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Liberation before Education vs Education for Liberation

Image: BLF President

By Andile Mngxitama

In the 80s, during the height of the revolutionary upheaval, two competing slogans sprung up. The UDF inspired COSAS called for ‘liberation before education’ and be ‘pass one pass all’! The school and the factory were seen as legitimate enemy installations and often were torched to the ground. The Black Consciousness movement’s student body, in opposition to COSAS, the Azanian Students’ Movement adopted the slogan ‘education for liberation’.

The two slogans had practical tactical implications. The COSAS slogan was about rendering the country ugovernable at all costs and often meant mayhem in the township. The street committees sprang up including people’s courts. These courts were meant to dish out justice and people turned away from using the criminal justice system of apartheid. If you wrong me, I lay a complaint with the street committee and the matter is adjudicated by an open people’s court. Offenders were fined or given lashes.

The COSAS slogan and call for ‘pass one pass all’ suggested a maturation of the revolution. After all Tambo had said the ANC shall march triumphantly to Pretoria before the end of the 80s.

A generation left school. Most became foot soldiers of the revolution. They were known as abosiyayinyova.
The two responses to the education crisis during the height of resistance led to a feud between the UDF and AZAPO. The feud was ignited by the visit of Senator Kennedy. Azapo said he is not welcomed. The UDF considered him a friend of the natives. Then blacks slaughtered each other.

Going back to the slogans, I now wonder if COSAS was not right to render the whole system nonsense and create a crisis for formal learning and teaching until liberation is attained. In other words, was the slogan consistent with a kind of revolutionary chaos and impatience necessary to creat a historic moment?

True, we see the victims of ‘pass one pass all’ as the neglected unemployable generation. It’s the generation that gave up its own formal education to attain the democratic order.

Yes! Pass One Pass All! Each One Teach One!

Andile Mngxitama is the President of Black First Land First (BLF), a radical black consciousness organization. When using any of Black Opinion’s content, partly or in full, kindly always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.