South African Society for History Teaching


A short history

Its foundations

Since the first official strides to ensure a space for teaching History as outlined earlier, it appears as though some practitioners of the subject/discipline have always been willing to function constructively within the security of an academic association, specifically focused on History development and History issues. In 1913 such an association was formed by the two tertiary institutions mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, ideological differences between the Dutch-Afrikaans and English language groups, exacerbated perhaps by the uncertainties associated with these years as a result of World War I, meant that this well-meant effort was sunk in 1916.

Tensions between political parties during these times eventually resulted in History teaching being declared non-committal during the period 1918-1948 as far as official History syllabi in schools were concerned. Nevertheless, this drawback did not affect the production of History publications by academics.

During this period the Ministry of Education and a variety of associations were involved in educational activities that also benefited History to a lesser and/or greater extent. Cultivation of the development of History as subject for community purposes (especially ensuring that learners develop a historical consciousness), was a central focus.

Past ideological differences between the language groups still lingered on by the time the National Party took power in 1948. No official national historical association in South Africa existed as an independent voice from the government’s educational structures in 1950. Once again, the teaching community felt the need for a historical association most strongly. Perhaps the Department of Education’s announcement of the implementation of a new integrated subject, namely Social Studies, also triggered the defence mechanisms of all History practitioners – and perhaps also created another platform for differences in this regard.

Despite some constraints, the enthusiastic Inspector of Schools during those days, Dr. J.J. van Tonder, took the initiative and on 11 February 1956 all his efforts came to fruition when the Historical Association of South Africa (HASA) was founded by 400 people in the City Hall of Pretoria. Although HASA generated excitement among primary and secondary History educators, it eventually became the mouthpiece for tertiary History educators/Historians, and was especially dominated for years by concerned white historians from the historically Afrikaans universities as far as its conferences, articles (in its journal Historia) and its administrative management were concerned. Concern among Historians that HASA still had an overwhelming focus on History educators and History teaching issues, resulted in another foundation effort – 1965 –by historians of both official language groups in Bloemfontein. The South African Historical Society (SAHS) was formed by 37 historians of whom 6 were English.

It was firmly believed that both HASA and the SAHS had a function to fulfil that should complement each other. In practice, however, this “difference” in function was not easy to define, especially if the production of articles and publications of both (not even talking about its membership that reflects similarity) are criteria. Fact is that historians had to establish for themselves to what degree they wanted to be associated with the people they had trained (directly and indirectly) who found themselves in primary and secondary education (nowadays General Education and Training – GET and Further Education and Training – FET). Meanwhile, from 1978 the History educators were floating desperately between both these History ventures in search of a permanent identity, needing more practical hands-on assistance from professionals in the Higher Education and Training Band. Apart from Historia Junior, at least still in operation, other useful History teaching information lay scattered between journals such as Historia, Die Unie, Neon, Mentor, Tydskrif vir Middelbare Onderwys, Standpunte, Skoolblad, Educa, Onderwysblad and Onderwysbulletin. Historians and History educators with English as mother tongue published articles related to History teaching in journals such as Perspectives in Education, Education and Educational Review.

Divided perspectives and perceptions among the practitioners on the school History curriculum did not contribute to set a healthy platform for History activities within a society structure. HASA’s Historia Junior journal declined in the seventies. Perhaps its primary focus on South African History was a reason, although it has to be acknowledged that the retirement of Dr Van Tonder also had an impact. Perhaps the unfortunate absence of open-minded, balanced and/or representative perspectives has kept the ideological argument between historians from tertiary institutions and History teachers alive, with no unity in sight.

As a “last” effort in his professional capacity, Dr Van Tonder approached the former Rand Afrikaans University to take responsibility for the production of Historia Junior. This never happened, but a counter-initiative resulted from this plea and also probably the sense of a wider need among school History educators from all languages and races. In its first editorial note this new initiative, named Yesterday and Today, financially supported by the HASA, reflected concern over History as a declining subject because of the existing need to serve the educational community with creative and useable articles, having no intention to support any official viewpoint. It is also interesting to note that symposiums and seminars on History teaching, organised by tertiary institutions, took place from time to time outside the ambit of existing history associations or societies.

Tertiary academics, also involved in Yesterday and Today, organised a conference for History practitioners (didactics) at Unisa in July 1985. During this conference the first strides were made to establish a society for History teacher training.

