Resources for Teaching on South Africa

The Outreach Program serves schools, museums and community organizations locally and nationally. The director can assist you in curriculum preparation. In addition, there is a large lending library of curriculum guides and lesson plans for all grades, books, pamphlets, records, games and audio-visual materials. Everything can be borrowed locally, while only A-V materials go out by mail.

The resources below are divided into four categories:

  1. Books for Children and Young Adults
  2. Curriculum Guides
  3. Adult Readings
  4. National and Local Organizations Concerned With South Africa

1. Books for Children and Young Adults

All of these books are available for loan from the Boston University African Outreach Program.

Elinor Sisulu, The Day Gogo Went to Vote.

Sheila Gordon, Waiting for Rain [winner of several children’s book
awards (ages 12 & up)

_________, Middle of Somewhere: A Story of South Africa (elem/middle)

Beverly Naidoo, Journey to Jo’burg A South African Story [winner of several children’s book awards]

_________, Chain of Fire, (ages 11 & up)

Hazel Rochman, ea., Somehow Tenderness Survives: Stories of Southern Africa [an ALA Best Book for Young Adults]

The Open School, Two Dogs and Freedom—drawings and observations about life in South Africa by black South African children

Mary Benson, Nelson Mandela: The Man and the Movement (advanced high school) [Mary Benson has also done a middle-school-level biography of Mandela]

Apartheid: Calibrations of Color (Icarus/Rosen Publishing Group). [winner of African Studies Assoc. award for children’s book]short stories, plays, photos and personal essays by South Africans. [middle & high school]

Sarah Harris, Timeline: South Africa (Weighing Up the Evidence)

Gail Stewart, South Africa (Places in the News)

Hugh Lewin, The Day the Picture Came Alive [about the excitement of Nelson Mandela visiting children in a village soon after his release from prison]; [elementary school]

D. Stanley, Shaka: King of the Zulus.

S. Harris, Timeline: South Africa. [middle school]

G. Stewart, South Africa: Places in the News. [middle school]

S. Otfinoski, Nelson Mandela [middle school]

Floyd Cooper, Mandela. [elementary school]

Rebecca Stefoff, Nelson Mandela A Voice Set Free

Jack Roberts, Nelson Mandela. [elementary school]

John Vail, Nelson and Winnie Mandela

N. Silver, No Tigers in Africa [a coming of age story about a white boy who is pushed to unlearn the prejudice he grew up with; [middle school and higher]

M. Williams, The Genuine Half Moon Kid [a coming of age story about a white boy]; [middle school and higher]

Peter Lowis, South Africa: Free at Last (“Topics in the News” series)

In addition, the BU African Outreach Program has a series of short biographies, with photos of key leaders in the anti-apartheid struggle. [grades 5–8]; [published in South Africa]

The following fine picture books take place in South Africa. They offer stories which vividly depict the lives and culture of black South Africans.
Isadora, Over the Green Hills
_________, At the Crossroads
I. Mennen and N. Daly, Somewhere in Africa
N. Daly, Not So Fast Songololo
N. Daly, The Day of the Rainbow
C. Stock, Armien’s Fishing Trip
H. Lewin, Jafta (series)
R. Schermbrucker and N. Daly, Charlie’s House
J. Seed, Ntombi’s Song
(N.B.: My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me by M. Angelou is not recommended, as it exoticizes the life of Ndebele children.)

2. Curriculum Guides

All of these guides are available at the B.U. African Outreach Program

While many curriculum materials, books and videos were prepared before the historic 1994 democratic elections, they may still be useful for teaching about South Africa today. Some materials are useful because they focus on South Africa and not just apartheid; other materials offer an historical background to present day South Africa. and tell the story–well worth repeating–of how an oppressed people achieved their freedom.

Run, don’t walk, to the phone to order William Bigelow’s A Stranger in Their Own Country. (published by Africa World Press in Trenton NJ). (You may also borrow a copy from Boston University African Outreach Program.) Turn to p. iii which summarizes how to carry out a 1-, 2-, or 3-week curriculum (as well as a full 6-week course). The rest of the book contains the lesson plans and the student handouts (plus a bibliography). This book is superb. If you wish, you could supplement it with materials and activities focused on South African student life from This Child Is Not Dead and end by showing the “Sun City” rock and rap video, then having students write their own songs or rap/poems.

Strangers in Their Own Country, William Bigelow (Africa World Press, Trenton, N.J.) Step-by-step curriculum on South Africa. Especially useful for high school but can be adapted for both younger and older students. Covers both South African politics and U.S. and nonfiction reading.

Brand new curricula for middle and high school are This Is Our Land, on the key issue of land reform in post-apartheid South Africa, and Language. Identity and Power, on issues around mulitlingualism in South Africa today. In addition, there is a short curriculum comparing the US and South African constitution-making. (The first two curricula here were published overseas and, thus, are only available through the B.U. African Outreach Program. The third was created by Vera Johnson, a Boston teacher.)

