Decoloniality and “Model C” Schools: Ethos, Language and the Protests of 2016

Pam Christie, Carolyn McKinney


This article argues that theories of “decoloniality” provide valuable insights into the social relations of “Model C” schools that have been brought into visibility in particular ways by the wave of student protests during and after 2016. Our starting point is to provide a brief outline of the central arguments made by a particular strand of theorists who have developed the term “decoloniality.” We then look briefly at the history of “Model C” schools, locating their formation in the compromises of the negotiated settlement that characterised South Africa’s political transition in the 1990s. We look in particular at language policy and practices in these previously white schools and at the power relations of language in South Africa. In this account, we argue that “Model C” schools exemplify the entangled power matrix that characterises coloniality. “Model C” schools, we argue, provide a clear example of how deep historical inequalities persist well past the formal end of colonialism. Pressing this argument further, we outline some possible implications for changes in schooling that a decoloniality approach invites.  


decoloniality; language policy; “Model C” schools; student protests

Full Text:



Badat, S., and Y. Sayed. 2014. “Post 1994 South African Education: The Challenge of Social Justice.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 652 (1): 127‒48.

Canagarajah, A. S. 2007. “Lingua Franca English, Multilingual Communities, and Language Acquisition.” The Modern Language Journal 91 (5): 923‒39.

Cape Times. 2017. “Not Allowed to Speak Xhosa.” Cape Times, September 2, 2017, 1.

Chisholm, L. ed. 2004. Changing Class: Education and Social Change in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press; London: Zed Press.

Christie, P. 1995. “Transition Tricks? Policy Models for School Desegregation in South Africa, 1990‒94.” Journal of Education Policy 10 (1): 45‒55.

Christie, P. 2008. Opening the Doors of Learning: Changing Schools in South Africa. Johannesburg: Heinemann.

Christie, P., D. Butler, and M. Potterton. 2007. Schools that Work. Ministerial Report. Pretoria: Department of Education.

Connell, R. 2007. Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Deacon, J., P. Colditz, S. Mellet, and J. Van der Merwe. 2016. Case Law Handbook on Education: Twenty-Five Cases that Helped Shape Education Law. Cape Town: Juta.

DoE (Department of Education). 1995. White Paper on Education and Training in South Africa: First Steps to Develop a New System. Pretoria: Government Gazette.

DoE (Department of Basic Education). 2017. “Black Youths Are NOT Educationally Worse Off Than 20 Years Ago.” Media Release, January 25. Accessed October 24, 2017.

Fleisch, B. 2008. Primary Education in Crisis: Why South African School Children Underachieve in Reading and Mathematics. Cape Town: Juta.

Frempong, G., V. Reddy, and A. Kanjee. 2011. “Exploring Equity and Quality Education in South Africa Using Multilevel Models.” Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 41 (6): 819‒35.

Garcia, O., and L. Wei. 2014. Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism and Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Giliomee, H., and B. Mbenga. 2007. New History of South Africa. Cape Town: NB Publishers.

Gilmour, D., and C. Soudien. 2009. “Learning and Equitable Access in the Western Cape, South Africa.” Comparative Education 45 (2): 281‒95.

Grosfoguel, R. 2007. “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn.” Cultural Studies 21 (2‒3): 211‒23.

Grosfoguel, R. 2013. “The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities: Epistemic Racism/Sexism and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century.” Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge 11 (1): 73‒90.

Hamilton, C., B. K. Mbenga, and R. Ross, eds. 2012. The Cambridge History of South Africa. Volume 1: From Early Times to 1885. Africa Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kanjee, A. 2007. “Improving Learner Achievement in Schools: Applications of National Assessments in South Africa.” In State of the Nation: South Africa 2007, edited by S. Buhlungu, J. Daniel, R. Southall and J. Lutchman, 470‒502. Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Krause, L.-S., and M. Prinsloo. 2016. “Translanguaging in a Township Primary School: Policy and Practice.” Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 34 (4): 347‒57.

Makalela, L. 2015a. “Translanguaging as a Vehicle for Epistemic Access: Cases for Reading Comprehension and Multilingual Interactions.” Per Linguam 31 (3): 15‒29.

Makalela, L. 2015b. Moving out of Linguistic Boxes: The Effects of Translanguaging Strategies for Multilingual Classrooms.” Language and Education 29 (3): 200‒17.

Maldonado-Torres, N. 2007. “On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept.” Cultural Studies 21 (2‒3): 240‒70.

McKinney, C. 2010. “Schooling in Black and White: Assimilationist Discourses and Subversive Identity Performances in a Desegregated Girls’ School.” Race Ethnicity and Education 13 (2): 191‒207.

McKinney, C. 2013. “Orientations to English in Post-Apartheid Schooling: A Study of Sociolinguistic and Identity Changes amongst Adolescent Girls in Multilingual Schools.” English Today 29 (1): 22‒7.

McKinney, C. 2017. Language and Power in Post-Colonial Schooling: Ideologies in Practice. New York: Routledge.

Mignolo, W. 2007. “Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of De-Coloniality.” Cultural Studies 21 (2‒3): 449‒514.

Mignolo, W. 2009. “Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and De-Colonial Freedom.” Theory, Culture and Society 26 (7‒6): 1‒23.

Mignolo, W. 2011. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham: Duke University Press.

Mignolo, W. 2013. “On Pluriversality.” Accessed October 19, 2017.

Motala, S. 2005. “Finance Equity in the South African Schooling System.” In Governance and Finance in the South African Schooling System: The First Decade of Democracy, edited by S. Motala and J. Pampalls, 37‒67. Johannesburg: Centre for Education Policy Development and Wits Policy Unit.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. 2013. Empire, Global Coloniality and African Subjectivity. New York: Berghahn Books.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. 2015. “Decoloniality as the Future of Africa.” History Compass 13 (10): 485‒96.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo. 1986. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. London: James Currey.

Pretoria High School for Girls SGB. 2016. “Media Statement: Response to the MEC Report Issued on Friday 02/12/2016.” December 6, 2016. Accessed October 19, 2017.

Probyn, M. 2015. “Pedagogical Translanguaging: Bridging Discourses in South African Science Classrooms.” Language and Education 29 (3): 218‒34.

Quijano, A. 2007. “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies 21 (2‒3): 168‒78.

Reddy, V. 2005. “Cross-National Achievement Studies: Learning from South Africa’s Participation in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).” Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 35 (1): 63‒72.

Ross, R., A. K. Mager, and B. Nasson, eds. 2012. The Cambridge History of South Africa. Volume 2: 1885‒1994. Africa Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, M. C. 2011. “Which In- and Out-of-School Factors Explain Variations in Learning across Different Socio-Economic Groups? Findings from South Africa.” Comparative Education 47 (1): 79‒102.

Soudien, C. 2012. Realising the Dream: Unlearning the Logic of Race in the South African School. Cape Town: HRSC Press.

Van der Berg, S. 2005. “How Effective Are Poor Schools? Poverty and Educational Outcomes in South Africa.” Paper presented at the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) International Invitational Research Conference, Paris, September 2005.

Van der Berg, S. 2015. “What the Annual National Assessments Can Tell Us about Learning Deficits over the Education System and the School Career Year.” Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers: 18/15.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Pam Christie, Carolyn McKinney

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.