In September 1985, Yesterday and Today reported as follows:

Society for the training of History teachers almost a reality

There was widespread enthusiasm for the idea of a Society of this nature. It was felt that a closer interaction between the different institutions and groups should be established. Accordingly a pilot committee consisting of Prof. M.H. Trümpelmann (RAU), Dr F.J. Stuart (Unisa) and Mr J.M.L. Horn (GOK) was elected to proceed with the drafting of a concept constitution and the planning of administrative arrangements. It is hoped that the proposed society will be a reality in 1986.

With a healthy and growing circulation of approximately 400 members of Yesterday and Today at hand (which can be regarded as proof of its need in especially primary and secondary education), another conference initiative by didactics specialists and historians, held in July 1986, finally prepared the ground for the founding of a society for History teachers.

The groundwork for this society was done by the History Teaching Methodology/Didactics specialists of RAU, Unisa and the Teaching Colleges of Goudstad, Pretoria and Johannesburg. At this conference (Unisa) the South African Society for History Teaching/Suid-Afrikaanse Vereniging vir Geskiedenisonderrig was founded. The name of the Society appears to have been used in two ways. Initially, from the date of its founding until at least 1988 when the first conference at US took place, it was referred to as the Society for the Training of History Teachers. During the annual meeting of the SASHT executive at US, the name change was accepted. By the time the 1992 conference took place, the new name of the Society was widely used. This change was apparently made to ensure that the Society’s focus was also inclusive of tertiary history educators from the History Didactics/Teaching Methodology and History Departments (See Appendix A for a Conference venue detail). For many years the SASHT did not use a specific logo to identity itself. After Yesterday and Today officially became part of the SASHT activities, this journal’s identity was spontaneously used for the SASHT as well.

YT Archive

Yesterday & Today No. 5 1983
Yesterday & Today No. 6 1983
Yesterday & Today No. 8 1984
Yesterday & Today No. 9 1985
Yesterday & Today No. 10 1985
Yesterday & Today No. 13 1987
Yesterday & Today No. 14 1987
Yesterday & Today No. 15 1988
Yesterday & Today No. 16 1988
Yesterday & Today No. 17 1988
Yesterday & Today No. 18 1988
Yesterday & Today No. 19 1990
Yesterday & Today No. 20 1990
Yesterday & Today No. 21 1991
Yesterday & Today No. 22 1991
Yesterday & Today 2006
Yesterday & Today 2007

CV Mr. Patrick McMahon

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Date of birth20 September 1952.
Place of birth: Durban, South Africa.

  • Attended University of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg College of Education.
  • Obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1972, majoring in History and English.
  • Obtained a Transvaal Teachers’ Higher Diploma in 1973, majoring in History and English.
  • Obtained a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in 1974, specialising in History.
  • Obtained a Bachelor of Education Degree in 1978, specialising in Sociology of Education.
Employment History:

  • Employed as assistant at Greenside High School from 1 January 1975 to teach history.
  • Obtained 3 merit promotions (classified as M3.)
  • Appointed administrative head of history at Greenside in 1978.
  • Appointed Head of Department (History) in October 1984.
  • Resigned from Greenside at the end of 1992 in order to take up Head of History at Crawford College.
  • Head of History at Crawford College from 1 January 1993 to the present.
  • Appointed Co-ordinator of the College (equivalent to Deputy) in 1998.
  • Officially given the title of “Deputy Principal” in 2003.
Educational, Historical and Curriculum Activities outside school:

