- Education in Exile: SOMAFCO, the ANC School in Tanzania, 1978 to 1992
Anyone who has participated in a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad (GPA) program knows that learning Yoruba or Swahili is only one of the benefits that accrue to students studying in Africa. Along with intensive language study comes the opportunity to deepen one's understanding of current affairs on the continent. Such was the case in 1990 when I was in Tanzania for the first time studying Swahili in Morogoro on the GPA program. Although my memories of the language course have now faded, my recollections of meeting South African students from the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College remain vivid. The political acumen and resolute optimism among these high school students in exile demonstrated to us that the communities established near Morogoro by the African National Congress were preparing young people for service in a postapartheid nation. Education in Exile tells the story of the Freedom College and the settlements in Tanzania that supported it. For those who were personally involved with the college as well as those with broader interests in South Africa, this is certainly a book worth reading.
The book begins with a useful overview of the country's educational history to contextualize the subsequent chapters on the formation of SOMAFCO. The discussion of the Bantu Education Act of 1953, its opposition by the ANC, and the Soweto uprising that prompted the arrival in Tanzania of the first group of young exiles brings readers to 1977, when construction of SOMAFCO began. The authors describe the numerous challenges the South Africans encountered in building the school, particularly health problems for students and teachers from a more temperate climate, and the recognition early on that the original plan for a secondary school was inadequate to meet the needs of the students and staff. Thus a day-care center, primary school, furniture factory, and farm were built either at the main SOMAFCO campus at Mazimbu or at Dakawa, an ancillary facility for vocational training north of Morogoro. With funding largely from Scandinavian and Eastern Bloc states and the United Nations Development Programme, and with generous support from the Tanzanian government, SOMAFCO, the Charlotte Maxeke Children's Centre, and the Dakawa Development Centre continued to grow until the facilities were closed in 1992 and incorporated, in part, into Sokoine University of Agriculture.
In addition to tracing the development of the physical infrastructure, the authors discuss the pedagogical orientation of SOMAFCO and the difficulty [End Page 149] of running a "revolutionary academy" (79) that was also attempting to provide a more conventional secondary school education. One particularly poignant example of this tension comes from the school's embrace of socialist education, especially Julius Nyerere's notion of education for self-reliance through school gardens and farms, and SOMAFCO's use of manual labor as a form of punishment for rebellious students. Other instances of ideological conflict at the school are described in the chapter on women at SOMAFCO, who experienced a championing of women's equality but, in comparison to their male counterparts, received different, and gendered, forms of punishment in cases of pregnancy.
The numerous vignettes and photographs in the book help achieve the authors' goal of writing "a popular history that we hope will be widely read" by students, scholars, and South African citizens (187). However, from this scholar's perspective, the book would have been more useful if the authors had used a less cumbersome system to document sources rather than listing references by page number and line number at the end of the volume. In addition, the inclusion of more direct quotations from interviews and letters would have made this story even more compelling and would have demonstrated the richness of the material...