The education of a group of cadres and leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) continues to be evoked as an essential component of the achievement of a non-racial constitutional democracy in South Africa. They were educated through a system of Native Education developed and implemented by a partnership of Christian mission organisations and a British colonial government. A number of analyses of education suggest that formal education has acted to reproduce the structures that produce and maintain the inequalities of the distribution and relations of power and capital within a society. However, the rhetoric of the South African liberation movements is based in a narrative in which education, including the experiences of Native Education, is valued as a cultural activity that enabled individuals to engage with all the possible resources available to live their lives within the contexts in which they found themselves.
The research project on which this thesis is based sought to explore and understand how a select group of individuals, members of this collective of cadres and leaders of the anti-colonial movement engaged with this education. The research project had its foundations in the personal reflections of the author, makogti or daughter-in-law to these individuals and was undertaken as a narrative inquiry. The methodology of narrative inquiry reflected the importance of narrative in the intergenerational distribution of particular understandings of education as well as providing a way of recording African ‘voices’ that may otherwise not be heard in the debates around South African education. These experiences of education and schooling have been analysed within the framework of Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus, field and the accumulation of different forms of capital.
The research found that in the case of these individuals their educational experiences did not completely transform their understandings of the world and how they should live their lives. Experiences of schooling including pedagogical relationships with teachers and with other students, as well as members of a set of expanded social networks, provided the basis for the objective understanding of the context in which they were living. The development of a bilingual habitus enabled these individuals to access the values and understandings underpinning the discourse of the colonial orthodoxy in addition to continuing Africa narratives and discourses. This knowledge and skills, values and understandings were able to be applied and transferred to a range of local, national and international contexts.