Name Instructor Course May 9, 2012 Changing Apartheid, But Not So Fast In the play, My Children! My Africa!, we gain some insight into the relationship between education and apartheid. Mr. M, as his students call him, is a caring teacher who believes strongly in education and in the power of the written word to encourage social change…
Before summarizing the setting of the play, it is important to note something about the author of this play, and his purpose or message. The man who wrote this play is Athol Fugard. His parents were English and Afrikaner, and he was raised in South Africa, during apartheid, having been born there in 1932. While working as a court clerk in Johannesburg, he came to understand the evils of apartheid, and became an activist, writing plays about apartheid (Vienna Theatre Project 2). He alienated the government, in that way, and they removed his passport and years later they returned it. His award-winning plays spread apartheid awareness internationally, from marginalized theaters in South Africa, to famous theaters in London, and even to New York’s Broadway (Vienna Theatre Project 2). Fugard brings his criticism of the apartheid policies of the South African government to this play. However, through the character of Mr. M, Fugard also brings criticism of the policies of the African National Congress, which resisted the apartheid government (p. 2). That is a strong approach, especially for an activist who is well aware of the evils of apartheid, and has himself suffered under it. Good and evil are not as completely polarized in real life as they are in fairy tales. Mr. M represents the voice of a gray area, between the extremes. Isabel is white and filled with personal hope, raised to believe it is hers by right. Thami is black and cannot afford the luxury of hope without supporting street action for massive and immediate change (p. 3). Mr. M sees hope as a hungry beast that could potentially gobble up all of South Africa’s students (Chastang). He does not want to exercise the initiative to invite change abruptly. He is afraid that the inevitable backlash against activism for abrupt social change will put education further out of reach of his students. Mr. M is also an activist, because he is engaged in the visionary social action of education, but he is older and more old-fashioned, and so he likes the relative safety of moving more slowly. He does not want to escalate risk, because education is critical to the future of the students. Mr. M is not fearful of insubstantial shadows, but of very real events and trends. The history of South Africa has not been peaceful. The Dutch killed and controlled the Xhosa. The British seized control of the area and the Afrikaner (Dutch descendants) moved their location to escape the British. Both the British and the Afrikaners defeated the Zulus. Then, war came between the British and the Afrikaners, and the British won. They later united to keep non-whites restricted (Vienna Theatre Project 4). The Afrikaner National Party came to power in 1948 and apartheid was firmly and miserably entrenched. The African National Congress was the Black answer to apartheid. It was backed by Communists (Vienna Theatre Project 4). In 1976, 15,000-20,000 Soweto students marched in protest of apartheid, intending to sing a song affirming solidarity and then go home. Unfortunately, the police over-reacted, released police dogs to attack the students and used tear gas. Students responded by throwing stones and bottles. The police started shooting students, without warning, Students reacted by setting fire to government property and the property of White businesses. The government called in massive reinforcements. Army helicopters dropped tear gas on the crowd. Entry and exit to and from ...
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