  • I was appointed to the Transvaal Education Department study committee for history in 1981 and served on this body until the T.E.D. closed in 1996.  This body planned and gave advice for history syllabi, examinations and other aspects of policy.  As part of this, I also served on syllabus and media
  • I was appointed to the Gauteng Department of Education L.A.C. at its inception and was also an executive member of the History Focus sub-committee.
  • I was appointed to the examination panel for history in 1984 and set the T.E.D. history paper from 1985 until 1995.  I was re-appointed by the Gauteng Department of Education from 1996 until 2002.  In 2003, I was appointed moderator of the South African history paper, a position which I continue to hold until the present.
  • I was a marker of history external examinations from 1976 to 1982.  I was appointed as a chief marker for history in 1983 and held this position until 2002, after which I became the moderator for the paper.
  • I was part of the N.E.T.F. committee that drew up interim syllabus changes and subject policy at a national level in 1995-96.  I was at that stage appointed as a NAPTOSA representative to the National Committee for History.
  • As an examiner, I helped to draft the policy in connection with the interim history examinations and addressed various conferences around the province in connection with the new examination structure.  In addition, I organised 3 further conferences at the Johannesburg College of Education in connection with continuous assessment, aspects of the new junior syllabi and marking of examinations.
  • I was invited to speak at the 1988 history conference at the University of Pretoria.  I was invited to deliver a paper at the Historical Conference at the University of Stellenbosch in January 1994.
  • I have published :
    • Various articles in the magazine Curricom.
    • An article on “Teaching Apartheid” in “Yesterday and Today” Sept. 1993.
    • A chapter on Latin American history in ‘Geskiedenis in Aksie’ (Std 10)
    • Study guides for Grades 10 to 12 history for Kagiso publishers.
  • I helped to develop a series of historical videos for Kagiso publishers.
  • I was involved with developing a new set of history textbooks with Kagiso (revising ‘Active History’ and writing ‘History Quest’.)
  • I have co-authored booklets on ‘South African History 1948-76’ (Skeleton Series); South Africa 1948-94 (for Macmillan)
  • I have co-authored the X-Kits study guide for Grade 12 history.
  • I have taught at Star Schools since 1990.
  • I have taught at the BP/Sowetan Rewrite School since 1992.
Other Achievements in School:

  • I was appointed phase tutor or standard controller every year at my schools from 1985 until 1998 when I was appointed co-ordinator.  This meant that I was in charge of various grades, advising on courses and consulting with parents.
  • I have taught history from Grade 8 to Grade 12 since 1975.
  • I am also qualified to teach English, Geography and Afrikaans.
  • I have been in charge of media hardware and software at the school.
  • I am computer-literate, working with a PC at home and at school on various administrative programmes.
  • I have been in charge of minutes of meetings, bell administration and general school organisation for many years.  I have worked on timetable committees for 15 years and am one of the chief timetablers at Crawford College.
  • I have chaired the administrative committee at Crawford College and have co-ordinated the college diary since July 1994.
  • I have coached cricket at Under 14 and 2nd team level (from 1975 to 1991)
  • I have supervised Boys’ Squash from 1981 to 1992.
  • I have taken many historical tours and excursions away over a period of 16 years.  I have run a history society at school and presided over two historical banquets.



  • I have been happily married since July 1983.
  • My wife and I have two children aged 19 and 16.
  • We are practising catholics at Yeoville parish.
  • I have been convenor of readers for 20 years at the parish, and have chaired the liturgy committee there.  I am currently chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council.
  • Other interests are :  current affairs, reading, sport, films and staying physically and mentally fit!

CV Mr. Simon J Haw

SASHT Photo's 1 (47)

Simon Haw was born in Johannesburg in 1946 and after schooling at Parkview Junior, Estcourt Junior and Estcourt High School, he attended the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, where he obtained a BA (Hons) and a B.Ed. He taught for the next 20 years first at Wartburg-Kirchdorf High School and subsequently at Maritzburg College where he was head of history. In 1990 he was promoted to the head office of the Natal Education Department as an educational researcher and subsequently became a history subject advisor. Since his retirement he has run courses for the Department of Education, worked for Umalusi, taken history tour, written textbooks from Grade 5 to Grade 12, and worked as a sub-editor for The Witness. He has written histories of Maritzburg College, the Natal Education Department and The Natal Witness and is currently busy with an update of the Maritzburg College book.

