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Resistance and Education Under Apartheid
During the 1970s, the numbers of students in Cape Town grew dramatically due to population increases and to the provision of education, however flawed. Yet the recession meant limited job prospects and students turned their energies to the struggle against the racist attitudes of the authorities. In 1972 police baton-charged a group of students demonstrating against university apartheid on the steps of St. George's Cathedral.

The banning of demonstrations in all other public places meant that educational institutes were one of the few places where political gatherings and mass protests could take place. Students at UCT (University of Cape Town) periodically organised 'sit-in's and demonstrations, hence attracting the name 'Moscow on the Hill'. Some graduates went into trade union activism.


In 1977, when the minister of justice Jimmy Kruger came to a National Party meeting in Maitland, crowds of UCT students greeted him with shouts of 'Sieg, hiel' (the nazi salute), and 'Who killed Biko?' Biko died when detained by security police on 12 September on his return to the Eastern Cape after coming to Cape Town in secret to try and unite black organisations.

In 1980, school pupils began another series of protests of a more organised nature than those in 1976.

In Guguletu, Fezeka Senior Secondary school pupils protested at the high costs of uniforms and shortages of textbooks, while coloured students in Hanover Park and Parkwood Estate complained against the state of their schools and the lack of stationery. The authorities responded quickly to the pupils' boycotts, remembering the riots that were sparked in 1976.

In addition to direct political action, school pupils organised 'awareness programmes' with assistance from like-minded teachers on issues such as 'the non-racial sporting movement', KhoeSan culture and the tradition of black resistance.

Following the government's announcement of a State of Emergency in the Witwatersrand and Eastern Cape in July 1985, UWC (University of the Western Cape) and UCT students, and pupils from coloured and African schools responded in a few days with class boycotts and rallies. Economic hardship amongst black and coloured youth contributed to the sense of desperation in the townships.

On 26 October 1985, the State of Emergency was extended to the Western Cape thereby giving the authorities limitless power. It was exam time at school, and when some students tried to disrupt the exams, thousands were detained including one whole school in Lotus River.

According to a young American who was in Cape Town during 1980 to surf and to teach, there were 'signs and symbols' of a subculture of revolution in Cape Flats schools.



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