Under pressure form the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches, the South African government has continued to allow previously all-white private church schools to admit more and more black pupils.

The system appears to be working particularly well in the Cape and Natal provinces.

Desegregation began quietly, almost stealthily, in some of South Africa's wihte Roman Catholic schools in March 1976.

"In all honesty," said the Roman Catholic bishops at the time, "such a move had to be started. If the church takes a stand against apartheid -- as it has done -- it must try to live out that stand in all aspects of its concern, including its institutions."

The Catholic Church, with 1.8 million followers (1.4 million of them black) gained the support of other major churches in its campaign for integration.

The one notable exception was, and is, the powerful Afrikaans Dutch Reformed Church, a bulwark of the all-white government's racial policies.

Leaders of the Anglican Church (1.7 million) have announced plans to integrate their 20 schools. The 2.1 million-member Methodist Church also has announced plans to integrate its four schools.

The government had threatened to "deregister" any church schools that took in blacks, and consequently close them down.

Then the government changed its tactics, began negotiating with church officials, and reached an agreement allowing those black pupils already admitted to stay on, with the churches agreeing, for the moment, not to admit more blacks.

When the 1977 school year opened, more black pupils than ever were enrolled in church-run schools. Just about all the most exclusive schools in South Africa have at least a few black, "coloured" (of mixed descent) and Asian pupils.

Today in Cape Province, which geographically is the largest of South Africa's four provinces, and Natal, which has the highest proportion of English-speaking whites, almost all the major private church schools have some black, Asian and pupils of mixed race.

In Natal Province, only one anti-integration move has been reported. Two government-run schools for Afrikaans (Dutch Reformed) pupils have refused to engage in sports competition against teams from an integrated Roman Catholic school.

"We will only play against whites," the headmaster said.