Morris's critical citizenship model. An analysis of curriculum, especially with reference to the subjects of history, social science or civics as documented in different government policies of the Nationalist Party regime, is presented.


Results and discussions

Citizenship education during the National Party government (1948-1994)

The ensuing discussion of citizenship education has been analysed according to four main elements of Johnson and Morris's theoretical framework, namely, politics/ideology, social/collective, self/subjectivity and praxis/engagement. In 1957 social studies and history were introduced by the Department of Bantu Education as compulsory and examinable subjects at lower and upper primary school level for African students. As integrated subjects they included elements of geography, history, economics and politics, and focused on local, regional, national, and to a limited extent, international issues. Two subjects, namely history and social studies from grades 1-7 in the curricula mentioned above, have been analysed.


This aspect pertains to the knowledge and understanding of oppressions and injustices, and not just political ideology. According to Johnson and Morris (2010), students should be able to actively engage in political discourse and seek clarity on injustices that occur in society. However, the grades 1-7 history and social science curriculum only dealt with the political ideology underpinned by the government separate development theory and there was no section in the curriculum dealing with injustices or oppressions as experienced by South Africans. As early as grade 3, children were taught how certain historical factors brought about the migration of different peoples to South Africa, and how these factors, in conjunction with the conditions in South Africa, influenced their development as "separate groups" (Department of Native Affairs, 1956a; 1956b; Department of Bantu Education, 1967). The curriculum failed to open a space or create possibilities for teachers to explore the government's political ideology of separate development nor to question oppressive laws that might have been in place or justification for injustices that prevailed in South Africa. The main focus of curriculum materials was on the positive contribution by the state, churches and welfare organisations to the development of Africans.

Knowledge of South African society and its structures as a whole was not prioritised (Department of Bantu Education, 1967:66). The exposure of learners to the knowledge and understanding of macrostructures that existed globally was limited; the focus was on local government structures. For example, from grades 3-6 citizenship education dealt with the home, town and village. From grades 3-4 local structures, such as, tribal organisations and government, local government and Bantu Authorities (homelands) were introduced. Curriculum documents did not deal with learners' development of knowledge and understanding of power structures. No academic space was created for teachers and learners to explore and debate elements of the establishment of government structures, respect for government institutions, loyalty, independence, open-mindedness and work ethic.

Critical citizenship must also open room for engagement with ideological principles. Engagement with ideological principles in the curriculum documents for citizenship education was distorted and ambiguous. The Report of the Commission on Native Education reported on different social problems in the education system (Union of South Africa, 1951: par 248264). The Report did not provide clear and workable recommendations on how the social problems were to be addressed. The curriculum for Africans that the National Party government adopted was basically in accordance with the recommendations made by the Report of the Commission on Native Education and one would have expected the Commission to voice possible solutions to social problems. In the grade 3 citizenship education curriculum, the following is mentioned: "The following topics shall be dealt with in the light of principles and traditions which have been accepted by the Bantu..." (Department of Bantu Education, 1967:62). The statement did not elaborate comprehensively on the values from which these principles were derived and therefore it made sure that the engagement with policy issues became superfluous. One would assume that those principles referred to Africans exclusively in a rural community belonging to homelands.

Although a few ideological issues were raised, the curriculum was designed to direct students and teachers' thinking in a particular direction. In the history curriculum, economic issues, such as, the effects of mining, commerce and industry on the life of the Africans and the contribution of the state towards the African people were raised (Department of Bantu Education, 1967: 66). How students were expected to engage with the challenges raised was not detailed. Students were not given an opportunity to investigate deeper causalities about the economic factors. Doors to question the provision of state services were closed as the state did not want to create the opportunity to be challenged on their key performance areas. Students were encouraged to focus on other school related issues, namely, water conservation or working in industry (Department of Bantu Education, 1967). Galston (1991:221-224) postulates that responsible citizenship requires the capacity to discern and respect the rights of others and to evaluate the performance of those in office and the willingness to engage in public discourse. Critical thinking was not regarded as a core element of citizenship education at this time.

