By Jeanine Walker
A report compiled by a Ministerial Task Team into the introduction of history as a compulsory subject has recommended that history should be phased in incrementally from 2023 in Grade 10 to 2025 in Grade 12.
The report was presented to South Africa Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. MyBroadband.co.za reports the team focused on the lack of study into African civilisations and the effects of slavery and racism. It comes after experts argued that a shift in perspective was needed and centres around the government’s belief that there is a lack of focus on the evolution of African civilisations in South African schools. Experts argue the current system is biased towards liberal schools of thought and omits African nationalism, black consciousness, and socialism.
The team’s presentation to Motshekga is said to redress this with an overhaul of the current curriculum to make it more Afrocentric, Sunday paper City Press says.
Led by SA Democracy Education Trust executive director Professor Sifiso Ndlovu, the team studied how history was taught in European and African countries, and selected a model used by Ghana as the basis for its recommendations.
The team recommended the following changes be implemented:
Life Orientation for grades 10, 11, and 12 should be scrapped and replaced with the overhauled history subject;
Social sciences should be separated into history and geography in senior grades to allow extended times for history lessons; and
The team also recommended that these changes be phased in by 2023, allowing schools to prepare for the new curriculum.
Motshekga stated that public consultations would be held and the proposal would be inspected by various committees before it was implemented.
According to the report, she was relieved the team did not focus on post-apartheid history and said there would be no “ANC-fication” of history.
SAnews.gov.za reports the steps follow a commitment made by the department during the 2015/16 Budget Speech, to conduct research on the desirability of making the teaching of history as a compulsory subject for all learners.
Handing over the report, Ndlovu said that during provincial consultations with various stakeholders in the provinces, four scenarios were highlighted, which led to the final recommendations.
Among the scenarios was that if History becomes compulsory in Grades 10-12, it will become the 5th fundamental subject regardless of the stream they are registered for.
Another scenario was that if History and Life Orientation (LO) are combined, History content should be transferred to LO to reinforce the teaching of citizenship and human rights, amongst others.
However, Ndlovu said that, most people rejected out of hand the transfer of content from History to reinforce the LO content and syllabus at FET phase.
“They dismissed the idea of 5 fundamental at FET phase,” Ndlovu said.
The report recommended, amongst others that the LO should be phased-out incrementally from the FET curriculum from 2023 in Grade 10 to 2025 in Grade 12.
It further recommended that the Curriculum and Policy Statement (CAPS), due to its serious limitations, be completely overhauled.
“Africa centeredness should become a principle in revising the History content. The 6-7 years towards the phasing out of LO in the FET band be used to prepare the system for compulsory History in the FET band. The notional time of four hours per week for teaching History in the FET band must be maintained,” the task team recommended.
Ndlovu also noted that teaching and training should not be the sole responsibility of the Basic Education but the responsibility should be carried out in partnerships with the universities.
“We call on all heads of Archaeology, History and the Department of Basic Education to start the ball rolling. It is up to the Minister to reject or accept the recommendation, if she does then we can start developing guidelines,” Professor Ndlovu said.
Motshekga extended sincere gratitude to MTT members for the excellent work done so far, adding that the report has been long awaited by members of the public, academia, and interest groups involved in the History Education landscape.
She emphasised that they are in no way attempting to rewrite History for the benefit of the new ruling elites.
‘’As a principle, we are against the rewriting of History for the sole purpose of achieving short-term political expediency. All we are doing is to reclaim our history as Africans. Historians rightly conclude that, “from a legacy perspective, we tell our stories for ourselves, and as a gift, to future generations”.
She also emphasised that the acceptance of the report by the department does not constitute any policy changes just yet.
“The report will be presented at Heads of Education Departments Committee Meeting, Council of Education Ministers, the Basic Education Portfolio Committee in the National Assembly, and the Select Committee for Education and Recreation in the National Council of Provinces for further consultation and input.
“In addition, public consultations will be held and comments sought from society at large, to guide us towards a History that reflects all of us. Furthermore, the Report should ignite rich, constructive debates and robust discussions in society on the place and importance of History in the school curriculum,” Motshekga said.
The report will be available on the department’s website. Citizens are invited to join the debate and make their voices heard.
By Jeanine Walker