Hendrik Verwoerd Wipe Hendrik Verwoerd's smile away: new campaign set to change his legacy!

If we don’t get behind education, we are fulfilling his legacy!


South Africa – “Wipe the smile off Verwoerd’s face.” That is what Amnesty International South Africa is calling on the country’s leaders to do when it comes to basic education.

The new campaign launched on Monday is asking all of South Africa to get behind our education system and change the legacy of what Hendrik Verwoerd created during the Apartheid system.

Hendrik Verwoerd was an authoritarian, socially conservative leader and an Afrikaner nationalist. His goal in founding the Republic of South Africa, thereby leaving the Commonwealth of Nations, was to preserve minority rule by white Afrikaners over the various non-white ethnic groups, including Bantu, Khoisan, Coloured and Indian people, who were the majority of South Africa’s population. To that end, he greatly expanded apartheid, the system of forced classification and segregation by race that existed in South Africa from 1948 to 1994

The Bantu Education Act was introduced in 1953, five years after the National Party instated apartheid policies in South Africa. This system was created to separate learning institutions according to race.

“What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.” – Hendrik Verwoerd, Architect of Apartheid.

During this time, African education was neglected, underfunded and underdeveloped. Fast forward to today, 25 years into democracy and most of these issues still remain in our current education system.

“The campaign urges members of the public, who care about the provision of quality education, to ‘sign the smile off Verwoerd’s face’ by demanding that South Africa’s leaders urgently provide all children with the decent quality, basic education that is their birthright as enshrined in the Constitution.”

“Our campaign rightly points out that if the man who created apartheid looked back now, he’d be smiling,” Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said.

All children have the right to a decent quality, basic education in a conducive learning environment with proper and safe infrastructure. It is one of the most powerful ways to give people equal opportunities because being able to read, write and do simple maths can be a ticket out of poverty, and a chance to build a better life.

“If Verwoerd looked back now, he would be smiling. Because unless we tackle the deep inequality, he created in our education system, we risk fulfilling his legacy,” – Amnesty International South Africa.

Decades after apartheid ended, and despite current government undertakings, here are some facts:

  • Almost 50% of learners drop out of school between Grade 1 and Grade 12.
  • 78% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language.
  • 61% of Grade 5 learners cannot add or subtract.
  • 46% of schools lack basic sanitation, including 17%, where pupils are forced to use highly dangerous pit latrines.
  • Only 14% of pupils that enter our school system will qualify for university.

Sign this petition, and together, we can force the government to act. Together, we will urge all South Africa’s leaders to guarantee all South African children their constitutional right to a quality basic education.

  • Providing all schools with proper resources to teach basic, quality skills in reading and mathematics by 1 January 2021.
  • Replacing every school pit latrine with safe, clean toilets by 1 January 2021.

Sources: Amnesty International South Africa | Hendrik Verwoerd 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and man in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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