CV Mr. Jimmy Verner

SASHT Chairperson, 1997-2009
History teacher for 40 years (currently teacher at St Bishops Bavin in Johannesburg)
JMB sub-examiner 1973-1984
Examiner 1985-1993
IEB sub-examiner 1995 to 2004 and again in 2007
Served on various IEB and other committees related to history teaching as well as contributing to various historical journals at different times.
Co-author of the History for All series of  textbooks for the FET phase.
Member, Olympiad, South African Academy for Science and Art, 1987-2001.
Address detail
Mr. J.A. Verner
12 Klip Street
Observatory 2198


P.O.Box x75353

Tel. 011 648 5728 (h)
Tel. 011 616 4018 (w)
Cell: 083 582 4742

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SASHT Conference 2008

Conference Feedback 2008
Chairman’s Report 2008
Photos of Conference

Barbara Wahlber (PDF, 49kb)

Transcontinental Reflections in the Revised South African History Curriculum on Globalism and National Narratives-Elize Sonja van Eeden (PDF, 145kb)
Exploring the concept of an ‘historical gaze – Carol Bertram (PDF, 74kb)
What is in a name?- Johann Strauss (PDF, 13kb)
Histories that creep in sideways – Emma-Louise Mackie (PowerPoint, 197kb)

Secondary school History teachers assessing Outcomes-Based Education (OBE): a case study – Pieter Warnich (PDF, 42kb)

Celebrating creative history teaching (PowerPoint, 39kb)
Teaching How To Make Specific Historical Causal Claims – Edmund Zizwe Mazibuko (PDF, 46kb)
Some implications of an outcomes- based curriculum in the subject of history – Carol Bertram (PDF, 27kb)
The textbook writers’ panel (PDF, 9kb)

The 2008 SASHT Conference
Cape Town, 26-27 Sept 2008

Mr Jimmy Verner
(SASHT Chairperson)

