Cape Town - The Department of Basic Education plans to make changes to the history curriculum in a bid to better reflect elements of South African history “that have not received the recognition they deserve”.

“The Minister (Angie Motshekga) has asked a curriculum team to investigate the matter and the team will report to her as soon as possible,” spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said on Monday.

He said the milestones the country had achieved “which had taken us to where we are” had to be looked at in terms of the curriculum.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has been calling for the compulsory teaching of “relevant” history and said this would produce patriotic South Africans.

“If we ignore the importance of this subject in schools it will be bad. Being ignorant of the past is nothing short of a national disaster. Local history will always be our national asset,” Mugwena Maluleke, the union’s general secretary, said in a statement last week.

“We don’t want to teach learners the collection of the past only, but to help them understand the present realities. We have a responsibility as an organisation to ensure that current and future generations remain conscious of history and appreciative of the role played by past generations.”

The union wants the subject to be compulsory from the early grades up to matric.

Asked for the department’s response to Sadtu’s call to make the subject compulsory, Mhlanga said: “There is broad consensus but we need to outline the practical implications of this. It’s work in progress and the team is working.”

Sadtu’s national spokeswoman, Nomusa Cembi, defined relevant history as that which had a “meaningful purpose for South Africa” and would give people an understanding “of where we come from”.

She said this did not exclude international history.

In a statement last week, Annette Lovemore, the DA’s spokeswoman on Basic Education, said Sadtu’s lobbying for the reconfiguration of the curriculum had the potential to turn the subject into a political, ideological instrument.

“It was used as just such an instrument during the years of apartheid. The National Party ensured that the history syllabus covered history that was relevant to its political, ideological agenda. This history should not be allowed to repeat itself.”

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Cape Argus