The Social Reproductive Role of Christian Missionary Education in Apartheid South Africa: Evidence from History and Research

  • A. Ravhudzulo University of Venda
  • T. Runhare University of Venda


The role of Christian missionaries in initiating and establishing education institutions in colonial Africa is well documented. In South Africa, the origin and spread of formal education is attributed to the arrival of Christian missionaries who sought converts among Africans. From their mission stations, they planted and administered schools and training colleges. This article uses the neo-Marxist theoretical paradigm to examine the educational objectives, activities and outcomes of Christian missionaries among black communities in apartheid South Africa. Purposive sampling was used to select study participants, and individual and focus group interviews were conducted with former students, teachers, evangelists and church members who had direct contacts with the Christian missionaries in Venda, a former ‘self-governing’ state in apartheid South Africa. Using a combination of narrative data from eye-witnesses and historical literature, the paper illustrates that although the educational objectives of the Christian missionaries contradicted the apartheid policy of Bantu Education, the process and outcomes of their education served the needs of capitalism in apartheid South Africa.

Author Biographies

A. Ravhudzulo, University of Venda

Senior Lecturer, School of Education                

T. Runhare, University of Venda
Lecturer, School of Education

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1013-3445