top of page




2 JULY 2024

A few months ago, I received an email from an aspiring teacher who is undertaking a Bachelor of Education degree at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. This person, who I will refer to as the “Trainee Teacher”, had read some of my essays on how Critical Race Theory and other Marxist doctrines have influenced all aspects of education in South Africa.


The Trainee Teacher was struck by how many of the trends which I mention in my essays are highly prevalent in the Faculty of Education at Nelson Mandela University. In particular, the principles of Critical Race Theory feature across the Bachelor of Education degree. According to the Trainee Teacher:


“Our university lecturers are indoctrinating students to view the classroom – and society – through a Communist lens. They tend to divide South Africans into oppressor groups and oppressed groups based on identity.”


This phenomenon is most prominent in a course entitled “PEDS 400: Issues in Education”. The course is presented by Professor Mothabo Khau, an academic who specialises in taking a “decolonial” approach to sexuality studies.[1] The Trainee Teacher provided me with lecture material from the course and I have set out and discussed some of the most notable aspects below.



Marxism wrapped in racial identity politics


“PEDS 400: Issues in Education” is a course that consists of 12 units encompassing topics such as:


  • Theory and practice in shaping democratic schooling.

  • Paulo Freire and the humanising pedagogy.

  • Social justice in education.

  • Social constructivist learning approaches in the diverse classroom.


The language used in this course is dense, complex and difficult to understand. However, you should not be put off by this, for when stripped of its verbosity it is clear that the purpose of the course is simply to indoctrinate students into the principles of Marxism, with a particular focus on using racial identity to divide and to radicalise people. As is typical with Marxist academia, the convoluted language serves as a smokescreen; a means of trying to obscure bogus ideas behind technical jargon.


One of the main principles that is taught is that schools and classrooms should be explicitly political spaces or, to use the literature’s preferred terminology, they should be “democratic”.[2] The course notes indicate that trainee teachers must approach “education as a form of human resistance to capital and social inequalities” and must regard “the role of the classroom and school as a social / cultural / political and economic subsystem.”[3]


The teaching slides for the Humanising Pedagogy topic are quite explicit about this, stating that “teaching is a political act”.[4]

The course promotes what it calls “transformative democratic education” with a particular emphasis on the work of Paulo Freire, a highly controversial Brazilian Marxist educationalist.[5] According to American academic and author, James Lindsay, Freire was a “psychotic Marxist, a religious cult leader and a fraud”[6] and was the theorist most responsible for creating Marxist analyses of virtually every subject and every facet of society.[7]

Another prominent author quoted on the lecture slides is Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher who claimed that “education is integral to political practice” and that “education should focus on critical consciousness”.[8]​​

In Unit 3: Social Justice, students are exposed to “critical pedagogies and multicultural scholars” that are designed to “empower historically marginalized (sic) people” and “challenge inequitable social arrangements and institutions”.[9] As is indicated on the slide below, discourses that are drawn from include anti-oppressive education, Critical Race Theory, critical pedagogy, queer theory, cultural studies and post-colonialism.

Another slide mentions that “theoretical positions are connected to specific Leftist and / or radical movements within academia”. These include “Critical Pedagogy, Whiteness Studies, anti-oppressive education and multiculturalism.” Students are also taught about a principal called “Direct social justice education and intervention”. This refers to the “implementation of a school-wide curriculum that:


  • teaches an understanding of the nature and manifestations of all forms of social oppression;

  • provides strategies for intervening in oppressive situations; and

  • seeks to facilitate a living and learning environment for the development of liberatory thinking and action.”[10]


The Humanising Pedagogy course denounces “oppressive political/ social and educational structures” and calls for “individual and collective endeavour toward critical consciousness”.[11] Students are taught about “revolutionary critical pedagogy”[12] and are encouraged to “implement critical pedagogy in their classes to enable their learners to become more conscientised to how inequality is manifested.”[13]

All of this can be bewildering and demoralising for those who have not before been exposed to Marxist theory. According to the Trainee Teacher:


“Our lecturers have redefined education and its purpose. Education is now a political exercise that can and should be weaponised against one's political rivals. Teachers are referred to as 'agents of change', and they are called to address social justice issues and bring about change in society. What this effectively means is that teachers become minions of the Marxist ideology and are tasked with bringing about the Communist Revolution.”


Indeed, it seems that the teaching profession is hardly about teaching children anymore. Instead, it is about “socialising” and, ultimately, “politicising” the child. According to the Trainee Teacher, the Teaching-Learning experience has also been redefined:


“One module noted that education is not about the ‘three T's’ (i.e. teachers, textbooks and time). Instead, it is about ‘socialisation.’ I believe that this is about training us to indoctrinate kids in schools.”