After an initial welcome to the slave Lodge Museum and the Conference by Prof. Rob Siebörger a formal welcome was proposed by Prof Rudi Laugksch (Director of the UCT School of Education) who pointed out that as the conference theme was “Celebrating History Teaching” it was appropriate to meet in the slave lodge which had housed the very first school in S.A. It had been for slave children He made the point that the SASHT was able to bring together teachers, academics and department officials to share ideas and to motivate and stimulate each other.
A further welcome reviewed aspects of 350 years of schooling in S.A. when Prof. Crain Soudien of the UCT School of Education spoke of a new approach to history which looks carefully at the idea of agency or the ability of people to act in a given situation. It was a very thought proving talk in which he encouraged us to consider what the recorded archives and histories ignored. In taking note of this we need to proceed beyond the traditional binary system of writing history – conqueror and conquered/black-white/believers-unbelievers and so on. We need to go beyond these ideas and to look at the hidden aspects of history remembering that archives are constructed in dominance and history written by the victors. We need to find and tell the story of the forgotten people.
In April 1658 the first school was established in the Cape for slave children so that they would be of more use when they were older. This idea that the purpose of schooling was to make useful workers was to continue for the next 350 years and the slave children’s resistance by running away was a part of the pattern of youthful resistance that led to the events of June 1976. Another example of where the traditional histories need revision is in their perspective of the Khoi peoples who are often seen as aimless and disorganised but the story of Genadendal disputes this. We need to look at how the displaced peoples can speak from places of submission and be autonomous as people beyond the politics of domination.
After tea the first session of conference papers began with Pieter Warnich of North-West University analysing problems that teachers were experiencing in the FET phase because of OBE and OBA in particular. He had found in his research that most teachers’ knowledge of OBE was theoretically adequate but that they had difficulty in putting OBA into practice. This was also partly through time constraints. As a teacher in the classroom I felt he had identified very much with the way many of us felt – in theory fine but too time-consuming and complicated to put into practice when pressed for time.
Johann Wassermann of the University of KZN then looked at the June 2007 history examination papers as well as looking at the exemplar papers for November 2008 grade 12. These examinations all have some serious flaws and perhaps a more rigorous system of review is necessary.
Barbara Wahlberg (University of KZN) looked at the question of oral history among first year students in the FET phase and found that many schools had neglected this aspect of history research. Students often had no idea of how to structure an interview and the need for consent and release form agreements. It is important if we are to look at those “stories of the forgotten people” Prof Soudien spoke of as these stories are often only to be found orally in the memories of parents and grandparents. Barbara used the expression of “oral history as giving voice to the voiceless”.  Teachers at all levels need to encourage more use of oral research.
The conference then adjourned for a tour of parliament which was of great interest, not only for the history of the buildings but for the debate on free speech which we heard.. The tour was followed by lunch, then back to conference papers.
Gail Weldon of Western Cape Education Department spoke of the “Facing the Past” programme which aimed to help the youth to become good citizens by using history education to encourage people to engage with their personal legacies of apartheid. It expects teachers to act as agents of change and does appear to be successful in making learners more sensitive to issues around human rights and discrimination.
Johann Strauss (North-West University) spoke of what is in a name and the recent spate of name changes for roads, etc. Although seemingly light-hearted in his approach, his talk did generate some strong views, which is probably inevitable as such a political issue does tend to rouse emotions. Names are more significant than Shakespeare indicated when he said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Gill Sutton of Herzlia High School looked at ways of bringing stories into our classrooms, taking the opportunity of arms deal publicity to link the sailing of our new submarine SAS Queen Modjadji from Kiel harbour to Simonstown in April this year to the story of the Rain Queen. She showed how she used photographs to help link the story to the learners’ lives and to help form a basis for their worksheets.
A break for tea and then an interesting introspection by Rob Siebörger of UCT as he “Owned up to the past”. He spoke of his experiences in writing the Turning Points in History series and how our own backgrounds inevitably colour the way we see things. We need to be especially open to things like race which may have a very subtle influence on our thinking.
Louisa de Sousa of North-West University spoke of her experience in the use of multi-media such as DVD in teaching at FET level and the impact it had on the students. Although in most cases the students enjoyed the multi-media presentations there was little statistical difference in their achievements.
The final presentation of the afternoon was from Carol Bertram of the University of KZN who explored the idea of “an historical gaze”. This links to the way we look at events and try to ensure that learners are aware that contexts change and that this affects the way people react. She stressed the need to ensure that history is made accessible to those wanting to learn and one way of achieving this is to develop an historical gaze (which links to the introspection Rob spoke of and which should help us to hear the hidden voices of those Prof Soudien referred to as “God’s forgotten people”).
For dinner we moved venue to the School of Education building on UCT Upper Campus after which we were given the keynote address on Celebrating History Teaching by Jacqui Dean of the Nuffield Primary History Project. Not so much a talk as a workshop in which we were a class and “did” history. She used an interesting and innovative way of teaching and one which whet the appetite for her Saturday workshop. It also ensured our attention by making us do much of the work – often in groups where discussion could be quite lively on issues such as what particular pictures relevant to the ancient Olympic Games actually showed.
Saturday morning began with the society’s AGM which was surprisingly well attended. The meeting went beyond the set time but the business of the meeting was achieved – various annual reports and the election of a new committee. We then moved on to the only parallel sessions of the conference: Dylan Wray on Facing the past, transforming our future; Simon Haw on Extended writing; and Jacqui Dean on the Nuffield Primary history. I attended Jacqui’s session as I was intrigued by hints of historical detective work mention before we left on Friday evening. I was not disappointed and enjoyed the story of the unravelling of Henry’s schooling and how he got to move school.
Over tea we looked at various book displays before moving off to a session on textbooks. First a panel of textbook writers who all have different publishers and to some extent different target markets within the secondary school. Despite this many of the frustrations (and satisfactions) were the same. After the panel had given their views and a question and answer session with the audience the panel dispersed and Prof Elize van Eeden of North-West University spoke on the revised history curriculum and textbooks from a Transcontinental Perspective.  She looked at issues like the balance between globalisation issues and a national perspective; at the textbooks’ treatment of issues like OBE, IKS, assessment and methodology and the need to bring diverse voice to join their “my” histories to create a “we” or “our” history.
The conference over with a few votes of thanks to people involved, we picked up our lunch packs and dispersed. A day and a half of intense thinking about our subject, with a lot to digest slowly over the coming weeks, and new perspectives and ideas sown in our minds, was over. It had been a busy and successful conference which should help to ensure that the 2009 conference in Johannesburg will be well attended.
Jimmy VernerChairman, SASHT