Through its citizenship education, government propagated knowledge and understanding of only immediate communities. For example, grade 3 learners were to learn about their immediate societies - different ethnic groups, the white settlers, and only sketchy histories about international communities. The focus was on respect for authority and fellowmen. Dahrendorf (1994:17) argues that "citizenship is never complete until it is world citizenship". There is some evidence that promoting ideas about global citizenship actually reinforces nationalism in students (Roman 2003). Global communities form an integral part of every society and affect our beliefs, norms, values and behaviours, as well as business and trade. Every citizen, including the youth, should develop the attitudes, knowledge and skills that will enable them to interact and associate with the global world (Banks 2004).


This aspect of the Johnson and Morris model focuses on dialogue, cooperation and on the ways in which learners are encouraged to explore alternative values and identities. This aspect also includes the "wholeness" of citizenship education (Johnson & Morris, 2011:10). Fisher (2008:195) argues that collectivism and a "community of enquiry" help students to "build their capacity to become active and effective citizens". Citizenship education for Africans during National Party rule was grounded on the mainstream ideas and values of the state's segregationist and racial policy, which in one way or the other discouraged the notion of the "collective". One of the aims of the curriculum for African schooling during the period under review was that:

The [old] curriculum ... and educational practice, by ignoring the segregation or 'apartheid' policy, was unable to prepare for service within the Bantu community. By blindly producing pupils trained on a European model, the vain hope was created among Natives that they could occupy posts within the European community despite the country's policy of 'apartheid'. This is what is meant by the creation of unhealthy 'White collar ideals' and the causation of widespread frustration among the so-called educated Natives (Union of South Africa, 1954).

Non-streaming ideas and values in citizenship education are not mentioned during the period under review. Mainstream citizenship, which is grounded in mainstream knowledge and assumptions and which is underpinned by the status quo and the dominant power relationships in society, is evident throughout the provision of citizenship education in the subjects, social science and history. No reference was made to other external or outside sources except the policies or laws of the country. For example, in the grade 6 civic section, students were referred to South African institutions, such as, the Department of Bantu Education Administration and Development, Bantu Education, Justice Health, and Agricultural Technical Services "with emphasis on officers who deal directly with the Bantu" (Department of Bantu Education, 1967:70). There was little room for the curriculum for citizenship to promote a diversity of views. The only voice, which was vocal, was that of the dominant communities in relation to the ethnic groups.

Further, citizenship education in South Africa was deficient in promoting dialogue. It did not encourage deviation of opinions. When the social studies curriculum was published in 1956, it was stated that the social studies syllabus was oriented economically and socially with the aim to develop social consciousness and a feeling of responsibility in the African child (Department of Native Affairs, 1956b:81). The social studies curriculum further stated that the factual knowledge of the content, that is social science, would have value only when connected to the realisation that the African child is a member of a particular community and he/she should not have other factual knowledges. The state did not encourage open dialogue with other knowledges. In the grade 6 history curriculum, teachers were to reflect on the primitive nature of indigenous and how their early indigenous medicine and medical practices caused death, injury, pain and sickness (Department of Bantu Education, 1967:69). In this instance a particular type of medical practices were promoted whereas the indigenous medical practices were mentioned. The curriculum did not allow for critical discourse and debate on the topic.

The history curriculum for grade 4 stated that the aim of teaching South African history was that the identified topics (i.e., early inhabitants of the Cape; the migration of Africans to Southern Africa; the Dutch East India Company; the wreck of the Harlem; the arrival of Jan Van Riebeeck), which had little to do with the actual history of indigenous peoples, was to "explain to the pupils . how certain historical and geographical factors have brought about the migration of different peoples to this country, and how these factors, in conjunction with the conditions in South Africa, have influenced their development as separate groups of the population" (Department of Bantu Education, 1967:62). History teaching had little to do with the promotion of dialogue to create critical thinkers.

The teaching of religious education, which was dominated by Calvinism, was taught at the higher primary school level and formed part of citizenship education. Religious studies reinforced a curriculum which was defined in terms of ethnic, religious or cultural identities. Emphasis on religion or Christianity and ethnic cultures lessened the possibility of allowing students and teachers to engage with other religions, such as Hinduism or Judaism. Awosulu (1993) and Metziebi, Domite and Osakwe (1996) argue that the school curriculum should be designed in such a way that it promotes national unity, religious tolerance and cultural integration.

