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Twenty Years After Mandela’s Release: Critical Reflections on Educational Reform and Restructuring in South Africa: A Lecture Featuring Dr. Anthony Lemon

The demise of apartheid and the transition to democratic rule in South Africa is one of the most significant events of the 20th century. February 11th, 2010 marked twenty years since Nelson Mandela walked out of prison. With great dignity and open arms, Nelson Mandela shepherded South Africa, a country tormented by racial inequality and conflict, through a peaceful transition to democratic rule. In conjunction with the Graduate School of Education’s South Africa Initiative, the Africana Studies Department sponsored a visit to Rutgers by a Dr. Anthony Lemon, as a distinguished lecturer on South Africa. Dr. Lemon is University Lecturer in the School of Geography at Oxford University and a senior fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford, with a lifelong intellectual and political engagement with South Africa. His book Apartheid: A Geography of Separation (1976) is a classic text in the study of the South Africa’s white ruling classes’ ambitious but futile attempt to structure that country’s social, political, and economic geography along racial lines. Dr. Lemon is also the author of four other books and a number of articles on the human geography of apartheid, urban segregation and desegregation, governance in multi-ethnic societies, elections and democratic consolidation, as well as the question of integration in region of Southern Africa.

Dr. Lemon spent three days at Rutgers sharing insights from his current research on the restructuring of post-apartheid education. The original architects of the apartheid order drew a sharp distinction between “citizens” and “subjects” in their blueprint for South African society.  South Africans of white ancestry were afforded rights and freedoms because they were regarded as morally autonomous “citizens.” The African majority and other non-whites, on the other hand, were designated as morally non-autonomous “subjects.” As such, they were denied basic rights and were segregated spatially, economically, and culturally from white society. Hendrik Verwoerd, one of the chief proponents of apartheid, blatantly stated that "there is no place for Africans in the European community above certain forms of labor." Apartheid affected all aspects of life for non-whites, but some of its most pernicious effects were on education. Whilst South Africa has made impressive gains since the transition to democratic rule in 1994, uneven and often poor quality education continues to plague the society. At present, the majority of the African population is still educated under very deprived conditions, according to Dr. Lemon.

Dr. Lemon’s visit enabled students, faculty, and staff and other members of the Rutgers community, and beyond, to interact with and learn from a leading scholar on South Africa’s complex transition to democratic rule. In addition to delivering a public lecture on educational transformation in South Africa, Dr. Lemon engaged with students in a number of smaller forums. The program also highlighted current efforts of the Graduate School of Education’s South Africa Initiative in assisting South African society in addressing the legacy of unequal education.

 

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