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In providing an overview of the thesis, Chapter 1 has not only focused on the introduction of the inquiry but also on the analysis of the research problem and question. Most importantly, it has briefly highlighted the purpose for carrying out this research project – together with an introduction to the research site and the approach. This chapter has three main parts: the first part places the study within the debates on race and racism; the second section deals with the history of segregation and desegregation in the South African context; and the last section reviews both the national and the international literature on diversity and school desegregation. The current Chapter intends to place this study within the realm of the broader debates on school integration.


In order to fully understand the issue of integration – and lack thereof – in schools during the segregation period; the apartheid period; and the post-apartheid period, it is important to first understand the contextual meanings of the key concepts used in the study. For this reason, this study is anchored in the exploration of concepts, such as race, segregation, desegregation, integration, diversity, multiculturalism, assimilation, Afro-centricity, Euro-centricity, etc. These concepts are now explained and their relevance to the study is pointed out.
Although I depart from the standpoint that there is no such thing called ‘race’ (Tobias, 1961: 34) and because this is a socially constructed concept, I do acknowledge that as a social construct race cannot be ignored. Of course, I am also aware of Clough and Burton’s (1995) argument that “inevitably, to research ‘race’ is to construct ‘race’, because the very fact of using the concept makes it alive; yet ignoring it or not using it does not erase it either.” In fact, one may ask, how race can be ignored when it continues to haunt the life of every South African – even in the post-apartheid era.
In their most useful work on the concepts of race and racism, An Ambulance of the Wrong Colour, Baldwin-Ragaven et al, (1999: 134) maintain that if we accept the compelling evidence that genetically distinct human sub-species do not exist and that ‘race’ is not a valid category in human biology, it can be argued that the use of racial labels and categories in research is “ill-conceived, misleading and divisive.” The authors claim that using nationality to differentiate between groups tends to reinforce the view that geographically isolated – and genetically distinct – human races exist. They further maintain that using racial categories legitimises the process of discrimination and generates a ‘racially’ structured view of society that encourages further discrimination. I am inclined to differ with what the authors suggest – especially because this entails a narrow view of the subject which results from an uncritical application of apartheid terminology. What happened in the education system of South Africa was a result of stratifying society into these categories. I, therefore, cannot study desegregation without referring to this terminology, since our education has a history – and as Phatlane (2006: 31) argues, history is a record of what happened. Against this background, I cannot realistically shy away from such historical concepts in this study.
Klaas has also interrogated the different ways in which race is conceptualised and used in research. He accepts, however, that although many studies acknowledge the controversy of the concept ‘race’ and the categorisation of people, those studies do not suggest alternatives. He further accepts that he, too, also ends up being caught up in the same circle as other researchers on race because he cannot seem to suggest an alternative terminology to replace the racial denominations of people (Klaas, 2005: 16).
It should be borne in mind that the apartheid regime founded its segregationist practices on differences that were believed to be insuperable. This was a racist belief in the absolute inferiority of all race groups other than Whites – particularly the African sector of the population. Segregation in South African education did not begin in 1953 when the Bantu Education Act, Act No 47 of 1953 was adopted. It had been a feature of educational practice for centuries, since Jan Van Riebeeck and his sailors landed at the Cape after the breaking of the Haarlem (Malherbe, 1977: 44). There is no question that schools and curricula became more formally – and more legally – separate since that date (1953) and race remained an important feature in the division and provision of education in this country (Cross & Chisholm, 1990: 54).
The notion that each population group was entitled to its own schools and other institutions clearly corresponds with the view that each race should have its own separate existence and, therefore, separate education system (Steyn, 1998: 8). Although this was clearly in keeping with the spirit of the De Lange Report11, it was accepted and expressed by government thus: “The government finds the principle of freedom of choice for the individual and for the parents in educational matters and in the choice of a career acceptable, but within the framework of the policy that ‘each population group is to have its own schools’” (RSA, 1983: 4). In time, this thinking formed the basis of the policy that sought to segregate the different race groups in all spheres of existence – including education.
Scholars have criticised the apartheid regime’s inconsistent definition of race – whereby whites and coloureds were defined by skin colour, while Natives were defined by their country of origin and Asians by their continent of origin (Manzo, 1992: 173). Although any one of these criteria could have been consistently applied to differentiate the population, it is clear that consistency was not conducive to the requirements of white domination at the time. For instance, the country of origin as the defining hallmark of race would have split the required common identity among whites, while the continent of origin would have made the classification of coloureds impossible. Similarly, colour alone as a defining factor would have created a single black majority (Manzo, 1992:173).