Apartheid is Wrong A Curriculum for Young People is a very fine multidisciplinary, detailed, hands-on curriculum and filmstrip (w/ audio cassette) for grades 1 through 12. (Write Educators against Racism and Apartheid, 164-04 Goethals Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11432) The curriculum was updated after the 1994 democratic elections.

The Child is Not Dead: Youth Resistance in South Africa 1976–1986 (published by the International Defense and Aid Fund) A 64 page booklet, written and compiled by British teachers for use in junior high and high school. Consists of short readings-poems, news articles, eyewitness accounts and personal statements-on the lives and resistance of black students under apartheid. Contains a variety of interesting suggestions for activities. Requires a basic background on apartheid for best use. Would be an excellent supplement to Strangers in Their Own Country or to Apartheid Is Wrong because of the focus on students.

Sun City: a song, a videocassette, a book and a teaching guide. Rated the number one song of 1986 by critics at Time and Rolling Stone, the song is a powerful musical statement against apartheid which can excite students to learn more about South Africa. The song and video can be used in several ways, e.g., as an opening lesson to generate student questions, or, perhaps more effectively, as the culminating lesson to the curriculum Strangers in Their Own Country. (“Sun City” does not provide a comprehensive look at apartheid.) The “Sun City” teaching guide is excellent. (Available from the American Committee on Africa, address in the next section)

Interracial Books for Children, Bulletin. v. 15 #7/8 and v. 16 #5/6. These issues, entirely devoted to South Africa, contain an excellent review of the depiction of South Africa in US. textbooks and other useful materials for preparing a curriculum.

“Focus on South Africa: Time Running Out,” Intercom (a journal published by Global Perspectives in Education), Nov. 1983. This very helpful 56 page issue consists of 12 lesson plans, including student handouts. There are very good sections on apartheid, but the curriculum is weak on the anti-apartheid struggle and on U.S. relations with South Africa.

South Africa on the Move: A Tool Kit for Education and Action. An excellent detailed guide to teaching about South Africa, based on a pedagogical approach which emphasizes active participation of the students and comparison with common issues found in Canada [&, by extension, the US]. (Write Cuso, ECSA disk, 135 Rideau St., Ottawa, Ontario KIN 957 Canada; or borrow from Boston University African Studies Outreach Program)

A History of South Africa [curriculum guide; middle school & up]

Censoring Reality: An Examination of Books on South Africa. Beverly Naidoo.

There are also several excellent poster size photo collections on South Africa: 2 beautiful election posters of Nelson Mandela; poster collections on Nelson Mandela, on children and on women. Available for borrowing from the Boston University African Studies Outreach Program.

3. Readings for Adults

A few nonfiction suggestions

Well-written histories of South Africa have been done by Readers Digest and by the following scholars: Q. N. Parsons, L. Callinicos, and K. Shillington

Move Your Shadow, Joseph Lelyveld

Winner of Pulitzer Prize. Very readable and good introduction to contemporary society and politics, including U.S. corporate involvement. Lacks perspective on internal resistance to apartheid. (Chapters can be read individually without reading whole book.)

Freedom Rising, James North
Very readable introduction to South African society and politics. Excellent section on resistance to apartheid. (Chapters can be read individually without reading whole book.)

Apartheid Reader, G. McCuen. Commentary, cartoons and debates on South Africa.

Crossing the Line, William Finnegan
Finnegan,  a staff writer for the New Yorker, writes with insight into his experience as a teacher in a black South African high school.

The Anti-Apartheid Reader,ed. David Mermelstein An exceptionally wide ranging selection of articles explaining the origins of apartheid and the nature of the current struggle.

Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
A moving and key account of the struggle against apartheid. Mandela describes his life, interweaving the history of resistance to apartheid.

Working Women (Ohio University Press) An excellent brief compendium of interviews, statistics and commentary which offers an overview of South African women’s lives.

Fiction, Plays, and Poetry

Dennis Brutus (poet), especially A Simple Lust

Athol Fugard (playwright), especially Master Harold and the Boys and Sizwe Banzi is Dead

Nadine Gordimer (novelist and short story writer; winner of the Nobel Prize), especially Burger’s Daughter (novel) and A Soldier’s Embrace (short stories)

Novels on resistance to apartheid: Alex LaGuma, In the Fog at the Season’s End; Wally Serote, To Every Birth Its Blood (focuses on students); Mbulelo Mzamane, Children of Soweto (also focuses on students).

4. National and Local Organizations Concerned With South Africa:

Africa Action
1634 Eye Street, NW, #810 Washington, DC 20006, Tel: 202-546-7961
Website: Email:

Boston Organizations Concerned With South Africa:

South Africa Partners (SA Partners)
89 South Street, Suite 401, Boston, MA 02111, Tel: 617-443-1072
Website: Email:

South Africa Development Fund
555 Amory Street, Boston, MA 02130, Tel: 617-522-5511
Website: Email:

For Films, Videos and Slide Shows on South Africa:

1. African Outreach Program, Boston University, 232 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215, 617-353-7303
Website: Email:

2. American Friends Service Committee, 2161 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140, 617-497-5273