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Date: Tue, 4 Apr 1995 20:21:11 -0400
Sender: Pan-Africa Discussion List <AFRICA-L@VTVM1.CC.VT.EDU>
Subject: US imperialism and Education in (South) Africa

US imperialism and Education in (South) Africa

By Thami Madinane. 4 April, 1995

The question of suppressing counter-revolutionaries is one of struggle between ourselves and the enemy, an antagonistic contradiction--Mao Tse-tung.

The Problems

The state of education in South Africa in general and that of Africans in higher education in particular is in chaos, if not crises. Currently marked by strifes and tensions raging from budgetary concern, administrative to curriculum problems even the once privileged exclusively white campuses are being hit by an onslaught of young and militant Africans who are determined to sweep-out the old-style neocolonialist and apartheid conceptions. However, this process is not without its difficulties. While the internal neoliberal-white intellectual community find it in its self-interest to bend backward, the recalcitrant Afrikaaner conservative intellectual is determined, so it fancy, to resist until the end. Externally, also pressure is mounting to preempt the emergence of an independent and assertive African intelligentsia in South Africa. Or, at the minimum have it not deviate from the United States global stratagem and foreign policy interest, viz., economics and political.

The Culprits and their Trappings

The involvement of public and private US academic institutions in the restructuring of the educational system in South Africa poses many dangers to the recently acquired political power by Africans. What makes matters even worse is that there is no effective opposition presently in South Africa to resist such encroachment. Faced by a well-financed machine primarily funded by multinational corporations, private foundations (i.e. Rockefeller and Ford) and by the US government federal agencies such as USAID and the infamous USIA, one can only pity the opposition in South Africa. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about this unholy alliance in the post-Soviet Union era between the US State Department, universities and private corporations and foundation is the recent recruitment into the ranks previously so-called progressive institution into the neo-imperialist agenda. This is being accomplished amongst other means by:

  1. Funding groups of American professors working in or have contacts in South Africa as consultants and advisors. The purpose is to promote the hegemony of America democratic values and ideas and hence model the development of these universities along America stripes.
  2. Sponsor a parallel traffic of liberal-mainstream minded South Africa educationist and intellectuals for a limited period of stay intellectual to the US , while simultaneous despatching to South Africa, US professors and educationist experts.

Under Siege

Many South African intellectuals, African and non-African, encourage this presence of the foreign professors and experts. Mostly, they are driven by a naive belief that somehow such interaction will help accelerate the process of catching-up with their white counterparts. Also, pressures to adherence to meaningless phraseology like the new spirit of South Africa has imposed a moral imperative on them to treat the new foreign invaders in a new light and depict themselves as more co-operative. This regardless of how poor their track records in research work, discoveries or innovations.

The Strategy Exposed and Future Prospects

Fundamental to the agenda of White House and the Department of States is a very simple strategy: to westernize South African universities and undermine any cultural resistance by militant students and intellectuals. This is necessary in order to legitimize the present system of capitalism and inequalities in South Africa. The prospects are gloom and South Africa will continue for period of time buying into the American framework while at the same time its varied aspects of social and economic life continue to be violated. One can already hear indignant protestation by individuals foreign experts and professors, I do not care the fact will remain unchanged: they are paid mercenaries in the service of international capitalism and the US. State Department. To make matters worse the returnees from exile mostly trained in are back home in South Africa. More encouraged and dynamic they have eagerly assumed control and systematically replacing old-guards of apartheid and have kept the lines of communication alive with their former hosts abroad.

What about a democratic agenda and Socialism? Excuse me, say, what?!

New School for Social Research
Department of Economics
New York.

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