A political-economy analysis of emergent approaches in the education and schooling of subaltern youth in Cape Town

closeup of school fence with barbed wire

Education in South Africa has always been driven by an imagined future or multiple imagined futures of young people differentiated across lines of race, class and gender, through which policy is refracted. It would be naive to assume that in the ‘post-apartheid’ or ‘post-1994’ era, education is not similarly driven by ideas about where and how the different subjects of schooling ought to fit into society. In recent years, a new set of disciplinary approaches and pilot interventions have emerged in the Western Cape province in South Africa, which appears to target subaltern youth in particular, and involves interdepartmental relations between the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), the Department of Social Development (DSD), the newly re-named Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety, as well as the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement division. These new developments include the placement of school resource officers (sworn-in law enforcement officers) in schools, new laws which empower the provincial government to open ‘intervention centres’ for the temporary relocation (up to one year) of students found guilty of serious misconduct, as well as state-funded initiatives targeting “social crime prevention” and “positive behaviour intervention”. Our research task, which leverages Bacchi’s (2012) post-structural approach to policy analysis and Jacklin’s (2018) notion of the “imagined subject of schooling”, is concerned with identifying and rendering visible the beliefs and assumptions about youth, violence and discipline, as well as the futures of subaltern youth that underpins these new developments, which we then aim to contrast with problem-framings present in the existing literature.


Bacchi, C. (2012). Introducing the “What”s the Problem Represented to be?’ approach. In Engaging with Carol Bacchi: Strategic Interventions and Exchanges (pp. 21–24). The University of Adelaide Press.

Jacklin, H. (2018). The imagined subject of schooling in the logic of policy. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 50(4), 256–269.

Research Team

Ashley Visagie, Helga Jansen-Daugbjerg (University of Cape Town)

Research Fellow


South Africa