Problem area for discussion This thesis sets out to describe and deliberate on the concept of the professional identity of black teachers in South Africa. The historical and cultural context of South Africa stretching from apartheid rule to the first years of democratisation creates a frame around this study, within which I have investigated the life and work of this professional group who performs a very significant job in the process of developing a young democracy. Although this study does not claim statistical representativity, and in spite of the obvious lack of time, human and financial resources, it is my hope that the findings reveal certain tendencies that might have a broader applicability for the South African educational system and particularly for black teachers. The thesis presents South African history, describing the introduction of apartheid, its effect on society, teachers and school system, as well as the road to its downfall with democratic elections in 1994. This serves as a contextual frame for the thesis and is followed by an introduction to basic educational reform theory and a description of South Africa‟s contemporary educational policy. This serves as a macro perspective, creating a base on which issues with regard to black South African teachers‟ professional identity are described and debated in a micro perspective. MethodologyBy employing four broad research questions, I have aimed at discovering how black South African teachers‟ professional identity can be defined, and evaluated the conditions for the development of a new professional identity. The practical reality of South African schooling is investigated and looked at in relation to the vast amounts of new educational policy legislation that was introduced in the wake of the great reforms that took (and are taking) place post the democratic elections of 1994. This is done through a qualitative field study where I conducted semi-structured interviews with five black teachers at a primary school in an under resourced area in Cape Town. This data material is compared to a similar study by Harley et al. (2000), and by employing the concept of professional identity the two studies are analysed using the national policy act, Norms and Standards for Educators. The aim of this analysis is to assess to which degree the teachers that took part in the studies fulfil the roles and competencies sketched out in this document. In order to ensure some degree of methodological triangulation and to provide a complete discussion on these issues document analysis has also been employed. Data and sourcesThe data and sources that are used in this study are, in addition to my own field data, an article by Harley et al. (2000) that accounts for the research they conducted in 2000. I have also employed document analysis using past and current policy legislation and other historically significant documents. In addition to this a great amount of scientific journals have been employed as means of data gathering, such as Journal of Education and Work (Carfax Publishing), Teachers and Teaching, (Elseiver Science Ltd.) and International Journal of Educational Development (Elsevier Science Ltd.). Many of these journals I have found using Internet sources such as ERIC (Education Resources Information Center, http://eric.ed.gov/) and Informaworld™ (http://www.informaworld.com/). In addition to these sources of information, I found information relevant to my study in the libraries of The University of Oslo, The University of The Western Cape and The University of Cape Town. Results and conclusionsThe process of creating a new, democratic and non-discriminatory educational system in South Africa, with its inherent challenges and obstacles posed enormous professional challenges for all teachers, but for black teachers in particular. The new educational legislation that was passed was complex and developed with such haste that teachers on the practice level were not included. The result was that the centralised policy directives that were passed down to the practical realm of schooling were articulated in a language unfamiliar to those who were to implement them. In addition, the new requirements that teachers were faced with were excessive, and demanded more than could be expected. In order for the South African teachers to conduct their work in accordance with the demands of the new curriculum, they would have to undergo a comprehensive professional transformation in a very limited space of time. The new educational policy was also based on the wrongful assumption that all South African educators were all at the same high level of professionalism and were more than capable of making curriculum decisions without relying on centralised dictates.The fieldwork conducted by Harley et al. (20009 and my own field data clearly show that these teachers do not match policy expectations. However, the teachers that were part of these two studies often displayed something over and above what was expected of them. This could be seen in the way teachers in my study would take on the unprescribed role of being parents for their learners and refer to them as “their children”. Harley et al. (2000) reported that the teachers that took part in their study displayed an idealism for their work, stating that they felt a vocational calling and thus a professional commitment that was not related to policy expectations. The educational legislation that was passed post 1994 was based on and articulated with idealism, noble intentions and with an underlying urgency to bring the country up to speed with the international community; intellectually and financially. It is clear, however, that idealism and aspirations for a prosperous, free and equal future for South Africa, could not make up for the lack of contextual analysis that was needed in order to formulate an adequate educational policy for the country. As a result of the country‟s history of separation and discrimination, its school reality is greatly contrasted and the distribution of resources uneven. The policy/practice disjunction in South African educational policy shows how misconceptions on the policy level inevitably leads to conflict on the practice level, and several areas of concern need attention in order for the scales to be balanced.An essential focal point in this thesis, is how the black teachers of South Africa can be empowered to redefine their identities in accordance with new demands. Including practitioners from the country‟s school reality in the development of new educational legislation, is most likely to add to a closing of the gap between policy and practice. This may result in a more adequate and constructive policy that does not require agents on the practice level engaging in time consuming policy interpretation prior to implementation. In addition, a more balanced resource allocation to under privileged schools and increased remuneration for teachers, will undoubtedly aid teachers, and especially black teachers, in the process of creating a new teacher identity. A more stable resource foundation for black teachers coupled with an indigenisation of the country‟s curriculum may increase their capacity to reflect on their professional identity. Including a greater focus on African ideas, values and knowledge systems, may capacitate the reshaping of black teachers‟ professional identities as it will bring them closer to their natural identities that were to a great extent distorted by the apartheid ideology.