The ACDP notes the comments made by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, in response to a 156-page report from the History Ministerial Task Team.

The recommendation of the Ministerial Task Team is, among other things, to introduce History as a compulsory subject in grades 10, 11 and 12. While the ACDP agrees that 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, we do not agree with making History a compulsory subject in grades, 10, 11 and 12. Why?

Firstly, and most importantly, South Africa faces many challenges on the economic front, with high unemployment rates, increasing poverty and critical skill shortages. The disturbing literacy statistics, coming from the University of Pretoria and the ‘Progress in International Reading Literacy’ study, found that 80% of our Grade 4 pupils “still cannot read at an appropriate level.” It was also found that school maths and arithmetic performance in South Africa is as abysmal and lags behind the rest of the world. South Africa ranks 75th out of 76 countries in the OECD countries and is near the very bottom of many other international maths education rankings. As we surge ahead towards the 4th Industrial Revolution, for the ACDP, it is a no-brainer: make pure Mathematics a compulsory subject up to Grade 12; not History.

Secondly, while the Minister mentioned that, “This project is not a propaganda exercise destined to shore up and buttress support for the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the ANC”, one has to question whether this is believable. We need look no further than our northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, to see how History was used as a propaganda tool in the public school syllabus, skewed in favour of the ruling party, Zanu-PF. History may just repeat itself in South Africa.

Finally, it must be noted that the ACDP is not opposed to an Afrocentric approach to teaching History as a subject.  We do caution, however, against History being used as a propagation tool, and believe that 9 years of compulsory History teaching is sufficient time to achieve a desired empirical outcome. In order for South Africa to compete internationally, and lift ourselves out of the current economic stagnation, with all of its negative consequences, we should be paying more attention to the pure Sciences, which includes Mathematics, and not History.

5 June 2018