The Legacy of Apartheid: Continuing Racial Inequality in South Africa

In 1953, the White controlled government of South Africa introduced the Bantu Education Act, enforcing the segregation of education throughout the country.  The aim of the legislation was clear: black and non-white youth should look to the unskilled labor market for work, rather than seeking academic advancement.  Hendrik Verwoerd, known as the “Architect of Apartheid,” stated that, “There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?”  The disparity between school reserved for whites and their non-white counterparts grew exponentially as time progressed.  White schools were up to western standards, while 25% of black schools lacked running water, 30% electricity, and more than half plumbing.

Many South African School located in majority black provinces continue to lack basic necessities, like certified teachers. (Source ENCA)

In the 1970’s, the per capita governmental spending on black education was one-tenth of the spending on white.  While the policies of Apartheid Era South Africa have since been purged, the echoes of these procedures continue to affect the equality in education in the country.  The disparity between the success of black students compared to their white counterparts continues to be a major issue in South Africa, and studies have shown that it is a wide range of issues that can cause this inequality.  Mmusi Maimane, leader of the political opposition party, has addressed the legacy of the system while making a speech aimed to address racism in the country, saying, “”We are entitled to ask why a black child is 100 times more likely than a white child to grow up in poverty.  We are entitled to ask why a white learner is six times more likely to get into university than a black learner.”

Mmusi Maimane presents the racial inequality of Apartheid Era South Africa
Mmusi Maimane presents the racial inequality of Apartheid Era South Africa (Source BBC)

In the last academic year, some 213,000 children failed their end of school examination for the academic year, out of a total of nearly 800,000.  However, this benchmark does not include students who dropped out of class, out of the 1.2 million seven-year-olds who enrolled in Grade 1 in 2002, slightly less than half went on to pass their school-leaving exam, 11 years later.  This is not about a lack of funding. In fact, South Africa spends more on education, some 6% of GDP, than any other African country.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 01: A group of students shout slogans and hold banners during an anti-xenophobia demonstration against the alleged racist attitude of the administration of the Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa on September 01, 2015. (Photo by Ashraf Hendricks/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A group of students demonstrate against the alleged racist attitude of the administration of the Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa (Source The South African Newspaper)

            So what issues are holding South African schools back?  One of the most easily seen problems are those related to the many languages of South Africa.  In 2010, 400 12-year-old students were asked to work out the answer for 7 x 17.  130 of the 400 were able to work out the problem.  However, when the same problem was asked in English in word form, none of the 400 students were able to answer.  There are 11 official languages in South Africa but most teaching is in English, especially for subjects such as math and science.

Standardized tests are presented in English throughout South Africa, where many students speak the “language of education” only as a second language. (Source BBC)

Nationally representative household surveys from 2002 to 2009 in post-apartheid South Africa demonstrate that substantial educational inequality still exists. This inequality may not evident at ages when children begin school but increasingly manifests itself as students become older. This pattern suggests that black and coloured students either drop out or repeat grades to the extent that by age 18 they have a two-year education disadvantage compared with white and Asian (mostly Indian) children. A substantial share of this disadvantage is because of family background, while other factors, like school characteristics play a role as well. There is some indication that the trend may be narrowing, but not enough to eliminate inequality in the near future. South Africa requires a more effective education policy that can address both issues of racial inequality and disadvantaged family background.

Tensions remain high as allegations of institutional racism persist in many schools across the country. (Source ENCA)



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Is De-Horning Rhinos a Feasible Option for Combatting Poaching in South Africa?

The poaching of rhinos in South Africa for their valuable horns has long been an issue. These horns can be worth $60,000 per kilogram on the black market, due to their high demand in countries like Vietnam. People in these countries mistakenly believe rhino horn powder has many health benefits, such as preventing hangovers and curing cancer. Though horns can be retrieved from rhinos without killing the animal, because these animals can be quite dangerous, they are often killed. The government has taken action against poachers, but the rhino population in South Africa is still severely threatened. De-horning rhinos in South Africa may be a possible method of combatting this threat.
The number of rhino poachings in South Africa, though slightly declining, is still dangerously high in recent years, as shown below. 5,424 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2006. Head Ranger Simon Naylor at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa said, “I think in the last few years we’ve reached that tipping point in Africa, and certainly in South Africa. There are more deaths now than births. And so it’s a species heading towards extinction if we don’t do something drastic.”


