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Apartheid KS2 Facts for children

Apartheid for KS2 Children

South African society was ruled by a system called apartheid from 1948 until 1994. But what was apartheid and how did affect people? 

What was apartheid? 

In 1948, a system was introduced in South Africa whereby people, depending on their race, were forced to live, work and socialise separately.​​ 

A person’s race is determined by their physical characteristics, such as bone structure, skin, hair and eye colour. 

This system was called ‘Apartheid’.

What does the word ‘apartheid’ mean? 

Apartheid literally translates as ‘apartness’ in the Afrikaans language.

Apartheid KS2
Sign from the Apartheid era in South Africa

When did segregation in South Africa start?

Segregation in South Africa began in 1948. Laws separating people by their race were put in place by the National Party who were in government at the time. ​​However, segregation between people had been present in South Africa for many years before this. This dates back to when the Dutch colonised and settled in areas of South Africa, long before any other European country made a claim for South African territories. 

Those who came from Western Europe believed that they were a superior race to those who were native to South Africa. This was an assumption and was based on their cultural norms and expectations. 

What do we mean by cultural expectations? 

Culture - the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

Expectations - beliefs about the 'proper' way someone should behave, or something should happen.

Because the white minority population in South Africa felt that their way of life was the ‘proper’ way, they only mixed with their own social circles. This damaging attitude towards native South Africans rippled through generations, causing a divide between black and white communities, until the separation became law and was given a name, apartheid.

Apartheid laws

Apartheid laws impacted every aspect of life for South African citizens, particularly the lives of black and mixed heritage people. Changes include: 

  • Land was divided up so that white people and black people lived separately. 
  • People were forced to attend segregated places of worship.
  • Relationships and marriage with someone from a different race was illegal. 
  • Native South Africans were not allowed to vote.
  • Children were forced to attend schools depending on the colour of their skin. 
  • Black people were forced to carry identification called a ‘Pass book’. 

Because black and mixed heritage people were refused the vote, they had no say or control over apartheid laws.

Apartheid resistance

In the 1950s the African National Congress (ANC) led the resistance to apartheid, setting up several peaceful protests with the help of Nelson Mandela and his ANC youth league. However, the peaceful protests were met with violence from the police. Nelson Mandela and the ANC began to take more drastic measures in order to be heard by the South African government. As a result, the ANC were banned from protesting and in 1962, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for treason. During the 1964 trial, Mandela took the stand: 

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

It was during Mandela’s imprisonment that countries across the world were made aware of apartheid laws and their impact on black and mixed heritage South Africans. Global pressures began to mount on the South African government against apartheid. 

Apartheid KS2
Nelson Mandela

 As a result, Nelson Mandela was offered release from prison on the condition that he stop his fight against apartheid laws. Mandela refused freedom, twice. 

Find out more about Nelson Mandela in this Nelson Mandela blog

When did apartheid end? 

Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, emerging with supporters all over the world. He continued to fight for equality until apartheid was finally abolished in the early 1990’s. In 1994, Nelson Mandela took part in the first democratic election, having voted for the first time in his life. It was also the election that saw Nelson Mandela become the first black president of South Africa

Teachers: If you’re looking for more in-depth teaching materials about apartheid, check out these ready-to-teach KS2 Nelson Mandela lessons

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