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About this story

Author: Nate Hopper

Date: January 2011

People: Nothemba Makinana, Nompumezo Makinana

Fun facts: Nothemba is all about family. She has been married for 23 years, and says what she most values is her mother. "I love my mom."

Nothemba Makinana works on beadwork in her township home. She sells at lot of her wares right outside Rhodes University on the west end of downtown.

Data points: According to the report "Statistics in South Africa 2009," Rhodes University had 3,489 Black African students; 241 "colored" students; 299 Indian/Asian students; and 2,983 white students. There were 4,116 women and 2,896 men.

Beadmaker’s daughter breaks the college education barrier

By: Nate Hopper

Like many black schoolchildren from the 1960s and ’70s, Nothemba Makinana was educated in a language she really couldn’t understand. Her schoolteachers taught their lessons in Afrikaans, which most blacks couldn’t speak. The practice was formally decreed as policy in 1974 by South Africa’s guardians of apartheid.

“The agricultural subject wasn’t taught by English, it was taught by Afrikaans,” Nothemba said. “And the Bible studies, the meds — all the subjects: Afrikaans, Afrikaans, Afrikaans.”

For a time, this strategy to keep Makinana and her black peers from rising in the world worked. She did not go beyond standard 9 (grade 11), and she never really threatened the upper-class jobs of her educated white counterparts. Instead, she became a beadmaker, selling her work on a street outside of Rhodes University, a college in her hometown of Grahamstown.

But the policy collapsed with the dawn of June 16, 1976, in Soweto, the impoverished black townships surrounding Johannesburg. On that day, schoolchildren boycotted class in protest.  What was intended to be a peaceful walkout grew into riots that persisted throughout the rest of the year and ended with almost 600 dead. It was one of the sparks that ignited the battle to end apartheid.

Today, schools teach in native tongues and English, which is understood by most. The higher education system that was once marked by segregation is mostly whole now. And while many blacks remain in the poverty marking apartheid, there are paths for black schoolchildren to rise.  By 2004, 61 percent of undergraduate students entering Rhodes University were black.

Nompumezo Makinana, Nothemba’s daughter, was one of them.


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  • Is this article about the Apartheid policy of Afrikaans education and its effects or, as the title indicates, about a beadmaker’s daughter who goes to college?

    While I understand the need for some background information, I would have liked to read more about the beadmaker and her daughter.

  • This is a great article! I love the video. Truly an inspirational story.

  • Now a days schools teach in native tongues and English, which is understood
    by most. The most affective benefits is that now in schooling students can know about the agriculture and grow their skill as per their personal interest so this is really good thing.

  • This is great article and very interesting post.

  • The blog presentation is really great  , I like it .

  • Hi, I appreciate the information that you have provided in the post. It is worth noting and I really liked the presentation as well. I will surely come back for more of interesting posts.

  • Good to know every thing

  • Good concept.. Thank you so much for sharing such lovely information..

  • I recently read an interview with the first black girl to go to “white school” in South Africa. Her confessions about how other kids, teachers and parents treated her were heartbreaking. I’m so happy that all these things are now in the past.

    Elena from http://elenastravelgram.blogspot.com/

  • doborowyogrodnik

    Great interview, thanks for share so interesting video !
    ogrodmiejski

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  • Dereck

    Yeap, an we still speaking about social justice and availability of education. Some kids are obliged to study but don’t even do homework, and others really want to study, but can’t in some of the meaning. Sad. Good it was in the past.