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Colgate University

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation


The purpose of this research project is to examine the ways in which the classroom, teacher, and student dynamics of a South African urban primary school create a site for nation-building, citizenship, and the promotion of social cohesion. Understanding that the school serves as an institution for the production of ideology, socialization, and spreading of knowledge, this research will investigate how curriculum, authority, and policy influence what it means to be a “good” South African citizen, and thus, a contributor to forming both personal and national identity. Through observing the “Life Orientation” courses, the research attempts to grasp the kind of civic engagement and/or skills that the government expects children to internalize at this young age. This research further explores the ways in which discipline is used in the classroom, and thus the ability of the learners to respond to these messages put forth by a higher authority—all of which is part and parcel of citizenship. Through messages from students and teachers, it is clear how the concept of the nation that is projected in the classroom is contested and confirmed, resisted and retained by members of the school community. Operating as its own democratic community, but under strict guidance and authority from government policy, this research paints a picture of how the school negotiates concepts of citizenship and nation-building in hopes of reaching state mandated goals of social cohesion. Through understanding the dynamics and conceptions cultivated within this public school, the following paper both adds to existing literature in the field of educational studies, political policy and development in post-conflict societies, as well as the field of social cohesion.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Methods | Education Policy | Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration



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