Conference Feedback 2007

Conference Feedback 2007
Chairman’s Report 2007

Report by the Chairperson 

Conference Theme
Interrogating the History Curriculum after ten years of OBE

The programme was a full one with 7 triple sessions as well as some plenary sessions so it was impossible for anyone to attend everything. After the registration and informal welcome we moved directly into the first set of parallel sessions. As I was to chair one of these, my choice was made for me and I went off to listen to Reshma Sookrajh and Brij Maharaj on Exploring community History voices: a contextual approach. These academics from the University of KZN were summarising the process and results of a research project on Cato Manor which had explored the impact of socio-political and economic forces on the community and how these impacted on the schooling of the children of that community. The use of researchers embedded deep inside the community allowed them to find insights which would not otherwise have been possible and threw more light on the fences that existed between schools and the community. It therefore became possible to start to break down some of these fences.
In the second session I went to hear Penny Hitchins (also of UKZN) on the issues of Differentiation in History – gifted learners, what can we do? She based a lot of her paper on studies she had done in psychology and the work of Vygotsky in particular. Vygotsky pays particular attention to language skills and she looked at ways in which we can help the gifted learner by extending their language skills and use so that they can perform better in the history classroom as well. An interesting paper but not as helpful as I had hoped it might be.
The second half of this session was a duo from Roedean School looking at Putting the OB of OBE into Observant and looking at the ability of learners at Grade 7 and Grade 12 levels to identify (observe) bias. This included looking at different approaches to teaching learners about how to identify bias. I am not sure to what extent I agree with the comments made and would certainly not expect the Grade 7 learner to be able to see the more subtle forms of bias that I demand of my Grade 12 learners but an interesting paper nevertheless.
At this stage we moved to our first plenary session for the official opening and the keynote address by Prof. Kader Asmal who was responsible for implementing much of the present education system when he was Minister of Education (1999 to 2004). Prof Asmal gave a very witty and entertaining speech and emphasised that history should be desirable and exciting for pupils, not the repetition of lists of facts and dates that he had to study at school. He reminded us that the “Values in Education” report emphasised the role of history as the repository of the values of society with its need for critical thinking, for thinking about the curriculum, for ensuring an awareness of human rights. He also pointed out that history is important in the construction of an identity both at individual and community levels. In short, he said that the struggles in history have been for freedom, for identity and for dignity. He moved on to the issue of OBE and how people in the first flush of enthusiasm for it and its 66 listed outcomes, people neglected the content of what was to be studied. This has now largely be remedied and the new textbooks do cover both content and skills and encourage the breakdown of barriers between subjects and between European and south African history because no history can take place in isolation. He liked the use of questions to link aspects of the curriculum and reminded us that there are no absolute answers especially in history. He emphasised the need for learners to study history and the humanities if they are not to be illiterate on issues and reminded us of our importance as history teachers commenting that there is no substitute for a good teacher.. His talk was followed by a short question time before we all adjourned for lunch.
After lunch were workshop sessions and I enjoyed first a workshop with Ansurie Pillay of Chalkface Productions on Using drama strategies to fire the historical imaginations in our learners. This was of particular interest because she looked not a the traditional use of little sketches and acting out on stage or in front of the class, but on shorter, snappier uses of dramatic ideas. She emphasised that it was not necessary to get the learners to come out and act! They could look at role plays and issues in small groups or pairs and develop empathetic skills and ideas of characterisation without the fear of “going on stage”. She emphasised strongly the need for preparation and research in the beginning and for debriefing at the end. The emphasis is not so much on the drama as on getting the learner to engage with the historical situation and in this way to do history and by involvement, learn.
After tea I attended a workshop on Creating a community of practice for History Educators as I am often frustrated at the problems of getting my community, i.e. my cluster, to work. This workshop by Murthi Maistry of UKZN Economics Department included many practical points and I certainly came out encouraged to continue with the work in the cluster group. Practical tips and points of the dynamics of such a group over time were certainly encouraging and will no doubt prove useful.
