Social Movements and the “Education Revolution” in Postapartheid South Africa

  • Larry A. Swatuk


This chapter has one basic objective: to understand the role that social movements have played and continue to play in the ongoing education revolution in South Africa (Mail and Guardian 12–19 July 2002). To this end, I have described state action, social protest and state response in the highly controversial and symbolic area of education policy. This narrative naturally divides into apartheid (1948–94) and postapartheid (post-1994) eras. I thread the narrative with a loose weave of social movement theory so that we might speculate about the future direction of such movements in South Africa, particularly but not only in regard to education policy. What were the — issue specific, more general — goals of the apartheid-era social movements? Have these goals been realized in the postapartheid context? What is the nature of the so-called education revolution and who is waging it? Does the current African National Congress (ANC)-led Government of National Unity (GNU) have the support of social movements, new and old, arrayed around education policy? Is the postapartheid context likely to throw up contradictions that will give rise to new forms of social protest around education policy? How will these social movements navigate the changing socioeconomic and socio-political landscape of postapartheid South Africa? How much past remains in the present, and what is its impact?


Social Movement Education Policy African National Congress Social Protest Treatment Action Campaign 
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© UNRISD 2005

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  • Larry A. Swatuk

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