Outcomes Based Education on steroids


In the “Social Constructivism in the Diverse Classroom” topic, students are taught that “the classroom is no longer a place where the teacher (“expert”) pours knowledge into passive students” and that “each individual will base their learning on the understanding and meaning personal to them”. The authority of the teacher is also diminished:


“The teacher is not the ‘sage on the stage’ but the ‘guide on the side’ providing students with opportunities to test the adequacy of their current understandings.”[14]


Aside from claiming that “whiteness was privileged through language and culture”, one slide in the Humanising Pedagogy topic states that standardised testing is “dehumanising”.[15]

This is highly reminiscent of Outcomes Based Education (“OBE”), the novel pedagogy which was imported into South Africa from North America by the ANC government in the 1990s. In terms of OBE, teaching core content was downplayed in favour of “student-led discovery” whilst testing was dispensed with in favour of less rigorous “continuous assessment”. This approach has had utterly catastrophic implications for basic education, with 82% of South African Grade 4 children now being unable to read for meaning in any language.[16]


As one teacher mentioned to me, “at one point with OBE we eventually realised that the children weren’t actually learning anything at all.” I suspect that the latest Woke craze has done little to reverse this situation.


The tip of the iceberg


According to the Trainee Teacher, it is not only the Faculty of Education that has gone astray. The whole of Nelson Mandela University is like this.


“I have not met a single conservative student and there is no conservative society in the university. Nelson Mandela University is basically a Communist factory producing future revolutionaries. I have made attempts to make them change their minds, tried speaking to them but they just double-down on the indoctrination front. They even brought speakers to turn me into one of their own. I am fully sure that they know what they are doing, and they are really racist.”


Sadly, what is happening at Nelson Mandela University’s Faculty of Education is not a unique or isolated instance. I have reviewed the prospectuses of other Faculties of Education and discovered that many of them show signs of having been infected with the Woke mind virus.  For example, at the University of Johannesburg, students undertaking the Bachelor of Education Honours degree in Education Leadership and Management are required to take a module on educational theory which covers Critical Race Theory.[17]  At Stellenbosch University, the Citizenship, Social Inclusion and Difference course – which forms part of the Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education – covers theoretical approaches based on social justice and critical theory, again including Critical Race Theory.[18]


Then there is the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu Natal, which is currently promoting its “Decoloniality Winter School 2024”, due to be held in July.

A common response is to regard all of this as being the inevitable outcome in a country like South Africa where racial nationalism and socialism have long been predominant political themes. But I think that this analysis is mistaken. Indeed, almost all of the foundational texts in this area were produced by Critical Theorists from abroad. Our Faculties of Education have imported this ideology – typically from North America – but its ideological roots run broad and deep, encompassing Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida (France), Herbert Marcuse (Germany), Antonio Gramsci (Italy), Paulo Freire (Brazil) and György Lukács (Hungary). The Woke rabbit hole takes you down a warren of tunnels, but ultimately they all lead back to the godfather himself: Karl Marx.


Interestingly, electoral data from South Africa’s 2024 national election[19] provides compelling evidence that South Africa’s universities are indeed producing a cadre of revolutionary activists. For example, Nelson Mandela University falls within the voting district located at Cape Recife High School in Port Elizabeth. The Marxist-Leninist Economic Freedom Fighters ("EFF") won 32% in this voting district, three times the 10% won by the more moderate African National Congress (“ANC”) and not far behind the 39% won by the Democratic Alliance (“DA”). In neighbouring suburban voting districts, the EFF generally only wins about 5%.


The story is even more stark in Cape Town – a city where the EFF won 7% overall. The voting district which encompasses the University of Cape Town (“UCT”) is St Paul’s Anglican Church in leafy, upmarket Rondebosch. The EFF won 25% there last month, receiving more than three times the votes won by the ANC. Most of UCT’s student residences are located down the road in the Observatory Junior School, Mowbray Town Hall and Thandokhulu High School voting districts. Shockingly, the EFF came first in all three of these voting districts, receiving 34%, 43% and 48%, respectively. Meanwhile, neighbouring voting districts are shaded dark blue on the electoral map, with the DA generally winning upwards of 80%. Over in the working-class township of Khayelitsha, the EFF receives about 10% to 20% of the vote, and is only about one quarter as popular as the ANC.


Adrian Frith is an analyst who has produced electoral heat maps indicating the relative strength of political parties in each voting district.[20] The map of Cape Town clearly indicates that the EFF is strongest in the voting districts which house the city’s three universities – UCT in Rondebosch, the University of the Western Cape in Belville and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Zonnebloem and Belhar.

In Johannesburg, the Wits University Old Mutual Hall voting district shines up bright red on the map, with the EFF winning an astonishing 64% of the vote there – five times that of the ANC. Similar maps can be produced for other university towns such as Stellenbosch, Grahamstown or Polokwane.

