EDITORIAL | Rewriting history gets 100%. Making it compulsory does not
Reworking the syllabus is long overdue, but making it mandatory when there are other priorities is short-sighted
A history ministerial task team report, released in 2018, found the subject content “reinforces a memory of oppression, not of active resistance or agency”. While there was a significant pushback by African empires, kingdoms and chiefdoms against the colonial front in the 1750s, these are never celebrated in the curriculum. It stated that the content about well-developed and advanced African empires is restricted to grades 5 to 7, whose pupils are, by this stage, not well developed in terms of thinking and cognition. The report went on to say that “there is a tendency in the current CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) to prove a racist point that Africa has always been backwards in terms of development”. In short, the team agreed the curriculum is Eurocentric and recommended it become more Africa-centric.
So it came as no surprise when history boffins welcomed a recent announcement by the department of basic education about the history curriculum being rewritten. Basic education minister Angie Motshekga correctly pointed out that “they were quite conscious that there’s lots that needs to be done around the content of history”. Her department, she said, is at a stage where research is being conducted to determine what the correct content will be for the new curriculum, which will be phased in from 2024. Motshekga also clarified that history will not be combined with life orientation (LO), but that LO will continue to be taught as a stand-alone subject until Grade 12...