Patrick VAN RENSBURG
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Patrick van Rensburg was born in Durban in December 1931. His parents separated when he was young and he was raised by his grandmother. She was an Afrikaner woman who was married to Lagesse, a Frenchman, who hailed from Mauritius. His grandmother was placed in a concentration camp by the English during the Anglo-Boer war. This grandmother accepted the Roman Catholic faith of her husband, Patrick was brought up as a Catholic and they spoke English in the home. As a child Patrick was known by the surname Lagesse. It was only in his later teen years that it dawned upon him that he was and Afrikaner. After his studies he joined the civil service and started to appreciate the cause of the Afrikaner, who seemed to be confronted by the whole world. He served as South African Vice-Consul in Leopoldville, Belgian Congo from February 1956 until he resigned his post in May 1957, in protest against the apartheid policies of the South African government. One of the triggers were reading the book by Chester Boules, Africa's challenge to America, in it he read the following description of apartheid, "Racial prejudice sanctified by religion and philosophy, formalized by law and institionalize in the mores of the nation." He subsequently joined the Liberal Party of South Africa, and worked with Patrick Duncan. He then moved to Britain and became the "first director" of the campaign to boycott South African goods which preceded the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Patrick wrote in November 1959 to Chief Lutuli asking him to send a statement calling 'freshly and clearly' for a boycott http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/aam/aam_origins.html Returning to South Africa his passport was confiscated and after the Sharpeville shootings he was forced to flee the country. On 30 March 1960 he fled South Africa and found political asylum in Swaziland.
The first edition
of Boycott News carried the headline 'A Direct Appeal From South Africa'.
In November 1959 Patrick van Rensburg had written to Chief Lutuli asking him
to send a statement calling 'freshly and clearly' for a boycott. The South African
Liberal Party had been split on the issue, but in November the Party's National
Committee passed a resolution approving the boycott 'both here and overseas,
as a legitimate political weapon'. So the message carried in Boycott News
was signed jointly by Chief Lutuli and Dr G. M. Naicker, Presidents of the African
and Indian Congresses and by Peter Brown, National Chairman of South Africa's
Liberal Party. It said that an economic boycott was one way in which the world
at large could 'bring home to the South African authorities that they must either
mend their ways or suffer for them'.
After a brief spell in Britain, where he wrote and published Guilty Land, van Rensburg took up residence in Bechuanaland, which on independence became Botswana and of which he became a citizen in 1973. In Botswana he founded the Swaneng Hill School near Serowe, 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 organizations 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 organized conferences - mainly in Southern Africa but also as far a field as the Caribbean - that involved Ministries of Education, liberation movements, non-governmental organizations, teachers' institutions and the 'world of work'. FEP publishes a journal and occasional papers and has engaged in and promoted research.
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 text books 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.
Vol No 6
Description: Objectionable Literature. P van Rensburg: Guilty Land.
UWC-Robben Island Mayibuye Archives
MCA 7 - 1714 : Patrick Van Rensburg Interview
Oral history interview with Patrick Van Rensburg conducted by Hilda Bernstein in Mazimbu, Tanzania. Transcript only (Volume 17, p.11)
Catalogue of the
archive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1956-98
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Correspondence of Patrick van Rensburg, 1959-61
Shelfmark: MSS AAM 5
P van Rensburg. (1974). Report from Swaneng Hill. Uppsala, Sweden: Dag Hammarskjold Foundation.