Citizenship education during the National Party government did not allow for dialogue in terms of challenging and engaging ideologies, such as colonialism, apartheid and egalitarianism. The curriculum for history and social science did not mention inequalities and injustices which arose from 1652 after the first white settlers arrived at the Cape. In higher grades the focus was on confrontations among the indigenous people and, in some instances, between the white colonists and the indigenous peoples. Citizenship education failed to promote tolerance, respect for others and the combating of all other forms of discrimination (Schoeman, 2006).


According to Johnson and Morris, this aspect of critical citizenship education has to do with the area of 'self' including emotions, feelings, introspection, positivity and realism as manifested in citizenship education programmes. Emotional feelings are an integral part of citizenship education. Opportunities should be created for students and teachers to associate with their own emotional discourses. Citizenship education should help students articulate their emotions and feelings with the aim of re-directing their emotional and moral dispositions in practising their human rights (Elias et al, 1997; Goleman, 1995; Weare, 2004). Citizenship education between 1948 and 1994 reflected elements of African's legal identity. Grade 5 learners were expected to know about identity issues, such as, the importance of the "personal reference book" and how and why it is used (Department of Native Affairs, 1956b:107). Other forms of identity dealt with included aspects relating to how students were bound to their families through birth, marriage, age and group (Department of Bantu Education, 1957: 64). Citizenship education as included in the history curriculum did not reflect on the students' ability to understand their multiple and complex identities and how they were affected by the outside world. Instead, the curriculum focused on a notion of narrow identities which were confined to a particular ethnic environment. Ajegbo (2007:7) contends:

Issues of identity and diversity are more often than not neglected in citizenship education. When these issues are referred to, coverage is often unsatisfactory and lacks contextual depth.

The history or social science curriculum in all grades did not demonstrate emotive language. The curriculum did not engage learners in human rights issues, which are crucial for young people to relate to their own emotional identities. By providing the chance to engage in emotional dialogue, students would have been given the opportunity to engage in critical reflection about their emotions and identities in a non-judgmental and non-discriminatory environment. Pilar Aguilera (2010:12) posits that one important field of the citizenship curriculum "is the development of attitudes that underpin students' emotional dispositions and motivations for social responsibility and active participation".


The aspect of engagement, according to Johnson and Morris, focuses on the relationship between knowledge, reflection and action. Giroux (2003:28) argues that engagement calls for a coalition between theory and practice and not a situation in which one is absorbed by the other. Citizenship education provided by the state focused on theory. In the opening statement in the citizenship education section for higher primary school learners, the following is mentioned:

The following topics should be dealt with in the light of principles and traditions which have been accepted by the Bantu as well as by other peoples in the country for inculcation of good habits of courtesy and character - the child's duties, privileges and responsibilities in (a) the home, (b) the town or village and (c) the school (Department of Bantu Education, 1967:62).

The statement above emphasises theory or the existing principles. Throughout the history and social science curriculum in both the lower and higher primary schools, nothing is mentioned about the practical component of citizenship education. The curriculum did allow for learners to reflect on issues, such as, the formation of good habits of courtesy and character. The 'how' part of the curriculum was not adequately addressed in curriculum documents. Instead emphasis was placed on theory, that is, the inculcation of the subject matter. Banks (2008:136) mentions that citizenship education (which is transformative in nature) should involve civic actions designed to actualise values and moral principles and ideals beyond those of existing laws and conventions. He emphasises that citizenship should promote social justice even when the actions of the citizens violate, challenge, or dismantle existing laws or structures.

Citizenship education curriculum documents are very clear on the ideological discourse which promotes discrimination and oppression. During this period, however, 'facts' were prescribed throughout the citizenship education programmes for Africans and there was no exploration of relationships between knowledge, reflection and action. How the knowledge acquired through citizenship education can effect systematic change was not mentioned. The authorities chose to project an optimistic picture about government affairs, while in essence its actions could have been interpreted as a fascia for hegemonic expression (Aronowitz & Giroux 1986). Allowing for reflection on what was taught about citizenship education would have given teachers and students an opportunity to reconstruct their world based on what they had learnt. DeJaeghere (2007) argues that reconstructing one's world based on the acquired knowledge fosters critical thinking skills.


