Tag Archive | "History"

Will Education in South Africa ever speak to the African Child?



Let us all begin by agreeing that our past was bad, racist, anti-progressive and has killed much of our potential as a country. Only one race benefited from education then, the whites.

It will not help us at all looking at Bantu education today, since no one who studied Bantu education is still at school. It has been almost twenty years now, and when we discuss education, our discussion will be focused on education in the new dispensation of democracy. By so saying, I am not suggesting that the effects of Bantu education can still be seen today, but that is a topic for another day.

I am finding it hard to understand why Basic Education and Higher Education are separate ministries? Higher Education exists because of Basic Education, and what one does invariably affects the other, so I would have expected a sound single Education department to deal with the state of education. But we have two.

Politics aside, when will education in this country become relevant to the needs and aspirations of an African child?

Some of you might swear and make statistical arguments why an African-centred education is not desirable in a global economy, and the likes, but all these arguments are nonsense.

Starting with Basic Education, what are the subjects that pupils can take? Languages, Economics, Business Economics, Accounting, Maths, History, Geography, and the like. Since some quarters of our society see red every time it is said science and technology should be taught in our languages, for now let us exclude science from the discussion. Is there any other reason why the rest of these subjects are not taught in our languages?

Let me make two examples to stress my point. Let us take Economics as an example. Is there any reason at all why Economics content is not based on the African economies? Even today pupils still learn economic histories of European and American societies. What is wrong with providing an economic history of Africa when learning Economics? Wouldn’t that provide pupils a better chance to be good in the subject since what is being taught is what they know and can identify with? Wouldn’t that allow them to further develop economic theories when they reach varsity level since all these would be part of their everyday lives?

On History. Can anyone tell me what is significance of teaching our children the history of Europe and America? While none about Africa is provided? Are you telling me that twenty years into democracy we have failed to make changes even in small matters like these? When a Mosotho child is taught History at school and is told about all the European figures and states, none of which they know, how alienated is that child? Do Africans lack a history that we do not teach African History in our schools?

I must say that our government has let me down on education. Instead, they have gone all out to import education models that have not been tried anywhere else in the world. How much would it have cost us to simply prescribe African History in schools? How much effort would be required to bring the vast collection of history books written by Africans about Africa into our schools?

Before I talk about Higher Education, which is mysteriously no longer Tertiary Education, allow me to pose a simple question. What is the purpose of education, formal and informal, in society?


Our Higher Education seems to be worse than Basic Education in its content. I am currently a student at UNISA studying for a BA with majors in Linguistics and Theory of Literature. Initially, Read the full story

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Honouring Our Heroes: Soldiers of the SS Mendi


They say we don’t have heroes. I say how can we have heroes when we write them out of the history books?

Let me tell you a story that you probably won’t find in the retelling of World War I or in any high school text book. I will tell you about real heroes. I will tell you about 607 brave sons of Africa who gave their lives on the morning of 21 February 1917 when the SS Darro - travelling at full speed and failing to emit any warning – rammed into the much smaller SS Mendi.

Within minutes the sea had swallowed the Mendi, leaving her sailors stranded in the roiling water. The crew of the Darro stood by, happy to let them drown – and drown they would have were it not for brisk action from the crew of the HMS Brisk who rowed among the survivors, rescuing as many as possible.

A total of 616 South Africans, including 607 black troops serving in the South African Native Labour Contingent, gave up their lives that glorious day and they dare say we don’t have heroes.

Stories were told of the troops’ bravery as the ship sank. One is that of Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha, who cried out, “Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to do… you are going to die, but that is what you came to do… I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers… Swazis, Pondos, Basotho… so let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa.”

They say we don’t have heroes, even while the sons of Africa danced barefoot on the tilting deck of the doomed Mendi before she plunged beneath the ocean. Even while Joseph Tshite, a schoolmaster from near Pretoria encouraged the drowning men in the waters around him with hymns and prayers until he too met his watery death.

The story of the SS Mendi is a story of courage in the face of death and valour between brothers in dire circumstances. The courage displayed by these men has remained a legend in South African military history. Read the full story

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