The evidence is clear: relatively well-off university students are far more radical than poorer, working-class voters. The people of Khayelitsha and Alexandra are not voting for the EFF – but the voters in Rondebosch and Parktown certainly are.


South African universities are not alone. Highly politicised Marxist content is now standard fare across academia in English-language countries. Just one example is provided by Ian Pace, a pianist who is head of the Department of Music at the University of London. He has written about how the culture wars are killing Western classical music, with people being made to feel guilt or shame for enjoying or teaching music by white men such as Bach, Mozart or Wagner. According to Mr Pace, activists at the University of London have even “associated Western musical notation or theory with ‘white supremacy’.”[21]


In the United States, “the critical social justice industry” now generates more than USD 9 billion in revenue per year with some consultants charging large corporates $ 12,000 an hour in order to teach employees how to “dismantle their whiteness.”[22] In September 2021, an academic named Peter Boghossian announced his resignation as an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University. His resignation letter has become a seminal text in the fight against wokeness:


“Brick by brick, the university… has transformed [from] a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.”[23]


The final straw for Boghossian appeared to be when activists left a bag of faeces outside his office door.[24] Meanwhile, over in New Zealand the government has invested $ 42 million in a programme called Te Hurihanganui which aims to address “systemic racism” in the education system. In 2021, a student at a primary school in Whangārei was made to stand up in front of their classroom and explain what they had done to acknowledge their “white privilege”.[25]


In short, emigrating from South Africa to any other English-language country is not a realistic solution if your objective is to avoid the toxic influence of Critical Race Theory on education.



The long march of the Woke Commissars


I suspect that the majority of aspiring teachers in South Africa are neither Woke nor anti-Woke, nor do they have any real interest in this topic. Most students at Nelson Mandela University probably just want to get qualified so that they can start work, and view “PEDS 400: Issues in Education” as just another course that they need to pass. These students are likely overwhelmed and intimidated by the complex academic jargon that emanates from the world of Critical Race Theory. Nevertheless, they will do what needs to be done and will say what needs to be said in order to complete the course.


A small minority of students – perhaps 10% – will be angered and repulsed by the curriculum and will find studying the course to be a miserable experience. The Trainee Teacher who contacted me clearly falls into this category, telling me that:


“I feel that being taught about Paulo Freire for four years – and paying the university R 300 000 for the privilege –  is a scam. It is fraudulent. I did not join a teaching course in order to learn how to be a politician or an activist. We chose the course because we want to teach. This whole experience has been humiliating.”


However, another group of students – again, perhaps around 10% of the class – will be left inspired, motivated and determined to take the Gospel of Wokeness into their future classrooms.


This latter group of trainee teachers will join the ranks of what I call the “Woke Commissars” of South African education. You can find at least one of these people in the classrooms and boardrooms of most Model C and private schools across the country. They tend to encourage decolonisation of the curriculum and run all sorts of workshops focusing on “Whiteness” or “microaggressions” or “cultural appropriation”. It is not difficult to identify the Woke Commissars: they often have blue or green hair and tend to project their political views prominently.


These Woke Commissars are small in number but they are highly effective at using activist tactics to bully and intimidate colleagues. Put simply, many are psychopathic sadists who crave power and control and who thrive on being the centre of attention. Woke Commissars derive gratification from persecuting people and this is amplified when their targets suffer public humiliation and personal destruction.


As I have shown in other essays, all it takes is for one teacher or student to be accused of racism – usually on completely bogus grounds – for a localised Woke revolution to begin. Whether or not the accused person is guilty of racism hardly matters. From that point on, the Woke Commissars are free to embark upon all manner of reforms based upon the principles of Critical Race Theory.  For they have now assumed the moral high ground – and from that point on everyone else is either too confused, too terrified or too stunned to do anything to stop it.


And so, just like Nelson Mandela University, the school becomes ideologically captured. At first, this happens gradually. However, in the aftermath of a catalysing event that is amplified via social media, the capture of the school’s ideological orientation happens quite rapidly, followed shortly thereafter by  the capture of its governance structures. 



[2] Unit 1 – Democracy and schooling

[3] Lecture 1 – Overview of module

[4] Unit 2 – Humanising pedagogy​​

[5] Lecture 1 – Overview of module



[8] Lecture 1 – Overview of module

[9] Unit 3 – Social Justice

[10] Unit 3 – Social Justice

[11] Unit 2 – Humanising Pedagogy

[12] Lecture 1 – Overview of module

[13] PEDS 400 – Study Guide at page 21

[14] Unit 4 – Social constructivism in the diverse classroom

[15] Unit 2 – Humanising pedagogy


[17] University of Johannesburg. Faculty of Education. Rules and Regulations 2019 at page 186. Available at

[18] Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Education. Academic programmes and faculty information at page 65.








bottom of page