Closely interwoven with race is racial diversity – which clearly evolved from the concepts of multicultural and anti-racist education. Klaas (2005), on the other hand, analyses the different models of the concept of multicultural education, namely the Conservative Model, the Liberal Model, the Pluralist Model and the Cosmopolitan Model. Each of the models has its advantages and disadvantages in diversified environments, but I tend to argue for the Pluralist Model which – although it does not address structural inequalities – recognises differences. It also encourages different groups to share their culture in the hope of gaining better understanding and more respect for one another.
In his opening address of the Durban National Conference on Racism, the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, argued that “The legacy of racism is so deeply entrenched that no country so far in the world has succeeded to create a non-racial society” (Mbeki, 2000: 5). In fact, Orfield (2004) and Kozol (2005) have found that the US schools are now re-segregating after they had been desegregated for years. For example, Kozol (2005:3), writing about the United States, acknowledges that during the 1960s “tens of thousands of public schools were integrated racially and the gap between black and white achievements narrowed. But the earlier 1990s saw a reversal of the process with nearly absolute apartheid [sic] in thousands schools across the US. Other authors noted similar trends in desegregation and resegregation (Frankenberg, Lee and Orfield, 2003; Orfield, 2004). Orfield points out that schools in the United States are today divided along racial lines, as was the case before the 1950s: “Southern Schools and those in a number of big cities are moving back toward intensified segregation, now based largely on residential segregation in the metropolitan areas” (Orfield, 2004:97). Ironically, schools such as Martin Luther King Secondary in New York, that were founded on multicultural and multiracial principles given King’s own contribution to the eradication of segregation, are now becoming racially segregated (Nkomo &Vandeyar et al, 2007: 11).
In this thesis I am inclined to concur fully with Tierney’s conclusions that human populations cannot be separated into discrete categories because genetic combinations have never been stable (Tierney, 1982: 6). In fact, what the Nationalists attempted to achieve through the physical separation of the races in education and in other spheres was impracticable and senseless. Tobias has also argued that there is no scientific basis for such racial classification of human beings – as was done when the Nationalists adopted the Population Registration Act in 1950 (Tobias, 1961: 22). Yet, this does not imply that research in the field of race and diversity should be abandoned (Sarup, 1986: 49). Closely analysed, the absence of any biological basis for race does not in any way change the social implications of a belief in race (DoE, 2001:6).
Although the idea of race is not based on scientific truth – as revealed by Tobias above, it remains real in the sense that it affects how we see ourselves and how we see one another (DoE, 2001: 7). Speaking at the International Comparative Conference on Educational Opportunities – the Brown Conference – in 2004 in South Africa, Professor Hans Visser emphasised the importance of continuing to interrogate the phenomenon of race when he argued that “When we speak about race, we can get the young generation to deal with race.” Visser’s idea is that which Hunter calls the “Biology of liberation” which we must teach in our schools where learners can tackle the concept of ‘race’ to prove that there is no such thing as ‘race’ (Hunter et al, 1983: 18).
Having dealt with the concepts of race and racism, it would not be out of place to very briefly refer to the concepts of segregation, desegregation and integration – as used in the context of this study. To begin with, one may argue that segregation refers to the separation of the different race groups in South Africa in terms of education and other areas of social interaction. From the historical literature referred to in this study, an attempt was made to show that this separation of the races is as old as the Dutch settlement at the Cape and that it continued during the period of British colonisation until well into the mid-twentieth century – when it was displaced by apartheid as official government policy (Beinart and Dubow, 1995).
I have also stated that in the earlier period such segregation was not based on race, but on class (Seekings and Nattrass, 2005). Since 1948, however, apartheid, which replaced segregation, was based on race – as defined in the Population Registration Act, Act No 30 of 1950. Since then, race was a hallmark of the classification of persons in South Africa until 1994 when developments – that were welcomed internationally as the “miracle of the 1990s” – changed this approach to human existence. However, my findings confirm Seekings and Nattrass’ argument that since 1994 class has emerged as a means of discrimination. Although it does not totally replace race as a criterion for segregation, it is a form of exclusion and, therefore, also serves as the basis of inequality in the post-1994 South Africa (Seekings & Nattrass, 2005).
This observation clearly suggests that in spite of all efforts at desegregation there are still pockets of discrimination which, although not based on race – as was the case in the pre-1994 period – are, nevertheless, still prevalent and are now based on class and other mechanisms of polarisation. To a certain extent this kind of segregation explains the persistence of the negative attitudes of different race groups towards one another – despite deliberate government attempts to forge a non-racial society, using school integration as one of the mechanisms.
A desegregated school in this context refers to a school that enrols learners and employs educators and staff from different racial backgrounds and other identities, such as class and religion. To reiterate the point mentioned earlier, in the Population Registration Act, Act No 30 of 1950, the apartheid government of South Africa divided people in terms of their physical characteristics, namely whites, blacks, coloureds and Indians. These classifications are used in this study only to demonstrate their actual impact on the social dynamics of the school environment. South Africans are presently classified as blacks and whites. ‘Blacks’ are all persons who are not classified as whites. They include Africans, coloureds and Indians (Nkomo, 1990: 308). The term, ‘African’, is generally used to denote people of black African descent who were grouped – through the state policy – into varying territorial units within the borders of South Africa (Van Warmelo, 1930: 7). To a larger extent, the concept, African, still denotes the black people of African descent – although there are some debates on who is really African in South Africa.
Recently, the political and social consciousness of the oppressed classes – together with some whites who have always fought against apartheid and those who despise it even though they could not fight it in South Africa – have produced a self–definition which is descriptive of their desire to unite in the common project of dismantling apartheid (Nkomo, 1990: 2). There are some white people who have never associated themselves with Europe – who either fought against apartheid or did not support it – who, also, call themselves Africans. Another category of white people – who, although they supported apartheid – came to realise how bad it was for South Africa. They also associate with Africa now more than they do with Europe. It is, therefore, too narrow to regard all white South Africans as racists. One should also not forget about some racist black South Africans.
In The Dictionary of Psychology, Corsini defines integration as the unification of parts into a totality – which is the developmental process in which separate drives, experiences, abilities, values and personality characteristics are gradually brought together into an organised whole (Corsini, 2002: 493). School integration means the incorporation of different ethnic/racial groups of learners in the same classes in a school (Corsini, 2002: 866). It includes the use of teaching content from diverse groups when dealing with concepts and skills in an effort to help learners understand how knowledge in the various disciplines is constructed. This will go a long way in helping learners develop positive intergroup attitudes and behaviour. In time, this will foster the development of an equality of status among learners in schools (Banks, 2001; Irvine, 2003). Closely analysed, there seems to be nothing new incorporated into the definition of the concepts of diversity education, school integration and citizenship education – which was, otherwise, lacking in multicultural education. Thus, whatever one chooses to call it, the fact of the matter is that in a plural society with many cultures – such as South Africa, the quest to promote only one way of doing things will remain problematic and suspect.

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1.1 Introduction
1.2 Justification of the study
1.3 Analysis of the research problem
1.4 Interest in this area of research
1.5 Research approach
1.6 The research site: Van den Berg High School
1.7 Limitations of the study
1.8 Delimitation of the study
1.9 Overview of the study
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Conceptual base
2.3 The origins and forms of racial segregation in South African education
2.3.1 Education in the pre-apartheid period
2.3.2 Education during apartheid – Bantu Education
2.3.3 The post-apartheid desegregation policies and practices
2.4 Empirical studies
2.5 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The qualitative Research paradigm
3.3 Social constructivism and interpretive paradigms
3.4 Research Design
3.5 Research methodology
3.5.1 Site selection
3.5.2 Sampling of participants
3.5.3 Other considerations about the sample
3.6 Data Collection and rationale for choice of methods
3.6.1 Document Analysis
3.6.2 Direct Observations
3.6.3 Participant observation
3.6.4 Limitations of participant observation
3.6.5 Interviews
3.6.6 Dynamics of the interviews
3.6.7 Data management
3.6.8 Data analysis
3.6.9 Content analysis
3.7 Methodological norms
3.7.1 Trustworthiness, dependability, transferability and credibility
3.8 Ethical considerations
3.9 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The national context
4.3 The school context
4.4 Notable incidents of racial tension at Van Den Berg high School
4.5 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The role of leadership in integration
5.3 Some progressive initiatives to make desegregation possible
5.4 Learners’ awareness of their changed environment
5.5 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Overview
6.3 Findings 179
6.4 Recommendations

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