Original Research - Special Collection: Interrogating Coloniality in South African Primary Schools

Inequalities in the Cape Flats: Principals’ perspectives on children’s schooling

Desire’ Christian, Amy E. Stambach
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 14, No 1 | a1527 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v14i1.1527 | © 2024 Desire’ Christian, Amy E. Stambach | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 February 2024 | Published: 29 May 2024

About the author(s)

Desire’ Christian, Department of Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
Amy E. Stambach, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States


Background: A separate, apartheid system of schooling in South Africa entrenched European racialised ideologies of white supremacy that left a legacy of social, economic, and educational inequalities. The 1995 White Paper for Education, the 1996 South African Schools Act, and the Revised National Curriculum Statement outlined steps for equalising education. However, inequalities within the schooling system remain.

Aim: The study aimed to understand how principals experience the lasting effects of apartheid-era segregationist policies in primary schools and to document principals’ solutions.

Setting: A meeting of principals who work at primary schools in the Western Cape province.

Methods: Researchers purposively sampled four principals from the primary schools represented at the meeting, conducted semi-structured interviews with the principals chosen, and adopted an interpretive approach to analyse findings.

Results: This study finds from principals’ perspectives that neighbourhood gang violence, and highly unequal funding for schools in different neighbourhoods adversely impact primary school children’s education and principals’ abilities to lead as a result of context, overcrowding and inequality. Principals note that when parent-led programmes such as the Walking Bus produce a positive effect, the government tends to undercut parents’ efforts to work with principals to secure and equalise young children’s schooling.

Conclusion: Giving greater governance power to parents and principals may help to equalise the extremes of inequalities in primary schools remaining from Nationalist Party policies of the pre-1994 apartheid era.

Contribution: This study contributes to primary school principals’ ideas for improving primary schoolchildren’s education.


children; race; white supremacy; white nationalism; colonial legacies; gang violence.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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