For Paris, for France, for all visitors, it was almost like a place of pilgrimage, this exhibition of the South African Republic, which, though very modest, was installed at the Trocadero, behind the Dutch Indies. Everyone was anxious to visit it, not primarily for its own sake, though it was interesting, but to pay tribute to the valiant people who are fighting for the cause of Justice and Law, for the independence of their country. The bust of President Kriïger, whose visit in November was so touching, received new flowers almost every day, and hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected, with inscriptions of moving sympathy, on a register affixed for the purpose. Thus the revolt of the public conscience against oppression was affirmed. In addition, the exhibition itself, organised by M. Pierson, Consul General of the South African Republic in Paris, deserved to be examined and studied in detail. It consisted of three buildings and a farmhouse built by Mr. Heubès, architect.
The main pavilion, of modern French style, with a hint of Dutch style, consisted of a ground floor and a first floor forming a gallery. It contained exhibitions of government services, an ethnographic collection showing the progress of the South African Republic, minerals from the country, hides, etc.
The primitive Boer farmhouse, comprising five rooms furnished and stocked with South African artifacts, was located behind it. It gave an idea of the simplicity of the customs and life of the Dutch and French Huguenots of the 17th century.
The two pavilions at the back were devoted to the mining industry; in one of these buildings was a boccardage plant where the gold ore was crushed; in the other, the further processing of the amalgamated gold took place.
In the basement of the Trocadero, there was a mine gallery with extraction shafts, a prospecting gallery, a dynamite perforator deposit, etc. By adding this very curious pyramid representing the volume of fine gold produced from 1884 to 1889, i.e. 2,141,709,418 francs, one had before one's eyes the complete picture of the private existence and the industrial and commercial life of the Transvaal. One could not but find it surprisingly intense, just as the subjects of the South African Republic appeared to be extremely polite and concerned with all progress.
It was common to read in newspapers hostile to the Transvaal that the country was very backward, under Boer rule, and that the conquest would improve its social condition. However, it was evident from the examination of all the documents presented that the Transvaalian Government is doing its utmost for the material and moral well-being of the people under its authority. Thus, charts showed, with photographs, magnificent public works of all kinds, comparable to the most daring in Europe. Thus, too, the published reports on public education proved that in this respect too the Transvaal had nothing to expect from the invader, and had done all its duty in educating the people.
Before the war, indeed, the State gave a grant of from six to eight pounds sterling per annum for every child over six years of age who, for a minimum of days per month, attended a school approved by the Department of Education; it went so far as to give :
An extraordinary grant for each pupil of parents or guardians found to be indigent; an extraordinary grant to schools of limited numbers on a descending scale; an extraordinary grant for a pupil-teacher in schools of twenty to thirty pupils, of three or more classes; an extraordinary grant for vocational courses attached to the subsidised schools; a grant for boarding expenses for indigent pupils whose parents or guardians lived more than three leagues from a subsidised school; the price of boarding was up to £2 per month, etc.
It should be added that in 1896 the Transvaalian State established, at its own expense, well-attended and well-kept mining schools everywhere, that it took care of their inspection on a permanent basis, and that it founded teacher training colleges which leave nothing to be desired. The work of popular education undertaken by the Government of the Republic of South Africa is therefore as extensive as possible. In examining it, one of the main accusations, that of wilful ignorance, levelled against a people who have all the sympathies of the world, and who deserve them by the vigour of their resistance, as well as by the elevation of their patriotic and religious feelings, is crushed.
©Paul Gers - 1900