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History of SACHES

10th Congress of WCCES

The highlight of SACHES’ history was winning the bid to host the 10th Congress of the WCCES. This meeting took place in Cape Town in 1998 under the leadership of the Western Cape Executive, chaired by Kallaway who became president after Herman had served two (two-year) terms and co-ordinated by Crain Soudien. The congress was a great success and continues to be remembered for the quality of its organization and the level of scholarship it generated. Officially, in excess of 800 delegates from 60 countries attended the meeting, and, critically, the African continent was well represented with scholars who came from its furthest reaches, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and so on.

Kallaway with the assistance of the organization’s executive, inter alia Herman and Soudien managed to secure the support of funders such as the Royal Netherlands government, the British Council and the Association of Development for Education in Africa (ADEA) who assisted in bringing not only delegates from the continent but also important education ministers, permanent-secretaries and high level officials. The mix of scholars and policy-makers who were present gave the meeting a sense of urgency and gravitas. Important initiatives came out of the meeting, not least of all the establishment of a fund for the support of comparative education scholarship in the region. Membership of the organization, after this event, stood at approximately 100 paid-up scholars from across the region.

After the excitement of 1998, predictably, the organization went into a period of stasis. Sheldon Weeks became the President at the Bi-Annual General Meeting in Cape Town with Professor S Sabatane from Lesotho as his deputy. The leadership of the organization moved to the north and was distributed between the Universities of Botswana, Pretoria, South Africa and Witwatersrand. At its 2002 Bi-Annual Meeting Brigitte Smit, from the University of Pretoria, became the President and she served for one term before being replaced by Professor Thobeka Mda who was elected at the corresponding meeting in Tanzania in 2005.


The Challenges

Particularly challenging has been holding the membership intact and drawing in new members. The organization, interestingly, remains challenged by the issues of the region. Despite the intense efforts of its leadership, and here the work of Weeks must be recorded in editing the society’s electronic newsletter, the contradictions of South Africa’s relative privilege in relation to the region, and the consequent access of its scholars to greater levels of support from their universities, has configured and projected the role of South Africans in the organization in complex ways.

In terms of these developments - the difficult issues of regional dominance, in the context of the country’s racial problems, despite being the subject of regular discussion at meetings - it has been difficult to plot a way forward for the organization. Central has been an abiding anxiety within the leadership of the organization to avoid becoming a patronage agency – offering largesse to the region in the form of, for example, travel bursaries and stipends – while recognizing that its members don’t all have equal access to resources. In this challenge, the organization is confronted with the essence of the development conundrum confronting the region as a whole. What will it take to stimulate its core business of building scholarship in an environment of generalized poverty?

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