South Africa: The Day the Apartheid Ended

Author: Michelle Meacham

Grade Level: Early Elementary



The children will write a letter to Gogo, explaining the importance of voting, and why the Apartheid rule was not good.


Materials Needed:

* Background Information

* South African Website

* The book The Day Gogo Went to Vote: South Africa, April 1994 by Elinor Batezat Sisulu. Little Brown and Co., 1996.

* Pieces of paper for a secret ballot.

* Five bandanas or pieces of material.

* Pieces of lined paper for letter.




1. Choose five children to rule over the other children. Have these children put the bandanas around their necks so that they can be set apart from the others.


2. In front of the class, tell these children that they are allowed to get a drink and go to the bathroom whenever they would like to. They don't even have to ask you. Then tell the other students that they need to ask you anytime they would like to leave their desk, and they are not allowed to go to the bathroom or get a drink unless it is recess or lunchtime.


3. Then set up a voting system for those five students. Tell the class, "these students are going to vote on who has to clean the bathrooms at school; either the voters or the non-voters. I have confidence in these students that they will make a fair decision." Have the children that are going to vote, go back to the back of the room, by themselves, and vote on the piece of paper.


4. After the voting has occurred, and the votes have been tallied, read The Day Gogo Went to Vote. After the book, ask the children, "how did it make you feel when these five students were able to get drinks and go to the bathroom whenever they wanted, but you couldn't go?" After discussing how the children felt, also ask them, "how did you feel when these five students voted to see who cleans the bathrooms?" "How did you feel that you didn't have a say in how they voted?" After the students have discussed their feelings, explain to the children that this is what it was like in South Africa. The black Africans were not able to vote, and only a few people (the white population) voted for all of South Africa. These people told them where to live, work, and where to go to the bathroom. It was called Apartheid, which means segregation.


5. Ask the children why the voting and how they were treated wasn't fair. Tell the children that the Black Africans did not agree with how they were treated, so they rebelled. Relate to the children, that "finally in 1994, everyone were able to vote by 'secret ballot'. That is how we vote here in the United States". Explain to the children, "a secret ballot vote is when everyone, who is able to vote, takes a piece of paper which has their choices on it, and they go to a private booth in which they are able to vote for whomever they want. Some questions to ask the students to let them think and discuss are: "Why do you think we have private booths to vote in? What would it be like to vote with others watching whom we are voting for? Do you think that might change who we vote for?"


6. After the discussion, have the children write a letter to Gogo expressing their feelings about Apartheid. Have them also include what they thought about the secret ballot.




Those students, who may not be fluent on their writing, can write a few sentences and draw a picture expressing how they felt for the letter to Gogo.




Read the letters that the children wrote, and see if they understood what Apartheid was like, and why voting and secret ballots are important.


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