Government schooling and teacher identity: The exertions of the first-class teacher at Worcester, Cape of Good Hope, c.1856-1873
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In 1839 the colonial administration introduced to the Cape Colony one of the first systems of state education in the British Empire. This Established System of Education staggered along for a quarter century before the Cape colonial parliament voted to bring it to an end in 1865. Ambitious in its social and academic intentions, this “very English’’ system gained some acceptance as a model that could be aspired to – though not always in the intended form – even in predominantly Dutch-speaking communities like that of Worcester. The personal role of the teacher was central and Albert Nicholas Rowan, the government teacher at Worcester from 1856, was regarded as one of the more successful pedagogues within the Established System. This article examines the attempts of Rowan to make his school a viable entity. It engages with his personal identity as an overworked but well-qualified and respectable purveyor of knowledge. It notes how the social capital he possessed in terms of connection with the local Dutch Reformed Church could be mobilized to the school’s advantage. It also traces his attempts to steer his school through the waters of religious denominationalism – a denominationalism symbolic of competing cultural and political identities. The case study locates the teacher during a time of transition from an early model of government schooling – heavily dependent on one teacher in one classroom – to a “family model” of public schooling becoming common throughout the British Empire by the 1870s. The Worcester Government School lasted longer than any other at the Cape, as Rowan took on the identity of the more bureaucratic, paternalistic head master. It made way for explicitly secular, subsidized Girls’ and Boys’ Undenominational Public Schools only in 1873, as the local inhabitants assumed more responsibility for public schooling. The teacher’s reward was promotion to a position of educational surveillance and regulation in a new colonial inspectorate.