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Power and Oppression in Apartheid

Context for this Lesson


Subject: Social Studies

Grade: High School

Topic: Power and Oppression in apartheid South Africa

Focus Questions: What were the dynamics of power and oppression in apartheid South Africa? How were daily lives of people affected by government legislation?
Materials: 7 cut circles: 2 red, 5 blue, 21 green slips of paper

"Today we are going to be talking about power and what happens when a few people (a minority) in a community who look a certain way, are able to control many people (the majority) who look a different way. We are going to talk about a place where this has happened and how those few people were able to get away with it for quite a while."

Divide into pairs and decide who is “A” and “B.” Ask “A”s to hold the palm of his or her hand about six inches from “B’s” face. Ask “B”s to imagine that their partner’s hand has hypnotized them and that they have to follow it anywhere it goes keeping the same distance between their face and the palm at all times. As “A” moves around the room “B” follows. After a set time, switch and let “B”s lead.
Possible Side-Coaching:
“Try moving in slow motion as you begin leading your partner.”
“What new ways of moving can you challenge your partner with?”
Reflect: "What did it feel like to have all the power? What did it feel like to have no power? Which position did you prefer and why?"

ARTIFACT (Headlines)

"To begin, I would like to share with you some headilnes from a local newspaper." Place headlines on large pieces of paper on the floor. "Let's do a gallery walk around these headlines."  
  • The Department of Home Affairs Announces New Classification Laws for all Citizens Based on Appearance, Social Acceptance, and Descent
  • Government Approves New Laws For Resettlement
  • Police Fire on Student Protesters in Township, 600 Declared Dead

D: What do you see?
A: Who might these headlines pertain to? What are the issues you see reflected in these headlines?
R: What can we infer aboutt his community based on these headlines? 

"These events described in these headlines actually took place in South Africa—under a system of oppression known as apartheid. What do we know about apartheid?" Scribe on board students' responses. "Based on our repsonses, are there any other thoughts you have about the headlines? How do they help us think about apartheid in daily life?" Scribe responses.
Transition: "So today we are going to think more deeply about how these events affected the people who experienced them."


In this activity, red spots represent the White South African population and blue spots represent the Black South African population. 
Ask for 7 volunteers. 2 get red spots, 5 get blue spots. "Okay, we are going to represent in a few different ways what life was like during apartheid. Here are 7 chairs. Red spot people, you get 5 chairs to share any way you like. Blue spot people, you get 2 chairs. Sit down and make yourselves comfortable. Some of you will have to sit on the floor or stand. What do you immediately notice about distribution amongst the population?"
Differences in Pay:
"Okay, you’ve just done a full week's work. Blue spot people, you’ve worked in many different jobs. You’ve worked in the diamond mines, sweating and breaking rocks. You’ve worked as cooks and maids in peoples homes. Many of you have had to travel far on a train everyday to get to your job. Red spot people, you’ve also worked at a lot of different jobs. You’ve worked in offices, and other upper class jobs." 
"Here is the money you’ve earned in the week. I have 21 green money slips for all of you. Red spot people, you get 14 of these. Blue spot people, split the remaining 7 amongst yourselves."
Have blue spot students swap out with five other students and have green spot students swap out with two others to allow others experience the activity.
Differences in Education Standards:
"Some of you are students. 1 red spot person and 2 blue spot people are students. Red spot, you go to schools where the government spends $696 dollars on you per year. That pays for your books, your teachers and your school building. Blue spot people, how much do you think the government spends on you a year?" Take suggestions.  
"The government spends $45 dollars on each of you to cover all of those expenses. Except that money only ends up covering teachers' pay. It is up to you and your families to pay for the rest.  What do you think those schools might be like? What kinds of differences do you think there might be between the schools for red spots and schools for blue spots?"
Differences in Healthcare:
"I’m sorry to tell you that you all have some health problems. Fortunately, people with the red spots, you have clinics with one doctor for every 400 people. So we should be able to get you an appointment tomorrow. You folks over here (blue spots), I know you have bronchitis, but there’s only one doctor for every 44,000 people. So you’ll have to wait at least a month before we can get you in. You can try waiting in line, but you will have to walk 20 miles to the nearest clinic and wait with 400 other people. We'll do our best to get you in but I would suggest trying another day."
"What do you think the differences in health services provided might be? Who do you think is more likely to get a fatal illness? Why?"
D: What did you just experience? 
A: What emotions did you feel, and what thoughts did you have?
R: What do you think would happen with those people after living in that situation for many years? 
(Providing students with further background information)
"I wonder how a minority gets a majority to agree to this. One thing the White government did was to move Black families out of certain areas to live together in Bantustans or homelands. Up to then, Black Africans who didn’t live in cities lived in villages scattered throughout the country and various cities. However, the White government decided they had to be gathered up and live in homelands according to the type of languages they spoke. Often this land was poor, infertile land that was unfamiliar to them and miles away from where they could work. In cities, Blacks were moved out of White areas (along with their businesses) to townships far outside the city. The Blacks did not have a choice; they were moved by force—otherwise they were seen to be breaking the law and imprisoned. In the villages, their huts were marked and knocked down, and then trucks came and moved people out. 3.5 million people were uprooted – which caused a lot of tension." 
Transition: "We are going to step into role today to examine how these forced relocations would have affected a village."
"I’d like you to imagine that you are a Black African who lives in an African community in the country. This is your home. Pick what your name is. What is your role in this community? What is your family structure? Do you take care of your family while your spouse is in the city working? Or are you returning from work in the city? Or are you taking care of your family alone? Do you have authority in this community or not?" 
"One day another Black African wearing yellow overalls was sent to put numbers on your huts by the government. How might you react to his presence?" (Discuss.) "Let’s imagine that this man, Albert, told his boss about the potential trouble. The boss called a quick meeting to set everyone straight. As soon as I put on this costume piece, I am going into role as John, a white government official and you are going into role as Black Africans."
"I am here because I heard there was some trouble earlier today when my workers came into the village to mark your homes. Don’t you know you have to move? The trucks are booked to come for you in two weeks time. That’s why you have to have numbers on your huts. Then the whole thing can be done in a proper and orderly way…and there won’t be any problems. Okay here's what I will do for you. I will give you a few minutes to tell me your concerns." Students-in-role express their concerns about being moved.
"There seems to be a miscommunication here. Chief Sekete and his family are the landowners here; you pay your rent to him, yes? Well, he was informed months ago about this move and had no complaints. In fact, your Chief has seen where you are going. I even heard him say it’s better than here. So, you must ask him…and not us. [I know you don’t want to break the law and go to prison, do you? Note: People are jailed for long extended periods, whipped, beaten, and tortured] Now, let my boy get on with his job painting the numbers. Hurry up, Albert, we don’t have all day."
Teacher steps out of role.

D: What did we do today?
A: How would you describe the government official’s attitude? How was it different from the villagers'? What emotions did you experience in the town hall meeting?
R: Are there any situations in our world today that are similar to apartheid?