Loading Events



Friday 22 May, 4.30 pm

Trust in Charity: Continuing Two Centuries of UK Involvement in South African Education

Oliver Pattenden, PhD Candidate, Rhodes University, South Africa

My ethnographic research focuses upon Ngomso, a “special school” for “severely socially marginalised” young people in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, and a partner charity in the UK that supports its work. In this paper, I explore how my interlocutors engaged with Ngomso with varying degrees of ‘trusting assistance’ and ‘sceptical repellence’. Firstly, by considering fundraising efforts in the UK and the processes by which individuals became supporters of the school, I argue that their religiously motivated charity depended upon social connections and personal histories rooted in two centuries of Anglican missionisation in South Africa. Moreover, their agreement on how best to transform the lives of young South Africans owes much to the paternalistic ambitions of previous generations. Supporters were not only united by their trust in God, but also by their trust in each other and distrust of the post-apartheid ANC government.

In the second part of the paper, I shift attention to research conducted in South Africa. In light of other anthropological studies of moral contestation relating to Xhosa reaction to schools funded by ‘European money’, I depict a city and interlocutors divided by judgements of Ngomso. Unlike supportive audiences in the UK, some individuals at the Department of Education and others living in ‘the township’ did not welcome Ngomso’s interventions nor trust those who instigated them.

As a whole, this paper contributes to academic discussions of how trust is integral to the proliferation of NGOs and charities. Most importantly, I argue that such trust is interwoven with historically constituted ethical judgements and deeply personalised relationships, as well as modes of accountability that are overseen by departments of government.

All welcome. Book a free ticket:  http://oliverpattenden.eventbrite.co.uk