Resource 6: Conflict in the community

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

In the mid-1990s, the township of Thokoza in South Africa was in the news headlines when, during the final throes of Apartheid, civil war broke out between the ANC and the Inkatha parties. As the township descended into chaos, rather than intercede to stop the fighting, the South African government – at the time, struggling to maintain what little hold it still held over the country – began a systematic campaign to encourage the fighting. At different times, the government actually provided arms to both the ANC and Inkathas; when opportunities arose to mediate the conflict, the government turned a blind eye. Before the conflict ended, over 2,000 people had died.

This morning, we visited TshwaraganoPrimary School in the heart of the Thokoza township. Two of the teachers spoke to us about life during the war in Thokoza. The school, it seems, was located right in the heart of the fighting, and frequently became caught in the crossfire. On those days, students and teachers had to ‘run for their lives’ to dodge the bullets, which lodged themselves into the side of the school. Despite this, the school remained open. They ran for their lives one day and returned to school as normal the next. I asked the teachers why they didn't close the school. They said: ‘Because we are teachers. That is what we do. They are students. This is where we belong.’

Ten years after the Thokoza conflict, the area of highest violence down the street from the school has been turned into a memorial so that townspeople will never forget the lives lost. Although the area is still populated by shanties, the school continues to thrive, in part with the support of the Global Education Partnership, but primarily due to the resilience and determination of the teachers and families in the Tshwaragano school community.

Adapted from: Website Discovery Educator Network node/ 167 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Accessed 2008)

Resource 5: Intercultural communities