School history for all

2014-07-21 00:00

THE proposal to make history a compulsory subject up to matric has been welcomed and shot down.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga told Parliament in her budget speech last week her department was considering making history compulsory to promote patriotism.

She said a nation that chooses to keep its legacy and history from its children may have to repeat the mistakes of the elders.

Compulsory history is one of a series of government plans to promote national unity and cultural legacy.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Thursday asked Parliament what sort of nation South Africa would be “if we forgot where we came from”.

The department will make R34 million available to plant a flagpole at every school and distribute information on national symbols.

The portfolio committee for communications earlier mooted that SABC television must play the anthem twice a day.

Mthethwa made it clear his department wants to fix the “shortcomings of history” which has to date been told from a Eurocentric perspective.

“Each nation must have an identity,” he said.

The DA said compulsory history up to matric would undermine pupils’ freedom to choose subjects relevant to their future careers.

DA MP Annette Lovemore said the ANC could also repeat the National Party’s history by making school history fit the party’s ideology and political agenda.

But Institute for Justice and Reconciliation director dr Fanie du Toit said South Africa owed it to its children to make history popular again.

Du Toit said too many white parents were still hesitant to teach their ­children the good and the bad of South Africa’s past and added the focus on nation building was welcome.

Spokesperson for the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, Dr Jaco Deacon, said SA had for too long relied on former president Nelson Mandela and large sporting events to unite the country and welcomed Motshekga’s plan. But Deacon warned politicians had to be kept out of writing the syllabus.

IFP MP Alfred Mpontshane said Motshekga’s plan was good in principle, but because history text books historically only told the story of the ruling party, the plan could have no value in practice. Mpontshane proposed a multi-party committee to work through all aspects of the plan.

The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union described Motshekga’s announcement as “encouraging”.

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