Although Churchill was famously dismissive of statistics (claiming that there were only three types of lies – “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”), evidence of this type is particularly valuable in helping students substantiate their assertions. The challenge is finding a way of committing them to memory in a sufficiently thorough way that they can be deployed in an examination situation.

To help students remember key statistics for a particular topic, provide the class with a list of such data and challenge them to depict one or more of these pieces of information in the form of an infographic using, for example, an online tool such as PiktoChart.

Case Study: Apartheid South Africa

As part of my study unit of the nature and impact of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, I provided students with the following statistics. Each student nominated one statistic to depict in infographic form. Once they had selected their top choice, they then chose a second:

  • Blacks were only given 13% of land – designated as “Homelands” – despite being 80% of the population.
  • According to the South African Council of Churches, between 1960 and 1985 an estimated 3.5 million black South Africans were forced to move to barren tribal reserves, called “homelands.”
  • There was very little arable farm land in the Homelands. For example, only 15% of the Ciskei was arable, 89% of Ciskei children suffered from malnutrition.
  • A survey by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights found that 83% of all detainees held by South African government authorities had been physically abused.
  • The wages of Whites were 8X that of Blacks.
  • According to The Economist, on average 50,000 children died every year during apartheid from the effects of malnutrition, while South Africa exported over $1 billion worth of food annually.
  • The major cause of death for black children in South Africa was disease brought on by malnutrition: for white children the major cause of death was swimming pool accidents.
  • Only 3% of practicing doctors in South Africa were Bantu (black). Infant mortality among rural blacks was 282 per 1,000 births while among whites 12 per 1,000.
  • According to the South African Council of Churches, 3. 5 million Bantu were forcibly removed from “white” South Africa to the Homelands after 1960.
  • Families were frequently broken up with the men working in factories located in areas designated “white.” By law, 97% of black South African mine workers had to be migrant laborers, they were prohibited from bringing their families with them.
  • The government spent over seven times as much to educate a white child as it spent to educate a black child.
  • On average, there was one teacher in each white South African school for every 18 students. In black schools the ratio was one teacher for every 43 students.
  • If you were white in South Africa, you could expect to live 72.3 years. Bantu could expect to live 58.9 years. Coloreds lived an average of 56.1 years and Indians, 63.9 years.

Students were encouraged to focus on providing a bold visual representation that would stick in the memory, but also to use text to explain the statistic in more detail too. The resulting resouces were then pooled together and shared with the group for revision purposes.




Taking it further

The completed infographics could be used as some of the sources in a visual essay writing exercise. They could also be arranged into a Triangle 9 format to highlight which were the most blatantly shocking overall.


Russel Tarr, Apartheid South Africa (1948-1964) – ActiveHistory (Available at: http://www.activehistory.co.uk/Miscellaneous/menus/IB/apartheid_south_africa/, last accessed 30th November 2016)

Ching Goh, Create Easy Infographics, Reports, Presentations | Piktochart (Available at: https://piktochart.com/, Last accessed 30th November 2016)