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Eyewitness Accounts of Apartheid

Lower Sixth Historians have been learning about the origins of the policy of Apartheid in South Africa as part of their unit focusing on the emergence of independence across the African continent. In order to find out more about the practicalities of the policy, Cokethorpe teachers Mr Gaertner and Mr Van Zyl, both of whom grew up in South Africa, were invited to address the group. They both gave very informative talks about their experiences, focusing on the period in which Apartheid policies were in place and in the years since Apartheid has ended.

The students were especially interested to hear about the ways in which white South Africans perceived the laws that their government had put in place, and the ways in which protest groups formed in opposition to the Nationalist Party.

Mr Van Zyl's talk encouraged students to think of Apartheid in its wider context, considering the role played by British colonisers in setting the groundwork for the policies that followed. He also addressed one of the major challenges facing the opposition groups, namely their lack of unity and sense of common cause.

Mr Gaertner spoke on the subject of the perception of non-white workers both in the 1980s, when he grew up in a liberal household, and today, when prejudices are still evident. The increased security to which white householders have become accustomed was also discussed, which has been brought to light in recent years by the case of Oscar Pistorius.

Both talks helped to bring the study of South African politics to life, enabling students to ask questions that can really only be answered by those with direct experience of living and working within the context of Apartheid.

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