The Department of Basic Education has joined the call to raise awareness against racism and discrimination.
The Department is supporting the call for a national anti-racism week as announced by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation in February this year. As part of its broader aims, the Anti-racism Network of South Africa (ARNSA) has committed to support the department to develop policy and programmes to address racism in schools.
The department is currently working with one of the member organizations of ARNSA, the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) to train teachers on its “Teaching Respect for all” programme that seeks to unpack the “woundedness” of South Africans given our apartheid legacy and to lay the foundation for a long-term programme of building a non-racial society.
Racism, intolerance and discrimination are not a product of a cohesive society. Social cohesion is one of the key priorities of this current administration and its role in promoting unity in diversity in and through education is vital to the future of our country.
According to international experience and research, textbooks are one of the many levers to promote social cohesion. In addition to transmitting knowledge, textbooks also seek to anchor the political and social norms of a society. Textbooks convey a global understanding of history and of the rules of society as well as norms of living with other people.
The Minister of Basic Education is of the view that textbooks that promote diversity will boost the many efforts in ensuring that the education sector contributes to the goal of an empowered, inclusive and fair citizenship, wherein all persons are guaranteed the right to be, irrespective of perceived differences. It is within the context of this qualitative importance of education that the role played by textbooks in equipping learners with the skills and values essential for living harmoniously in a diverse and rapidly globalising world is of critical importance.
More specifically, it is important to ask whether learners have access to textbooks that are learner-friendly, gender-balanced, and free from stereotypes and discrimination. The Departments’ Directorate responsible for Social Cohesion and Equity in Education had undertaken a mini evaluation of a small sample of school textbooks and Learner Teacher Support Materials (LTSMs). There was also an indication that although a screening process is conducted, some textbooks still contain discriminatory content. To evaluate a sample of the LTSMs and textbooks and to develop the textbook policy towards diversity requires special expertise.
To this end the department has established a Ministerial Task Team to specifically work on evaluating textbooks for discrimination according to specifications in the Terms of Reference that was gazetted in February this year.
The Terms of Reference of the Ministerial Committee will be as follows:
1. To evaluate a sample of existing textbooks and LTSMs against stereotypes and discrimination towards the promotion of diversity in education;
2. To ascertain whether the text and illustrations used by authors in textbooks and LTSMs is inclusive, sensitive to offending or excluding others, and promotes the values of equality and empowerment for learners;
3. To conduct a content analysis to ascertain the specific discrimination bias, frequency and type of discrimination;
4. to examine the extent to which different forms of discrimination manifests itself in South African textbooks and LTSMs focusing on race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation and other forms of discrimination;
5. To examine current policies used for the screening and selection of textbooks and LTSMs to determine their effectiveness in ensuring compliance;
6. To consult with key recipients of LTSMs and textbooks and identify their perception of the content used in current textbooks and LTSMs;
7. To do a desktop comparative review on national and international research, studies and other reports on the common lapses that may exist that do not promote diversity in textbooks and LTSMs;
8. To arrange public hearings on the findings and preliminary report of the Ministerial Committee; and
9. To make recommendations on the key policy imperatives relating to discrimination in LTSMs and textbooks.
The Ministerial Task Team is chaired by Prof Crain Soudien and supported by the following experts in the field: Prof Linda Chisholm; Prof Sechaba Mahlomaholo; Prof Melissa Steyn; Dr Thabo Msibi; Prof Lebo Moletsane; Prof Yusuf Sayed and Mrs Pumla Mdontswa.
The Ministerial Task Team has been selected based on their expertise and experience in the fields of education, research and diversity and the team will be supported by a Reference Group.
The Task Team will also evaluate a broad sample of the current LTSMs and textbooks and provide the evidence to develop a textbook policy towards the promotion of diversity. This will support the development of a textbook policy for publishers and the department which will be used for the screening of LTSMs and textbooks for the use in schools.
Enquiries: Elijah Mhlanga: 083 580 8275 | Troy Martens: 079 899 3070