'Fate Comes to the Mission Schools': Fire at Bethel, 1953
In May 1953, students burnt down the buildings at the Bethel Training Institute run by German missionaries. The article draws on recent approaches to the study of fire in South African protest movements to argue that the incident was a turning point in the history of the institution. It argues that the fire can be understood as both destructive and productive. It destroyed existing institutional tensions around disciplinarian as opposed to liberal approaches to the governance and management of the institution. But it also paradoxically helped to usher in a new order, that of Bantu Education. As such, it provides insight into some of the material conditions of compliance of this Mission Society with the new emerging order of state control. The article explores both these dimensions: the internal educational regime of the institution thus revealed and how conditions were created for a rapid transition to state control. The article is based on a combination of mission and official sources.