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The schooling system and the reproduction of selves in the post-apartheid era in South Africa : a dialogic approach.

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The mandate of the apartheid regime was to oppress the indigenous people of South Africa so that they would perpetually be subservient to white people. The education system was engineered to keep the binary of white supremacy and black inferiority intact. By institutionalizing whiteness as a norm or standard, the education system was instrumental in portraying black people as inadequate or not good enough while representing whites as excellent. The unintended outcome was the emergence of struggle cadres who fought the injustices of apartheid and ushered in a democratic dispensation that seeks to redress the inequities brought on by apartheid through, inter alia, a non-racial education system. Nonracialism notwithstanding, the education system is shown to be reproducing the white excels and black-is-not-good-enough identity binary. Not only does this marginalize African understandings of the self, it also fails to articulate the multiple selves that have emerged by default through intermingling of cultures, as a non-racial identity is pursued. This study uses the narrative interpretivist methodology to explore how black learners who attend predominantly white schools construct their identities within multiple meaning systems in their liveworlds and lifeworlds. Taking the plurality of selves and the dialogic account of human functioning as advocated by Ubuntu and Dialogism as its point of departure, this study uses interviews and focus groups to explore how black learners in predominantly white schools make meaning and negotiate the tensions, contradictions, and power dimensions in identity construction post-apartheid. Fifteen students recruited from Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges participated in the study. The results indicate that black learners, rather than allow the institutionalized binary of white superiority and black inferiority to define them, develop a framework to articulate multiple selves that challenge and exist in tension with the binary. Six self-narratives were identified: the black deficiency, white excellence, black excellence, non-racial self, revolutionary/ rebellious self, and a connected self, informed by the idea of Ubuntu. While the first three are shown to entrench the binary, they co-exist with the others to form multiple selves that are fluid and characterized by contradictions, tension and contestation of power. It is this framework, which I refer to as Ubuntu-as-dialogue that reconciles the black learners’ multiplicity formed by default through intermingling of cultures. It uses dialogic tools to articulate multiple selfnarratives without marginalizing Ubuntu, on which African approaches to selfhood are founded. These findings have the following implications for policy, research, theory and practice. Ubuntu-as-dialogue framework needs to be institutionalized by the schooling system in order to enable multiple identities to emerge post-apartheid. This includes, inter alia, ensuring that indigenous languages are taught at the same level as the other dominant languages. Research on identity development needs to be informed by the lived experiences of black learners rather than relying on Western Cartesian theories as these are proven not to apply to the South African black population who have a communal collectivist orientation.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2015.


Educational change -- South Africa., Educational equalization -- South Africa., Education and state -- South Africa., Theses -- Educational psychology.