Literary discussion kaffir boy education as liberation
The Value of EducationBy: Alisha Punjwani and Cejay Zhu
Background InformationThe Bantu Education Act of 1953 prevented black education fromeven coming close to white education. Under this act, African schoolsbecame government funded and regulated, after which apartheid wastaught in the schools. The mission schools that had existed prior tothis act decided to close rather than teach the apartheid required bythe government. In school, black children could only learn what thegovernment wanted, which was how to be good servants, gardeners,and factory workers. The white children, on the other hand, weretaught arithmetic, language, science, and history. Each day, blackchildren went to school for 3 hours, where they sat and studied inovercrowded classrooms and hallways. Black school facilities werenothing compared to white school facilities, and because of all this,many blacks were angered to the point of revolt. By implementing anunfair education system, the whites of South Africa hoped to keepthe blacks forever down as a lesser, subser vient species.
Education as seen in the Book Medium to God’s message necessary element for a job basic education-passed around with stories produces feeling of superiority means of manipulation alternative for “gang life” liberation way to escape poverty more important for men to achieve
Passage #1“See how the devil speaks to you,” the cross-eyed evangelist gloated.“Everybody needs Christ. Our forefathers, who for centuries had lived inutter darkness in the jungles of Africa, worshipping false gods involvinghuman sacrifices, needed Christ bad. That’s why God from his sacredseat in heaven one day looked at Africa and said to Himself, ‘I cannot inall fairness let those black children of mine continue to follow the evilpath. They’ve already suffered enough for the transgressions of theircursed father, Ham. I’ve got to save them somehow.’ ‘But how can I savethem,’ the mighty God wondered, ‘for there’s none among them whoknows how to read or write, therefore I cannot send them my TenCommandments.’ God worried over the problem for days and nights,until one day he stumbled across the solution: He would send to Africahis other children in Europe, who already knew the Word.Page 58
Passage #2She told me that going without a job was nerve-wracking, that she was tired of being turned awayfrom jobs at the Indian place because she could notread or write, because she did not have a permit,because she had a suckling infant and because shewas pregnant.page 67
Passage #3As we had no nursery rhymes nor storybooks, and besides, as no one in the house knew how to read, mymother’s stories served as a kind of library, a golden fountain of knowledge where we children learned aboutright and wrong, about good and evil.I learned that virtues are things to be always striven after, embraced and cultivated, for they are amplyrewarded; and that vices were bad things, to be avoided at all costs, for they bring one nothing but trouble andpunishmentI learned that sagacity and quick wits are necessary in avoiding dangerous situations; and that fatuity andshortsightedness make one go around in circles, seemingly unaware of the many opportunities for escape.I learned that good deeds advance one positively in life, and lead to a greater and fuller development of self;and that bad deeds accomplish the contrary.I learned that good always invariably triumphs over evil; that having brains is often better than havingbrawn; and that underdogs in all situations of life need to have unlimited patience, resiliency, stubbornnessand unshakeable hope in order to triumph in the end.I learned to prefer peace to war, cleverness to stupidity, love to hate, sensitivity to stoicism, humility topomposity, reconciliation to hostility, harmony to strife, patience to rashness, gregariousness tomisanthropy, creation to annihilation.Page 79-80
Passage #4Even though I had never been beyond the confinesof Alexandra to know what Johannesburg wasreally like, I told them secondhand stories about it.They believed me completely, and thought mevastly knowledgeable; I felt superior to the lot ofthem.Page 87
Passage #5“While we stood in line, my mother, in an attempt to allay her doubts about thecontents of the note, asked a man in front of us to read it to her. The man told us thatthe note, contrary to what John had said, merely stated that my mother had a problem;it didn’t explain the nature of the problem, or state the fact that we had twice been to thesuperintendent’s office. All in all, the notes were worthless.Page 117I would lie to her that I was late because I had to stay behind for choir rehearsals.Because my mother could’t read, there seemed no way for her to find out the truth.page 159With my knowledge of arithmetic, I became the household accountant. I got mymother to buy a notebook in which I wrote the names of all our customers, and theamounts they owed. Because many of our customers could not read, I at times felttempted to cheat them by overcharging or making them pay for drinks they neverhad.Page 180
Passage #6They, like myself, had grown up in an environment where the valueof education was never emphasized, where the first thing a childlearned was not how to read and write and spell, but how to fight andsteal and rebel; where the money to send children to school wasgrossly lacking, for survival was first priority.Page 123
Passage #7‘Your father didn’t go to school,” she continued, dabbing her puffed eyes to reduce the swelling with apiece of cloth dipped in warm water, “that’s why he’s doing some of the bad things he’s doing. Thingslike drinking, gambling, and neglecting his family. He didn’t learn how to read and write; therefore,he can’t find a descent job. Lack of any education has narrowly focused his life. He sees nothingbeyond himself. He still thinks in the old, tribal way, and still believes that things should be as easy asthey were back in the old days when he was growing up as a tribal boy in Louis Trichardt. Though he’smy husband, and your father, he doesn’t see any of that.”Page 133If you can read or write, you’ll be better off than those of us who can’t. Take my situation: I can’t find ajob because i don’t have papers, and I can’t get papers because white people mainly want to register peoplewho can read and write. But I want things to be different for you child. For you and your brothers andsisters. I want you to go to school, because I believe that an education is the key you need to open up a newworld and a new life for yourself. It is the only key that can do that, and only those who seek it earnestlyand perseveringly will get anywhere in the white man’s world. Education will open doors where none seemto exist”Page 133
Passage #8My mother, on one side, illiterate but determined tohave me drink, for better or for worse, from the wellof knowledge. On the other side, my father, he tooilliterate, yet determined to have me drink from thewell of ignorance.Page 134
Passage #9As we went along some of the streets, boys and girls who shared thesame fears about school as I were making their feelings known in avariety of ways. They were howling their protests and trying to escape.A few managed to break loose and make a mad dash for freedom, onlyto be recaptured in no time, admonished or whipped, or both, and orderedto march again.page 126As my brother and sister clawed each other over the food, she and I wentover the books.Page 149“When I grow up, Mama,” I said stoutly, as I took my books to go domy homework with a friend who lived in the neighborhood, “I’ll fight formy rights.”Page 158
Passage #10“Educating our children is the only way out ofthis pit of poverty”page 176
Passage #11Teachers began forecasting great things for me:some said I would make a good teacher, othersmaintained that I had the brains to become adoctor. But all these predictions depended uponone thing-money.
Passage #12There was even talk that Aunt Bushy would haveto leave school upon completing Standard Six,and look for a factory job, so she could help pay forUncle Piet’s schooling.Page 182
Questions!1. “A man who knows nothing about books but can feed himself and his family, is a million timesbetter than a man who has read a million books but cannot feed himself and his family”Johannes’s Dad tells him this. How do you agree or disagree with this?2. As Johannes gets more educated, what are some differences in his personality, attitude, or behavior?What are some signs of illiteracy found in the book? Find a quote to prove it.3. How did exposing education to children hinder or encourage the apartheid?4. Do you think that Johannes would have been as successful with tribal education? Why or why not?What would be better or worse if he had a tribal education?5. “He shunned school, and, instead, grew up to live by the knife. And the same knife he lived byended his life”A strange woman told Johannes her son’s story. Do you think Johannes joined and stayed in schoolout of fear or zeal?6. What are some examples of Johanne’s father’s actions that you think he did because of hisilliteracy? How would it have been different if he was educated? USE QUOTES!
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