De-horning is a practice which has been taken up by many South African ranchers to protect their rhinos from poachers. Through this process, they safely remove the horn from the rhino so as to get rid of any incentive for poachers to kill them.
First, the rhino is darted with a carefully calculated amount of sedative so as to calm the rhino. A vet then checks the vital signs of the animal to ensure the sedative did not harm it, and then the dehorning team begins their work. They make measurements to determine how much of the horn should be removed so that no permanent damage is done to the rhino horn, as removing too much of the horn can prevent regrowth.


Once these measurements have been made, then a battery-driven saw is used to cut off the horn at the line drawn. Cold water is sprayed on the horn during this process to prevent any over-heating of the horn or any burns.

Once removed, the horns are measured, weighed, and labeled, and any shavings of the horn are gathered and saved. These horns, because of their value, will be stored in a safe for security. The question many governments in Africa are now facing with the implementation of this practice, is whether or not to legalize trade of horns that are removed in this humane way, and therefore to gain profit which can further fund the conservation and protection of rhinos. South Africa has indicated that it intends to explore this option as a way to ensure the viability of rhino protection.


After this process, the sedative wears off and the rhinos will walk away unharmed. However, this does not mean that there are no concerns regarding de-horning. There are many concerns that the loss of their horns will affect a rhino’s ability to protect its young and to defend its territory from other rhinos. In wildlife reserves where all rhinos have been dehorned, this is not a threat, but this concern makes de-horning rhinos in the wild an unrealistic option. Another reason de-horning is not as effective as desired is that poachers often shoot on sight, and therefore will kill rhinos even when their horns have been removed. Even if they are aware that the rhinos have been de-horned, poachers will sometimes kill a rhino just for the small stump remaining. To combat this, those who de-horn rhinos have started publicity campaigns to make poachers aware that their rhinos are de-horned. Another option some have pursued is poisoning rhino horns and marking them as poisoned to make them inedible and therefore unprofitable.


The poaching of animals in Africa has become a worldwide concern, and governments of African countries such as South Africa are pursuing any option that may help them protect their endangered animals. De-horning is one such method by which many are attempting to control poaching, and in small-scale wildlife reserves, it has been fairly successful, though there are concerns. For wider-scale use in the wild, however, it is not exactly feasible. If a substitute for the rhino horn which is without value could be discovered and used to replace the horn, perhaps this method could be instituted. There is much work to be done before the process of de-horning can be used as a wide-scale poaching countermeasure, but it has proven fairly effective in the time it has been implemented on a smaller scale. De-horning and other measures taken to protect rhinos against poaching provide a ray of hope for the future safety of dwindling rhino populations.

The Siblings Spreading Out Through Sub-Saharan Africa

In November 2015, Pope Francis visited Africa; more specifically, he visited the countries of Uganda, Kenya, and the Central African Republic, which have large Catholic populations (42% of Ugandans, 22% of Kenyans, and 29% of Central Africans are Catholic).

Global shares of Catholics, 1910 and 2010 comparison (Pew Research)
Global shares of Catholics, 1910 and 2010 comparison (Pew Research)

These countries reflect the growing trend in global Catholicism – while it has been declining, remaining steady or growing very slowly in places such as Europe and North America, it has been skyrocketing in places like Africa and Asia. (It has of course been growing steadily in the Latin America-Caribbean region, making up a third of global Catholicism as of 2010.) As of 2015, 16% of people in the sub-Saharan are Catholic, and the number is expected to increase. While other sects of Christianity are also increasing fast, Catholicism is the biggest group of them all.

During his visit to Africa, the Pope spoke about corruption, people who lack education and work, and visited slums; he offered a Mass at a shrine for Anglican and Catholic martyrs, and finally, he visited a war zone.

