Nation Building and the Battle for Consciousness

Discourses on Education in Post-Apartheid Namibia

in Social Analysis
Restricted access

Education carries strong emotional connotation in Africa, not least for its association with emancipation, liberation, and social mobility. Drawing on research conducted in Northern Namibia, this essay examines how education is conceived by a cadre of elite, educated professionals working in the Ministry of Basic Education regional offices. It contrasts these officials' views with those of white settlers, many of whom, in contrast, place their faith in the market, not in a regulatory state—and certainly not in a regional educational office. Whereas elite officials deploy images of education for purposes of state making and state ceremonialism, white businessmen use education to undo officials' authority, with the effect, implicitly, of reinscribing apartheid visions of race and governance. This article draws on, and offers ethnographic evidence in support of, a body of theoretical work on state-ritualized uses of education, civil religion, and the moral character (and counter-morality) of state education.