Patrick van Rensburg
( 1981 , Afrique du Sud )

...for developing replicable educational models for the third world majority.

... the alternatives are absolutely essential in the Third World, to the training of people and the provision of work.


Patrick van Rensburg is a pioneer of alternative education systems and a newspaper director. Born in South Africa, he originally served as a civil servant and as a foreign diplomat abroad; shocked by the apartheid policies, he resigned and joined the opposition party, choice that brought him to work for the campaign to boycott South African goods and eventually led him into exile. In Botswana, he founded a more affordable, alternative school system, where students were encouraged to apply the knowledge and skills they were acquiring in socially useful productive work. Back to South Africa in the Nineties, he has been active in propagating the concept and practice of education with production in several forms, starting from the premise that a better approach to education is a cornerstone of community development.

Contact

Foundation for Education with Production
PO Box 53565, Troyville
2139 Johannesburg
SOUTH AFRICA

Foundation for Education with Production
PO Box 20906
Gaborone
BOTSWANA

Biography

Patrick van Rensburg resigned his post as South African Vice-Consul in the Belgian Congo in 1957, in protest against the apartheid policies of the South African government. He subsequently joined the Liberal Party of South Africa and became closely involved – during a private trip to Britain – with the campaign to boycott South African goods, which preceded the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Returning to South Africa his passport was confiscated and after the Sharpeville shootings he was forced to flee the country.

After a brief spell in Britain, where he wrote and published Guilty Land, van Rensburg took up residence in Bechuanaland, now Botswana, of which he became a citizen in 1973. There he founded the Swaneng Hill School, and, following its success, two other schools in association with the Botswana government, as well as the Swaneng Consumers Cooperative and the Brigades Movement. His experience with the schools and Brigades through the 1970s led to his establishment of the Foundation for Education with Production (FEP) in 1980.

Van Rensburg’s education approach was radically different from usual practice. The school was seen as a centre of development and thereby of better learning. The curriculum included practical subjects like agriculture, building, carpentry, metalwork, technical drawing and typing. New academic subject matter was introduced in Development Studies, and all students were encouraged to apply the knowledge and skill …

Patrick van Rensburg resigned his post as South African Vice-Consul in the Belgian Congo in 1957, in protest against the apartheid policies of the South African government. He subsequently joined the Liberal Party of South Africa and became closely involved – during a private trip to Britain – with the campaign to boycott South African goods, which preceded the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Returning to South Africa his passport was confiscated and after the Sharpeville shootings he was forced to flee the country.

After a brief spell in Britain, where he wrote and published Guilty Land, van Rensburg took up residence in Bechuanaland, now Botswana, of which he became a citizen in 1973. There he founded the Swaneng Hill School, and, following its success, two other schools in association with the Botswana government, as well as the Swaneng Consumers Cooperative and the Brigades Movement. His experience with the schools and Brigades through the 1970s led to his establishment of the Foundation for Education with Production (FEP) in 1980.

Van Rensburg’s education approach was radically different from usual practice. The school was seen as a centre of development and thereby of better learning. The curriculum included practical subjects like agriculture, building, carpentry, metalwork, technical drawing and typing. New academic subject matter was introduced in Development Studies, and all students were encouraged to apply the knowledge and skills they were acquiring in socially useful productive work. In an effort to bring schools within the reach of ordinary people, costs were lowered by the Brigades, which were self-help education and training organisations producing goods and services both for themselves and for public sale to help finance teaching and training.

In building on these early experiences, FEP sought to create a new blend of theory and practice in education, to be spread internationally. The Foundation devised and held workshops on various aspects of the concept and practice of education with production. It organised conferences – mainly in Southern Africa but also as far afield as the Caribbean – that involved Ministries of Education, liberation movements, non-governmental organisations, teachers’ institutions and the ‘world of work’. FEP publishes a journal and occasional papers and has engaged in and promoted research.

The Foundation now concentrates on (a) identifying appropriate production and socially useful activities to link to education, and (b) identifying a related body of curriculum content and aims, in such subjects as Cultural Studies, Development Studies, Environmental and Social Studies, Language in Use, Applied Mathematics and Applied Science and Technology. Arrangements to examine these subjects have been concluded with reputable certification institutions, while FEP has also published textbooks and trained teachers in the subjects offered.

In the mid-1980s, van Rensburg revived a newspaper and turned it into what has become today a successful and widely read national weekly, Mmegi (The Reporter). Since 1990, he has been able to return to South Africa, where he has been active in propagating the concept and practice of education with production in several forms. All these activities are rooted in FEP’s core perception of its approach to education, training and production as a cornerstone of community development.

 
 

FAQ about Patrick van Rensburg

asked in 2005

1. How far has your concept of education with production spread?

It is practised quite extensively in Zimbabwe as well as in Botswana and to some extent in Lesotho and South Africa.
In these countries it is mostly practised at school level – high school – but also in primary schools in school gardens which produce nutritional food.

2. Can you give an example of one of your pupils and how his or her curriculum looks like?

Where our Educational Programme has been introduced, the curriculum is based on new “subjects” like Cultural Studies, Development Studies, Environmental and Social Studies, Fundamentals of Production, Science, Mathematics, Communication (English and an African language), Technical Studies. All students engage in practical, productive or social useful application of elements of each subject.

3. In which countries are you active today?

Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and to a lesser extent in Lesotho.

4. What have you achieved in Education with Production?

We can point to projects in Zimbabwe which are still successful, operating widely and attracting students from other countries.
In Botswana we have Brigades and both major opposition parties strongly support Education with Production.

5. What is the future of Education with Production?

We are upbeat about the future of Education with Production, more especially in Botswana, but also in South Africa and Zimbabwe, where it is one thing that works well.

In Botswana, the opposition is likely to come to power in 2009 and preparations are being made to install Education with Production widely.
In South Africa, we have plans to spread our models to support the “Second Economy” as the president calls the Informal Sector.

6. What effect has the RLA had on your work?

The wide range of alternative activities honoured by the RLA has been a constant inspiration to myself and my closest colleagues, and we have been able to draw on the experience of other recipients of the prize, both in our own articles and in our writings, especially in MMEGI, the newspaper our Foundation for Education with Production took over from my early work at our Education with Production Schools and BRIGADES.

Publications

What underlies the bestial carnage of the Caucasus? Download (pdf)

Is Sudan not an Apartheid State? Download (pdf)

Links