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Lesson Plans

South Africa after 10 years of freedom - Lesson Plan

September 10, 2004

Full Lesson


By Joanne Dufour, classroom teacher, teacher trainer, curriculum developer and educational consultant to the United Nations and Newsweek Educational Division.


World History, World Cultures, Contemporary World Problems, Civics, African Studies, Geography, International Affairs, Law

Estimated Time

Two class periods


Students will be able to:

  • Learn about the system of apartheid as it was practiced in South Africa and actions taken to change it
  • Develop a chronology of recent events in South African history
  • Gain an appreciation for the unique methods used to bring about a non-violent change in a violent society, and the role played by economic sanctions
  • Explore changes that have come about since the end of this official policy
  • Gain appreciation for the techniques of a truth and reconciliation commission in trying the heal the wounds of a violent past
  • See how these events in South Africa have affected other areas of the world both through the use of economic sanctions and truth and reconciliation commissions
  • Analyze the significance of this election in light of South Africa’s recent history


South Africa is celebrating its first decade as a free society as it experiences its third election in which the entire population is enfranchised. This lesson will allow students to gain some background in South Africa’s recent history under apartheid and the post apartheid years. They will examine the current election and appreciate the electorate’s decision in choosing leadership for the next five years.


  1. What do students know about South Africa? Brainstorm and develop a list of familiar associations? Include the names of associations in the fields of cinema, song, sports, politics, headlines as well as any personal experiences or contacts.
  2. Explain the April 14th election in that country. Why is that making world news? To aid students in gaining background, familiarize students with the list of Key Words and Concepts. This is intended to be a group experience, involving research and sharing. As students research each term, they should understand the time period for which it applies. Encourage students already familiar with the terms to expand their knowledge by finding out new information. Have students use the NewsHour Web sites for background research.This effort should be done in groups with students sharing their findings with others in the group. The objective is for students to gain some familiarity with South Africa’s history, especially as it pertained to the system of apartheid. During the sharing, students should be encouraged to develop a timeline in this activity to see the progression of events. Group leaders may wish to organize the sharing chronologically within the group. Timelines should be made large enough for all to see and posted in the classroom. When completed, groups may wish to share their timelines with the rest of the class.
  3. To get a feeling for the kinds of restrictions imposed during the Apartheid era, distribute and discuss the handout on “Apartheid in Practice.” Obtain student reactions. Based on American values, what practices do students find particularly upsetting. How do conditions compare to the treatment of Blacks in the United States?
  4. Some call it the miracle of South Africa: a country which some in 1990 thought would be the powder keg igniting a third world war. This year South Africa is commemorating its “first decade of freedom” showing the world a remarkable example of nonviolent change. The matching exercise which follows, Comparing Apartheid and Post Apartheid Times, can be done individually or as a class exercise where students walk around and find their match.Pass out the Matching Exercise handout. The Items in column A indicate conditions in the South Africa under apartheid. Those in column B contain some of the changes which have taken place in the last decade. Cut out each of the statements in both columns A & B and color code to indicate the time period for each. Divide the class into 12 groups and distribute the clipped statements. Have each group walk around the class until they find the statement that matches theirs from pre or post Apartheid. Extra research on the topic may be encouraged to enhance the presentation. [Suggestions are shown in italics.]For teacher: Answers to the matching exercise: 1 (D); 2 (C); 3 (B); 4 (E); 5 (F); 6 (A)

Extension Activities

  1. Distribute and read the NewsHour Extra story: Ten Years After Apartheid, South Africans Face Jobs, AIDS Issues. Reference is made to the problems which remain:
    • crime
    • widespread HIV/AIDS pandemic
    • unemployment
    • poverty
    • gangs
    • immigrant labor from poorer African countries competing for jobs
    • an economy where the needs of the majority are still in need of improvement while the needs of the more privileged minority must be addressed to encourage them to remain in the country and continue to share their expertise and wealth

    Using the story as a basic guide, use online resources to research South Africa’s main parties. Online resources may include party Web sites or news stories. What proposals have the parties made to rectify the problems cited above. Report your findings to the class. Then, analyze the election results to see how the population feels about the issues and proposed solutions– note regional differences in party affiliation. What might account for this? Review election analyses from African newspapers. Compare the findings.

  2. The application of economic sanctions on the government of South Africa has been cited as one of the major reasons for the successful end of the apartheid regime. As a result, economic sanctions as a policy have been imposed on many other governments whose behavior went against norms of the international community, sometimes through the United Nations, sometimes in bilateral decisions. Research the range of situations in which economic sanctions have been applied.
    • For teacher information:

      (SANCTIONS: U.N. sanctions have been imposed on Afghanistan, Al-Qaida, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Angola, Libya, Ethiopia & Eritrea, Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia, Sudan and Somalia. Non U.N. Sanctions have been imposed on Cuba and North Korea. The United States had imposed sanctions on as many as 75 countries at the beginning of 2001)

  3. The process of creating a truth and reconciliation commission is not unique to South Africa. Countries which have undertaken this process include Argentina, Bolivia, Burundi, Chad, Chile, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Uruguay, Serbia and Montenegro (formerly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and Zimbabwe. Which countries have developed a TRC following South Africa’s experience with the process? Research the progress of these efforts. The United States Institute of Peace website may be helpful.
    • For teacher information:

      (TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSIONS: Since the time of South Africa, the following countries have instituted a TRC: Ecuador in 1996; Nigeria in 1999; Uruguay in 2000; Peru in 2000; Sierra Leone in 2000; South Korea in 2000; East Timor in 2001; Panama in 2001; Yugoslavia in 2002.)


Procedures may vary according to the class. Students could be required to write an essay using all the key words and concepts with their own telling of the South Africa story. They may be encouraged to establish contact with students in South African schools or develop/create/analyze campaign posters used in the election. Some may wish to dramatize an interview with an older and a younger South African who reflect on the changes in the country and their personal reactions to them.