Pope Francis visiting the mosque in PK-5, Bangui, Central African Republic, in a show of interfaith cooperation (The New York Times)
Pope Francis visiting the mosque in PK-5, Bangui, Central African Republic, in a show of interfaith cooperation (The New York Times)

Pope Francis visited an area known as PK-5, where Muslims and Christians have been fighting for some time. He went to the mosque there, and addressed about 200 Muslims, speaking about the need for peace in the name of God and inter-faith cooperation.

This is important, because not only is the Catholic population in Africa skyrocketing, but the Muslim population is as well. Over the last century, Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa have increased from about 7 million in 1900 to over 222 million. Vocations in Africa are also doing much better than those in the West, resulting in an increase in more African clergy, leading to them being sent out to fill in for the decrease in vocations in regions like Europe and North America. By 2050, according to the World Christian Database, Africa will have over 450 million Catholics, and become the world’s largest Catholic continent.

Growth of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, from 2010 to projected numbers in 2030 (Pew Research)
Growth of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, from 2010 to projected numbers in 2030 (Pew Research)

Over the last century, Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa have increased from 11 million to about 234 million. As of 2010, Africa held about 15% of the total Muslim population. By 2050, there will supposedly be 670 million Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2050, Muslims and Catholics will be the two biggest religions in the world.

Partially, this increase is due to the fact that both Catholics and Muslims in Africa have higher fertility rates and are younger than most other adherents of other religions, in both Africa and elsewhere. Religious switching and migration also play factors. For Catholicism, in addition, its willingness to incorporate traditional African traditions and its key role in things like health care and education also help the increase.

The kinds of Catholicism/Christianity and Islam that are growing in Africa are important too – they tend to be the more conservative, traditional kind. As you might imagine, this can lead to conflicts.

Nigerian Catholics affected by Boko Haram (Catholic Herald)
Nigerian Catholics affected by Boko Haram (Catholic Herald)

In the Central African Republic, a Muslim rebel coalition overthrew the Christian president, leading to clashes between Muslim and Christian militias. In Kenya, an extremist Islamic group from Somalia, al-Shabab, attacked a shopping mall and later a university, leaving over 200 people dead, most of them Christians. In Nigeria, 70% of which is Catholic, 5,000 Catholics have been killed by Boko Haram, with 100,000 left homeless and over 350 churches destroyed.

In 2010, a median of 23 percent of Muslims and 28 percent of Christians[1] in sub-Saharan Africa saw members of the other religion as hostile to their own religion. A significant portion of people said that they saw religious conflict as a very big problem in their country. And while most sub-Saharan Africans, regardless of their faith, say that democracy is a good thing and that people being able to practice their religion freely is also a good thing, 60% of Christians and 63% of Muslims say that they would like the government to be based on the Bible or sharia law. Religious tension and conflicts are certainly a problem for both the present and the future in sub-Saharan Africa.

Islam and Christianity will be the two biggest religions in 2050, Pew Research says (Pew Research)
Islam and Christianity will be the two biggest religions in 2050, Pew Research says (Pew Research)

But this isn’t just a sub-Saharan African issue, or even just an African issue. It’s a global issue. Remember how, by 2050, Africa will be home to large portions of each religion (in Catholicism’s case, the largest)? Globally, Africa will have a huge influence over each religion in the years to come. And if each religion is the more conservative, traditional kind, which tends to lead to conflicts or hostility, then their effect upon each religion might be negative in a global context. As the number of atheists and unaffiliated decrease globally, the people who are religious increase. Religion – and the divides between them – are likely to play a bigger role in problems and solutions in the future around the world.

But there is hope.

People in Africa have been talking about the Catholic (and Christian)/Muslim divide, and whether there is a way to improve relations. Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, a place that has been a stronghold for the radical Boko Haram, says that the religious divide among among ordinary people is highly overrated, and that the problems that exist (not necessarily caused by religious problems) can be fixed with more democracy. Kukah himself is “one of the most trusted and admired religious leaders in the country,” and promotes as well as exemplifies many interfaith interactions. He represents a growing number of people and organizations dedicated to interfaith cooperation.

