Nicolas Schicketanz: African Teacher Training in Natal: From the Nineteenth Century to the first years of Bantu Education (1846‐1960)

PhD-project, Department of History, University of Basel

This dissertation project aims to shed a light on the neglected field of African teacher training in Natal. It will portray its history in the period from the training of the first African teachers by the American Mission Society (1846) to the first years of Bantu education (1953‐1960).


The history of African teacher training in Natal received little attention in the historical writings concerned with South African educational history. Next to nothing is written about the topic. This is quite remarkable, as the teacher stands at the central point of any educational system, negotiating between the wants and needs of themselves, their pupils, parents, the government and in the case of African education in Natal the various missionary societies present in the territory.

Specific objects & research questions

Due to the lack of work on the topic the first object of this project is to establish an overview of the history of African teacher training in Natal until the 1960s. The main question followed will be: How did the policy of the Natal government towards teacher training change during the set timeframe and did the introduction of Bantu Education meant for African teacher training constitute a rupture or continuation of policies set in place in the years before. The project will also pay attention to the content of teacher education and the wider context of African teacher identity formation.

Methodology & sources

The research has to struggle with an absence of papers of the Natal Education Department and a general lack of available sources on Natal African education in the archives of South Africa. Missionary writings will be used for teacher training in the nineteenth century. For the twentieth century, one of the main sources of the project is the Natal Native Teachers Journal, offering a consitent overview of African teacher training in Natal from 1918-1953. After this the Bantu Education Journal will serve this purpose.

Expected and first results

 The history of African teacher training is a history difficult to access, however, rich in possibilities. In this project it is expected to shed a light on the process of secularisation in mission education, the professionalisation of African teachers, the changing professional and social teacher identity and its formation, and the change of educational policy in a colonial context up to and including the first years of Bantu Education relating to African teacher training in Natal.


Recent news reports of an incresed interest of the South African government to upgrade and expand teacher education by, amongst other measures, the re-opening of some teacher training colleges closed at the end of Apartheid, highlights the need of historical research in this much neglected part of South African educational history.