Debate continues to rage following a Ministerial Task Team’s recommendation that history be made a compulsory subject in the last three years of school.

Student organisation COSAS, teacher union SADTU and the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) are among those in support of the proposal, with the Federation of School Governing Bodies opposing it.

History is set to replace Life Orientation when it’s phased in in 2023.

The proposal by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga that history be made compulsory from Grade 10 to 12 from 2023, has drawn both praise and criticism.

The National Association of School Governing Bodies says the proposal is long overdue. The Association’s General Secretary, Matakanye Matakanya, says they’re pleased that an African child will finally be taught African history, and not the European history that has been part of the curriculum.

“Our children will know more about South Africa, what happened in the past. The reasosns it happened and how did we overcome the past. And we also say i think the history will ensure that we reconcile with the past. We will know the past and heal. It will also help to buld social cohesion. That’s why we’re so excited that finally our cry has been listened to.”

However, the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, FEDSAS, says the department should be focusing on addressing the challenges in the foundation phase, instead of wanting to force every child to learn history.

FEDSAS CEO Paul Colditz says, “We’re not sure it is such a good idea. The point is that very few learners nowadays are interested in history. We must put much more energy and focus into the foundation phase. Leave history as an optional subject. I don’t see that we’ll make progress in the education of all children in the country if we want to force them to take history as a compulsory subject in the last three years.”

Teacher union SADTU says those opposed to the idea are fearful more young people will get to know about the atrocities of the past.

The union’s Provincial Secretary in Mpumalanga, Walter Hlaise, says the move will help the youth appreciate the difficult past that the country has gone through during the apartheid era.

“Some people want the history of this nation to be distorted, as if we never had the domination of one race by the other. And the fact that now we have this democracy and freedom, learner who were born after 1994, can then start thinking that what they’re experiencing now is what our grandfathers went through. And even now when we look at the question of the land debate that is there, there’s distortion that says that black people were not there when white people arrived in SA.”

The learners themselves, as represented by student body COSAS, have also welcomed the recommendation. Cosas president John Macheke.

“Remember there’s no way you can separate history from our own identity. There’s no way you can separate the struggle of South Africa and history. Those things go hand in hand. You cannot know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re coming from. You must know where you coming from so you can correct whatever happened in the past. If you know the history of SA you knew the operation that was used by the Boers during apartheid in the education system we could have already transformed the education system.”