That ended Friday’s work session and we had a break before a cocktail party in the evening. The cocktail party was a most enjoyable affair with a chance to relax and chat to old and new acquaintances as well as having a chance to chat to Prof Asmal who as a good politician “worked the room”. I enjoyed my chat with him and would like to get a chance to know him better.
Saturday morning began at 0900 with, for me, a workshop by Dennis Francis  of UKZN on Teaching controversial issues in History. One of the points he made was that in essence all history is controversial to some extent and the need to distinguish between being neutral and being impartial. Learners tend to have a concern for ‘who is right?” rather than for an awareness of there being different sides to the story. Some very good insights and a very non-threatening, non-judgemental manner which could be good to copy made this a very worthwhile session.
After that I attended a session by Thembisa Waetjen  (UKZN) on Tradition, gender and nation as competing pasts where she examined the tensions between individual choice and traditional cultural values. This extends to how the present is often interpreted in terms of the past (and vice versa). The recent example of vigilante action against a Zulu woman for wearing trousers was used to illustrate and highlight much of what she was saying. The second part of the session was led by Samantha Reuning also of UKZN, on Teaching about women in History and the problems around this. Where women were regulated to a minor role in patriarchal societies, does one “find” female figures to push into the limelight? How the issue of gender and the role of women in history is addressed
needs to be considered, especially by those who write textbooks.
After tea I was again chairing a session so went – quite happily – to listen to Geraldine Kirchner a Subject Advisor with the Western Cape DoE, on the subject of Mentoring History Educators in the context of curriculum transformation. One of the main problems faced in her department was the language issue and here it was agreed that explanations for learners could be made in Xhosa so as to ensure that the learners knew what they were about. The medium of instruction is English but it is essential that learners do know what is to be done so some use of home language is often necessary. The other major problem was fear of change and the unfamiliar so that much of the mentoring had to be in the form of boosting confidence. The second part of the session was Edward Smuts of Stellenbosch University and Gengs Pillay of the KZN DoE asking Can all learners produce extended analytical answers? Both gentlemen are involved with the present Grade12 examination where extended writing is required. The term extended writing has never been defined in terms of syllabus or examination requirements and the analytical writing can take different forms which need to be assessed differently. They concluded that it is possible to teach all learners to achieve this sort of writing but that the skills must be taught and the different types of extended analytical writing must be assessed differently – e.g. a diary entry is not a report.
We then moved to a plenary session on textbooks and problems associated with these. Representatives from Shuter and Shooter, Oxford and Maskew Miller Longman were there to help answer queries and to explain problems. An interesting point made by the MML representative was than history textbooks are the most expensive to produce largely because of the costs of permission to reproduce sources. an interesting session where many teachers seemed to become aware for the first time of the assessment process required before state schools could use a textbook – and therefore before a publisher would do a print run.
This was followed by a short AGM of the society where the usual thanks and elections happened and then we were given a packed lunch and departed for home .A thoroughly worthwhile two days of stimulation and discussion even if one could only enjoy about a third of what was on offer. So what did I miss?  A session on heritage teaching and the availability of resources fro teaching heritage; some evaluation of the FET history curriculum; an analysis of Grade 10 assessment tasks and the introduction to a exam bank CD for Grade 12 History; IKS and the NCS; the NCS and a search for explanations in isiZulu; music as an educational tool for 20th century SA history; the use of a single source for source based work; challenges of the Grade 12 CASS portfolio; practical applications of the heritage outcome; the use of Microsoft Windows Moviemaker; games in teaching history; the incorporation of human rights into the teaching of history; problems and developments in history teaching in Botswana and Swaziland; the issue of declining numbers choosing to study history in the FET phase; the use of images as visual narratives for curriculum access; and the telling of forgotten stories – the Women’s Defence of the constitution League. Some of these I would have liked to hear, others I gathered in tea time conversations were disappointing. No doubt copies of the papers will all be available in due course on the society’s web site (www,, if not … well one cant have everything.
Jimmy Verner