Pope Francis in Bangui (Premium Times)
Pope Francis in Bangui (Premium Times)

Pope Francis, at his speech in the mosque in the Central African Republic, said, “Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God Himself. God is peace. Salaam.[2]

[1] Often in surveys, Catholicism is lumped into the grouping of Christianity as a whole, so it can be difficult to find data specific to the religion. But keep in mind that Catholicism is the largest Christian group anywhere, compared to Protestants orOrthodox members, so Catholics are a significant portion of the people answering these surveys, especially in Africa. The same problem applies for Muslims in surveys – Shia and Sunni sects are not taken into account.

[2] Salaam is the Arabic word for peace.

Title is a reference to Pope Francis’ words, “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters,” from his speech in Bangui, Central African Republic.


Egypt’s Diminishing Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Media

Egypt has undergone a change in its approach to human rights. The current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, came to power after the previous president, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from office in 2013 by the Egyptian military. This new president does not try to hide his critical view of human rights. Since al-Sisi came into power, his government has jailed tens of thousands of political opponents and taken steps to criminalize the work of human rights organizations and cripple independent civil society groups. The new government is continuously increasing repression until the basic freedoms of the people are almost nonexistent.

This map shows where journalists are imprisoned; as the colors darken the number of journalist prisoners increase. In 2015 there were approximately 11-25 journalists imprisoned in Egypt. As indicated by this map, Egypt is one of the worst countries in regards to arbitrarily arresting its citizens.Picture 1

Rights groups have documented the crackdown on freedom of the media in Egypt since Morsi’s overthrow in 2013. After the military took over the country the state closed news organizations and arrested a growing number of journalists. In 2016 Egypt’s prisoner count increased from the previous year. In 2016 a court sentenced three journalists to three years in prison, which sends a dangerous message in Egypt today. This ruling shows that journalists can be locked up just for doing their job: telling the truth and reporting news to the public. It also shows that there are judges in Egypt who permit their courtrooms to become instrumental in the increasing repression of politics and propaganda. The number of journalists imprisoned in 2016 is the highest it has ever been since 1990.

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From July 2013 – January 2014 there were a total of 3,143 deaths in Egypt. An Interior Ministry official reported in July 2014 that authorities arrested 22,000 people over the last year, but the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights claimed the number of people arrested was closer to 41,000. At least 90 of those arrested in Cairo and Giza died from inhumane conditions – lack of reasonable health care and torture – in the first 11 months of 2014. The majority of these deaths resulted from protests where civilians and authorities clashed. The police have used a new law, Law 107, which is heavily repressive on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions ad Peaceful Demonstrations to arrest political activists because they didn’t seek advanced permission to do so from authorities. Under the international human rights law, the Egyptian government has the right to regulate how a public space is used for demonstrations by requiring reasonable advance notification. This does not mean, however, that if the organizers of the demonstration fail to give advance notification, they should be subjected to criminal sanctions that would result in fines or jail time. The Egyptian government has made it clear that it will not stand for dissent through the numerous attacks on civil rights groups and the arrests and prosecutions of group leaders. Almost three years after nationwide protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak, security agencies feel more empowered than ever and are still focused on crushing the rights of Egyptian citizens to protest their government’s actions.

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Since Mohamed Morsi was overthrown, there have been 60 or more journalists assaulted, 70 journalists arrested, 11 journalists imprisoned and 7 journalists killed. These statistics only make up a portion of the total number of prisoners today. Sometimes there are signs of President al-Sisi softening his stance on freedom of expression and freedom of the press; but for every positive decision he makes, there is an opposite reaction.

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The Egyptian Social Solidarity Ministry made a public announcement saying all non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) must register with the government or else their operations in Egypt would be considered illegal. By have the NGO’s register with them, the government gains power to freeze their assets and shut them down if they feel it necessary. This new policy takes away these organizations’ independence and ability to remain critical. The government then amended Article 78 of Egypt’s penal code, which allowed them to punish any groups – NGO’s included – who accept foreign aid to carry out acts that went against the interest of the state with life imprisonment. Considering how the new Egyptian government increasingly interprets any criticisms as attacking the country, it’s clear the amended Article 78 may be used against human rights groups, civil society activists, etc.

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