31 May 2018
Theme: “Re-writing History from an African Perspective”
Ministerial Task Team Members
All Senior Officials
Non-Governmental Organisations Leadership
Members of the Media
Programme Director, from the onset, I wish to convey our heartfelt gratitude to all attendees for making the time for this important event. This is the second remarkable engagement on History, and its imminent curriculum recalibration.
Programme Director, on behalf of the Basic Education Ministry, I would love to extend our sincere gratitude to the Chairperson and members of the History Ministerial Task Team for the excellent work done so far. The Report was a labour of love from some of South Africa’s foremost historians. You can proudly give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Today, I am very excited to be receiving this Report. This has been a long awaited Report by members of the public, academia, and interest groups involved in the History Education landscape.
Programme Director, the launch of the History Ministerial Task Team Report comes just at the tail end of the celebrations of the Africa Month. We are proud and excited to be joining our brothers and sisters across the continent and the Diaspora in celebrating our African humanity. As the African continent, despite challenges that we face, nonetheless, we have made significant strides moving ourselves through struggle from colonialism to independence from imperial conquerors. Our rich history and heritage ties us together. More so, we now know that we have a common ancestry, which was discovered right here in our country, at the Cradle of Humankind. As the eminent politician and revolutionary par excellence Mr. Kwame Nkrumah once proclaimed: “'I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me.”
This common ancestry points out to an important fact that Africa not only has a history, but a lengthy one than spans more than 3 million years. Africa played a leading role during the first 15 000 centuries of the history of humanity. The continent benefited from mutual exchanges and influences with Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Thus, we contributed largely to the global progress of humanity. The slave trade, slavery and colonialism had a major impact on the fabric of African life, resulting in the disintegration of our continent. However, the African Diaspora that resulted from this tragedy continuously contributes in a significant manner to the construction and development of African people across the globe. This history, told from an African perspective, should be taught to our learners so that they can know, understand and appreciate who they are as Africans.
At this point, Programme Director, I must repeat what I said in 2015 during the first History Roundtable: “I must emphasise that we are in no way attempting to rewrite History for the benefit of the new ruling elites. This project is not a propaganda exercise destined to shore up and buttress support for the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the ANC. As a principle, we are against the rewriting of History for the sole purpose of achieving short-term political expediency.”
In this regard, I must declare that our intentions remain noble as we believe in the wise words of the Anglo-Irish political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke who put it succinctly a century ago when he said: “Those who don't know History are destined to repeat it.”
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.”
Young Africans should be taught to develop a sense of pride in their heritage, which in turn will boost their self-esteem and confidence. Consequently, we would empower them to master their own destiny while simultaneously encouraging them to engage in the arduous task of improving the lot of our continent. To this end, it is important to dispel the myth that has existed for decades, that of Africa, as a "troubled continent", renowned more for its wars and diseases, than as a source of human progress. We need to emphasise that questions of heritage and identity are not as straightforward as they might first appear. Perhaps, the first and best place to begin addressing these topics, is by acknowledging that in a continent like Africa, there is not one heritage, or an easily delineated set of distinct identities. The cultures, languages and heritages of Africa are multiple, diverse, and dynamic. Our young people must understand and appreciate this diversity, which is the cornerstone of African humanity.
Programme Director, allow me to remind the house that today’s event signifies the culmination of a process that started in 2015. During our 2015/16 Budget Speech, we committed ourselves to conduct research on the desirability of making the teaching of History as a compulsory subject for all learners. We did this because of public concerns that, while History is considered to be one of the critical subjects in advancing the ideals of a democratic South Africa and fostering social understanding and cohesion, the subject is not compulsory in the FET Band. In pursuit of this, we appointed a Ministerial Task Team on 04th June 2015 to look into the matter.
Furthermore, on the 03rd of December 2015, we held our first History Roundtable discussion with all relevant stakeholders. The discussion was well attended. We managed to communicate the intention of government, and to generate ideas from participants towards strengthening the offering of History as a subject. The majority of people who attended the Roundtable also indicated their support for the implementation of compulsory History in the FET Band.
The report of the History Roundtable was provided to the Ministerial Task Team, to use as a foundation towards their work. The main recommendations that emerged from the Roundtable included:
- the MTT to increase the scope of international comparative study to include Asia, Latin America and more African countries;
- the MTT to review and strengthen History curriculum to address content related issues in GET and FET;
- whether History should be offered as a stand-alone discipline, or be integrated into Life Orientation. This was thought to be a viable option because Life Orientation is already a compulsory subject;
- the MTT to consider the issue of demand-and-supply (History teachers), if the subject is to be made compulsory; and
- the MTT to seek avenues for the funding of History teachers, regarding undergraduate studies (pre-service), and post-graduate studies (in-service training).
The MTT increased the scope of the initial comparative study by including countries such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. They managed to identify areas of weakness and strengthened the curriculum content for Grades 4 – 12. They audited History teacher trainees in Higher Education Institutions in the country. They convened nine provincial consultative meetings from 25 July to 4 August 2017. They also received inputs from various stakeholders on how to strengthen the GET and FET curriculum content, and sought comments on whether History should be offered as a compulsory subject in the FET band.
Ladies and Gentlemen, join me as we applaud the excellent work presented by these great men and women today, who served on the History Ministerial Task Team. They sacrificed their time away from their families, including on weekends, engaged in this important national duty. On behalf of my Department I want to reiterate our appreciation to the History Ministerial Task Team. Ke a leboga, Ngiyabonga, Ndo levhowa, and Baie Dankie.
The acceptance of this Report by the Basic Education Ministry does not constitute any policy changes just yet. Ladies and gentlemen, the Report will be presented at Heads of Education Departments Committee Meeting (HEDCOM), Council of Education Ministers (CEM), 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. The Report will be available on our website, and we invite you all to join the debate and make your voices heard.
We are also alive to fact that, "the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed,” so eloquently said the son of the soil the late leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, Stephen (Steve) Bantu Biko. Hence, the purpose of the recalibrated History curriculum, must include the last bid attempt at the decolonisation of the African mind. We must without any apology remove the vestiges apartheid’s sanitised version of History. We must do so, without air-brushing the actual story and multiple interpretations of the apartheid past – neither must we glorify the story of the liberation movements, presenting themselves as an equivalent of moral virtue. In this equation, the apartheid rulers will henceforth be presented as folk devils. We want, “A Nuanced Approach” to both the writing and teaching of History.
History should, by design, enable learners to be active citizens – including being able to engage critically with the truths of colonialism, apartheid, and the liberation struggle. Young people should be empowered with values, attitudes and behaviours that contribute to nation-building, social cohesion and national reconciliation. This kind of knowledge will enable the 21st century generation, to comprehend the nexus between global and national citizenship.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the History curriculum should be relevant not only for the market place, but also for the decolonisation of the African mind.
I thank you!