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In an on-going process that serve the purpose creating a South African society where learners can realise their potential, our Education system has undergone fundamental transformation. However, despite these changes, the education system of this country seems to remain hampered with rigid unwavering language policies that exclude the majority of learners, embodying implicit institutional racism. Critical theory will be used as a lens to understand the phenomena of these practices that exclude non-Afrikaans speaking learners from schools that use an embosk of “lack of infrastructure or personnel to deliver English-medium teaching” that will accommodate all learners despite their language of speech.
Critical theory is a philosophical inquiry that is concerned with studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism and power. With its emphasis on race relations and racial disparities, Critical theory is premised on the notion that racism is permanent, pervasive and should be challenged. This theory can be used to expose issues of racialized inequalities in any educational context. Critical theory can help us understand the racial and ethical dynamics of education South African context- by applying Critical theory understanding of educational inequalities, it can be argued that the single-medium Afrikaans schools use a language that to exclude previously disadvantaged majority of South Africans (black people in particular). Afrikaans-medium education has been, and, still is a political issue. Under apartheid these schools were vastly better resourced than schools for Black South Africans- these schools has better qualified teachers teaching smaller groups of learners in better infrastructures with superior resources. In this context, it is noteworthy to postulate that, for many Afrikaners’, protecting Afrikaans-medium was, and, still is a way of protecting exclusively white schools and by sustaining the Afrikaans language that has been an instrument of oppression and protect the privilege and legacy of apartheid.
Be it as it may that the school does not have the infrastructure or personnel to deliver English-medium teaching. It should be taken into consideration that there is an increasing number of parents who wish to enrol their children at these well-resourced schools with hopes of their children receiving quality decolonised education that will afford them the same opportunities enjoyed by white learners attending these schools. However seeing that the claims of the school carry an implicit refusal to accept Black learners into the reservoir of superior knowledge that can emancipate the learner, in efforts to preserve a pure whiteness ethos and Afrikaner culture. This then shows despite the progressive constitution that informs the visions for non-racist and non-sexist society, racial exclusion appears to be endemic and its permanence finds expression in South African schools.
The clever use of racial discrimination might be implicitly embosked around absurd claims of lack of infrastructure to accommodate black learners. Critical theory helps us zoom into how the teacher can confront the inequalities that impede the development of learner’s potential. Critical theory thus looks into whether teachers fail to effectively challenge the economic, social, political conditions that inevitably affect the learners’ world of learning and living.
Paulo Freire’s theory to critical pedagogy examines the role of South African teachers in developing future citizens. In the context of high level of implicit racial discrimination in the South African education system, teachers play an oft-underappreciated role in fostering change, teachers should recognise their central role as influential educators of the next generation of South African citizens through pedagogical practices that encourage reflection on learner’s environment, they may promote social transformation and help develop respect for others. Teachers are in a unique position to act as agents of change to further efforts of social justice.
Critical theory draws our attention to how race still is a dominant factor used to determine how people relate to one another. Race is a cornerstone of exclusion as most discriminatory practices stem from the intention to subjugate others. This theory also looks at the implication of racial exclusion on our black learners, as they would feel that they are the less desirable pupil who is unworthy of quality education. This then cause about an animosity between the black child and a white child, which in turn perpetuate the division between the two races and racial intolerance among these two racial groups. In all the political disputes held, we as teachers tend to forget that learners are the ones that are affected the most.
Despite the many attempts to redress all inequalities of the past, the South African education system is still hampered with racial discrimination that should be brought under thorough scrutiny to ensure that learners across all get equal educational opportunities. With the help of Critical theory, we can uncover the thorns of inequality that impede the learning development of learners in becoming productive and better citizens of a free country. And promote a South Africa that is diverse, multi-dimensional and socially just.
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