Cecil John Rhodes would have loved the ANC’s new education bill – Andrew Kenny

The ANC’s Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA), 2022, carries echoes of Cecil John Rhodes’ colonial ambitions. Rhodes sought to impose British culture, particularly the English language, on Africa. Surprisingly, the 2022 South African census reveals that English is only the fifth most spoken language at home. BELA aims to centralise education control, diminish parental input, and eliminate Afrikaans in schools. This discrepancy between ANC leaders’ choices for their children’s education and the public’s desires highlights the complex dynamics at play.

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Cecil John Rhodes would have loved the new education bill

By Andrew Kenny*

Cecil John Rhodes would have loved the ANC’s Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA), 2022. Rhodes was the most arrogant and ambitious of all the British Imperialists. He believed British civilisation and culture were superior to all others, especially those in Africa. His driving aim was not to make big piles of money, although he did that very successfully, but to impose everything British on the natives in the African colonies.

Above all – above all – he wanted to impose the English language on African people. He thought it was superior to black African languages and of course far, far superior to Afrikaans, that crude language spoken by the Boers. He wanted English to become the universal language. The ANC agrees with him. Hence BELA. 

The 2022 South African census has just been published by StatsSA. Its statistics on South African languages make interesting reading in the light of BELA. It says that in 2022, in descending order, the languages most spoken at home were as follows (% in brackets): IsiZulu (24.4); IsiXhosa (16.3); Afrikaans (10.6); Sepedi (10.0); English (8.7). Other African languages followed. So English is only the fifth biggest home language. Cecil John Rhodes’s dream has not been realised in South African households. The ANC is determined to see that it is realised in South African schools. The ANC wants the language spoken at home by only 8.7% of the population to be the only language used in teaching at schools.

BELA has two main aims. The first is to take all powers of education in our schools away from the parents and the school governing bodies (SGBs) and to give them to the teachers, the teachers’ unions, especially SADTU, the principals, the education department and the politicians. It wants to make sure that parents have no say in their choice of school or in the education of their children. Big Brother will decide how your children get educated. The second aim is to stamp out Afrikaans at the schools.

South African education is divided into two completely different types of schools: one is the type of schools the ANC leaders administer; the other is the type of schools the ANC leaders send their own children to. There is no overlap. ANC leaders would be horrified at the idea of sending their children to the schools they administer.

The first type of schools are the free public schools, which 80% of our children attend. These schools are all transformed, meaning they are not contaminated by white teachers. The 2022 census says that whites now constitute 7.3% of the population. To achieve their equity targets, schools should have no more than 7.3% white teachers. Most schools achieve these targets handsomely. These schools, run by the ANC since 1994, have been a disastrous failure for their children (although a huge success for their well-paid SADTU teachers). These schools have ruined the life hopes of most black children. They have produced amongst the worst literacy rates, the lowest standards in maths and science, for any schools anywhere on Earth, including many African countries much poorer than South Africa. You can well understand why ANC ministers, EFF leaders and SADTU bosses would never send their children to these transformed schools. They send them to the second type of schools.

The second type of schools are the posh private schools and the Model-C schools, schools where parents have to pay fees. These schools are not transformed. These schools have not met employment equity targets. At these schools more than 7.3% of the teachers are white, far more. In fact, most of the teachers are white. These schools produce by far the best educational outcomes in South Africa, especially for black children. Leaders of the ANC, EFF and SACP insist on sending their children to these schools. The trouble is that, at these schools, parents and SGBs have considerable say in the running of the schools. BELA wants to put a stop to this. Worse, some of these schools teach in Afrikaans, and often get the best matric results in the country. The ANC wants to stop this right now, and BELA will do it for them.

Around the world, teachers, unions and politicians want to control education and stop parents having any choice in the schools for their children. They hate the idea of education vouchers, where parents can decide which school to send their children to. In the USA, charter schools, often very successful, have been shut down by the teachers’ unions and the educational authorities. In England the Labour Party Government shut down the highly successful grammar schools, where gifted working-class children could get a good education. They replaced them with the dismal comprehensive schools, which essentially smashed the chances of a poor worker’s child ever getting a good education. I taught at such a boys’ comprehensive school in Coventry in 1972. It was awful. I asked a senior teacher there if he would send his own children to it. He said, “You must be joking!” Shirley Williams, the Labour Minister of Education, was a prime mover in destroying the grammar schools and setting up the comprehensives. Where did she send her own daughter to school? Um, well, you see, she’s very sensitive and so – . And she sent her to a posh private school. In this respect, there is nothing unusual about BELA. 

On language and race, it is a different matter. The ANC wants white teachers for its own children but black teachers for everybody else’s children. This is deep. This would explain much of the failure of post-colonial Africa, if only we were allowed to examine it. But we are not. It also wants English. Also very deep. When it constantly rants against colonialism, why does it want a colonial language? Again, we are not allowed to ask. Most striking of all, why does it hate Afrikaans so much?

When ANC parents see a school that is run by whites, they want to send their children to it. The converse is not true. Whites do not want to send their children to a school run by blacks. I am simply stating a fact, and I invite anybody to explain why. Such an explanation is extremely important. If a group of rich black ANC supporters set up a school with black teachers and black pupils teaching exclusively in a black African language, no whites would have any objection at all – but they would not want to send their own children there. Yet the ANC does object to a white school teaching in Afrikaans. ANC parents would want their children to be admitted to it, but once admitted they would demand teaching in English, the colonial language of Cecil John Rhodes. Why this hatred of Afrikaans, a beautiful new language, simple and modern, full of poetry and expression?

My explanation is that the African Ă©lite, as opposed to most ordinary African people, is ashamed of its own African culture and languages. It went along with the ideas of Cecil John Rhodes. The Afrikaners did not. They fought a long war against his mighty empire. When they came to power, they cherished their language and their culture. They showed up the African Ă©lite, now represented by the ANC. That is why Afrikaans is so hated by the Ă©lite. This explains BELA.

I emphasise that the great mass of ordinary black people wants nothing to do with this nonsense. They are not ashamed of their language and their culture, nor should they be, since their African languages are beautiful and their African cultures are rich. But they have been horribly betrayed by their leaders. The worst betrayal of all is in the ANC’s education policies.

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*Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.

This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission.