“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” G.S Lewis
The construction of a nation has always been regarded as a purely political affair which was directed and interpreted by political elites in post-colonial Africa. The rise of conservatism in society and the deliberate use of race and ethnicity as tools of mass mobilisation have dented prospects of social cohesion in many African states. In South Africa, it has been the realisation of a ‘nation’s frame of mind’ among citizens that has proven nearly impossible to achieve, greater interrogation seems to suggest that the structure of the South African education system is partly to blame for this state of affairs. The automatic reaction to that contention is always to assume that its educators, schools and curricula that are to blame for the outlook of learners. The hidden curriculum in the South African education system receives very little scrutiny let alone its damaging effects on the psyche of learners.
The hidden curriculum, according to sociologist Michael Haralambos, consists of those things pupils learn through the experience of school rather than the stated educational objectives of such institutions. These among others include attitudes, behaviours and viewpoints. The hidden curriculum is vital in the creation of knowledge because, while the main curriculum attempts to teach children to be independent critical thinkers, the hidden curriculum teaches them to uphold and propagate ideology thereby reproducing socially unjust practices. While schools maintain that they are non-racial, non-sexist institutions, their hidden curriculums are a direct opposite as they exhibit extreme levels of heteronormative bias. This is important because non-racialism and non-sexism are universal values which are the pillars of any nation building project and once consensus lacks on such values, a fertile ground is laid for social exclusion and dehumanisation.
The hidden curriculum continues to undermine the creation of nation frame of mind in South Africa because it promotes a view that the departure from apartheid rule to democratic rule is an aberration; this is also a by-product of how South African history is taught at schools, the overemphasis on colonialism creates an impression that there’s nothing more to South African history but colonialism. This then perpetuates stereotypes that the sense of community, civility and the concept of a nation were a result of colonisation. It is easier to list all the challenges the hidden curriculum poses to nation building, but what is difficult to answer is the question of how we can use the same hidden curriculum as a tool for nation building? The answer to this question lies in the educators because a country can change curriculums but what is important is the consciousness of its educators. It is through their consciousness, dynamism and their ability to identify the implications institution like schools have and the indelible mark they leave on young people’s psyche. Hopefully through the coming snippets one will be able to unpack in detail how we as society can change this trajectory, not only at schools but within families and the various institutions that make up society.
This blog was written by Prince Charles, a strong civic nationalist and post-religious youth activist.