Johannesburg - The Department of Basic Education has taken the first step in making history a compulsory subject in schools by appointing a ministerial task team to look into the issue.
The team will oversee the implementation of compulsory history education from Grade 10 to 12. Currently, pupils take history till Grade 9 and are allowed to drop it in Grade 10.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga published a notice on the establishment of the task team in a Government Gazette notice published on Friday.
According to the notice, the team will be responsible for conducting a research study on how best to implement the introduction of “compulsory history as part of citizenship in their schooling system”.
The team is also supposed to strengthen the history content in the Further Education and Training (FET) band and also review the content in the general education band. Their work will also include looking into teacher training and aligning textbooks with the reviewed curriculum.
Last year, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) called for history to be made compulsory in the FET phase.
The union’s general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said they were happy the department was finally acting on the matter.
“The sooner we are able to conclude this, the better, because it will be beneficial for our country. South Africa comes from a bad past, and not knowing where we come from and not teaching the correct history perpetuates racism. Many of our learners may not understand where we come from,” he said, adding that this undermined people who suffered under apartheid.
“The teaching of history is about culture and language. Through history you teach problem-solving. We come from a violent past and we have to engage in dialogue instead of fighting.”
However, the DA isn’t happy with the department’s plans, saying it views this is as part of Motshekga’s tendency to bow to pressure from Sadtu.
DA basic education spokesman Gavin Davis said he was unhappy the task team had been set up without any public consultation on whether the subject should be made compulsory.
“This raises concerns that school history will be abused as a political propaganda tool, (just) as it was by the apartheid government,” he said.
“There are no good reasons to make history compulsory for Grades 10-12. All learners already study history up to Grade 9. Thereafter, all Grade 10-12 learners take life orientation, which includes topics such as ‘citizenship’ and ‘democracy and human rights’,” he said.
Davis also said making the subject compulsory would divert resources from where they were needed.
Members of the ministerial task team are Stellenbosch University lecturer Professor Albert Grundlingh, Wits lecturer Professor Peter Lekgoathi, South African Democracy Education Trust executive director Dr Sifiso Ndlovu and University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturer Dr Jabulani Sithole.
Others are Robben Island Museum councillor and National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences board member Luli Callinicos, retired Western Cape Education Department history senior curriculum planner Dr Gail Weldon and Rhodes University lecturer Dr Nomalanga Mkhize.