From the foregoing discussion the following findings emerged:

The government during the period 1948-1994 denied full citizenship rights to ethnic groups in South Africa and citizenship education evolved to reflect the historical development of the times. Citizenship education during the National Party government did not strive to make citizens capable of contributing meaningfully to the whole development of their country. Different pieces of legislation promulgated by the state promoted segregation, which continued to be embedded in citizenship curriculum. The aim of government was to educate students to it into the government's "separate development" conception of subjugation, thus becoming 'good citizens'. The essence of citizenship was broadly grounded upon the development of white citizens and black subjects. These ideals were evident in the government's education projects, embedded in a curriculum which sought to balance the need to 'civilise' the 'non-white' populations with the necessity to maintain separate and superior 'white' identity and privilege (Keto, 1990).

Citizenship education promoted ethnocentrism and individualism instead of fostering the spirit of nationalism. Government did not promote critical citizenship. Many of the elements contained in the curriculum required teachers to adhere only to curriculum content and refrain from discussing any form of segregation or oppression with students. Values such as equality, liberty, justice and tolerance did not form part of the citizenship education curriculum. Citizenship education was reduced to a mere transmission of historical and civic related facts. However, students should have been engaged in a critical discourse, not just the definition and memorisation of government structures.

A critical observation of the entire curriculum is that the government wanted to translate its intentions and ideologies into an institutional expression in the school where students would be taught basic values and ideals that would make them passive citizens. However, it is highly impractical to endeavour to erode the role that memory and history played in South Africa. Citizenship education programmes/subjects cannot simply wipe away the memory of conflict and oppression that prevailed in divided societies. Instead, citizenship programmes should create space for critical dialogue.

Recommendations for citizenship education programmes

On the basis of the research findings, the following recommendations are made:

  • It is recommended that future governments include diversity across the whole curriculum and/or grades and establish a sequence of learning outcomes which will develop students' critical citizenship knowledge. Students should have opportunities to study the past, not just in outline but also in depth, covering different societies and periods of history from ancient times to the modern day. The knowledge provided in each grade should foster civic skills and dispositions. An interdisciplinary approach and a more integrated whole-school design, where teachers, professionals and administrators are involved, should be developed and adopted. These different stakeholders should ensure that learners develop critical citizenship skills and dispositions.
  • Citizenship content should include the following: civic knowledge regarding such items as history (including histories of indigenous people), how government works, the Constitution, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Citizenship education should also deal with skills development, problem solving skills, debating and dialogue on current issues. Attitudes such as a belief in liberty, equality, personal responsibility and honesty should be included in the content material.
  • Citizenship curriculum should contain teaching strategies that include instruction in a variety of topics, such as government, law, history and democracy. Provision must be made for learners to discuss relevant current events and be able to engage with the 'outside the classroom' world. Provision should be made for the use of fieldwork, first-hand experience and secondary sources to find out about a range of places and environments. These environments should include learners' own localities, as well as localities in other countries. It is imperative that learners explore views and opinions about local and global issues including but not limited to education for sustainability, climate change and poverty. Learners should also be able to develop and extend local and global links through collaboration.
  • Modern technology can be used to make the teaching of citizenship education interesting. Instructional tools such as interrogating databases of information about historical documents and using maps and charts, can be used to promote critical thinking.



This article has analysed the citizenship curriculum for African during the period 1948-1994 in South Africa, using the four dimensions of Johnson and Morris' critical citizenship education model. The curriculum was analysed in terms of politics; society and interaction; the self; and reflection, action, engagement and possibility. It was found that the previous government's citizenship curriculum failed to promote critical thinking. For citizenship education and programmes to be meaningful, especially in the democratic era, the four dimensions of the model are crucial as they provide a better means through which critical citizenship education can be implemented in schools. This framework is crucial to sustain a young democracy, such as South Africa, which has been and continues to be characterised by realities of social divisions.



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