Chairman, SASHT

Conference Feedback 2006



Chairman’s Report 2006

A triple effort by the NWU-GDE-SASHT for organizing an extraordinary, worthwhile, futuristic History workshop at Emfuleni

Mandela Song

(PDF Format)


Die SASHT het op 21-22 September sy 20e jaar van bestaan gevier toe die 10e konferensie in Potchefstroom gehou is. In 1996 het dié Vereniging, wat die gerig is op die kwaliteit van geskiedenisonderrig landwyd op alle vlakke van die onderwys, ook sy tiende verjaarsdag met sy 5e konferensie in Potchefstroom gevier.

Sowat 30 referente en 100 geskiedenisopvoeders van oral oor die land het die 20e SASHT-konferensie bygewoon. Hoë lof is uitgespreek rakende die professionele wyse waarop die konferensie deur veral me. Melinda du Toit en Pieter Warnich georganiseer is. Die gehalte van die referate is in die algemeen as die beste in jare beskou. Wat ook besonder prysenswaardig is, is dat alle opvoedingsinstansies gemoeid met Geskiedenisonderrig weer ordentlik begin hande vat om die vak en disipline van Geskiedenis tot verdere hoogtes te lei.

Oor die konferensietema The ‘how to’ of History teaching in 21st century South Africa het prominente referente soos Proff. Albert Grundlingh (US), Fransjohan Pretorius (UP) en mnr. Eddie Smuts (van US en veral gemoeid met die Graad 12 eksamineringsproses) hulle ervaring en navorsing gedeel. Dit was egter Fransjohan se referaat Unfair ‘affirmative action’ in South African historiography” wat ore laat spits het:

I have some concern that the Afrikaner does not figure in the “New History” books on South African history, except as the scapegoat and the villain. The Afrikaner is ignored particularly in the historiography covering the nineteenth century. For most non-Afrikaans historians South African history has become the suffering, struggle and eventual victory of the suppressed masses, that is, African or black history – the African struggle. Afrikaners are judged and condemned in negative terms. Just like there was a “native problem” in Afrikaner national historiography, there is now an “Afrikaner problem”. The Afrikaner has achieved nothing positive in the history of South Africa. The pendulum has indeed swung to the other side. For the victor reconciliation seems to mean that the view of the majority has triumphed. There is no room for other views beside the “official’ view. This intolerant new view on history is nowhere better illustrated than in a series of six history books published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation with the overall title of Turning points in history. And do not underestimate the impact of this series. In the latest matriculation examination paper for history (higher grade, October/November 2005) of the National Department of Education it was expected of learners to comment on an extract from Turning points in history.

Ander referente het die gesprek oor die noodsaaklikheid van ‘n multi-perspektiwiese geskiedenis verder beklemtoon in meer as een bespreking oor die noodsaaklikheid van ‘n historiese begrip by leerders. Dr. Johan Wasserman (U-KZN), Durban se voordrag oor die historiese begrip van veral blanke leerders (siende dat alle leerders teen 2007 binne die nuwe demokratiese bedeling begin skoolgaan het) was insiggewend. Ander “how to” –besprekings het ook ingesluit hoe om met die apartheidsverlede te deel, hoe om rekenaartegnologie in te span (prof. Hennie Steyn) en hersiene moontlikhede vir die praktykmaking van Geskiedenisinhoude om inderdaad ook ‘n beroepsgerigte dissipline te wees. Die Gautengse Departement van Onderwys met Dr. Nishana Parsard aan die woord, het net hoë lof vir die veral die drie NWU historici en geskiedenisvakdidaktici op die SASHT bestuur gehad vir die wyse waarop hulle doelgerig tot kwaliteit onderwysopleiding meewerk. Groter samewerking met die DoE word in die toekoms verwag. Die SASHT beoog ook om in die toekoms meer indringend te kyk na onder meer die nuwe geskiedenishandboeke waarvan die grootste meerderheid Graad 12 handboeke van bekende uitgewers eers in 2008 op die rakke sal wees.

Chairman’s Report 2006

Last year in Durban I indicated that I was concerned that so many stakeholders in history were not getting involved and that I felt the Society was fighting it alone in many aspects of the promotion of History teaching. I am pleased to see things more positively this year after what I believe has been a particularly good year for the SASHT. Let me explain:

Although there were not as many people as we would have liked at the September Conference last year, it was an stimulating experience and was responsible for a new dynamic emerging in the society. Many of the talks given there have been collected into a special edition of Yesterday and Today which is the first volume of what we hope will be a return to regular publication of this journal which had been the first tangible sign of the newly created SASHT when it first appeared in 1981.

The Durban conference which was largely the work of Prof Elize van Eeden brought together a mix of the tongue-in-cheek humour of Patrick Macmahon’s reflection of his twenty plus years of examining at matric level to serious analyses of the problems facing the teachers of the new FET syllabus; the use of the internet and other new technologies and the need to integrate our teaching with that of other disciplines. The conference focussed mainly on the FET and the problems associated with its implementation with large classes, disadvantaged pupils and the need for passion in order to “sell” our subject to learners against an increasing number of subject option many of which seem far more glamorous or more obviously useful.

Out of the Durban Conference came the decision to investigate the possibility of holding both a teachers’ workshop and a conference in 2006 and I am pleased to say that both of these plans have materialised. (In the past we have only held a conference every other year so this is a major change in policy). The Teacher’s Workshop held in June at the Vanderbijl campus of the North West University brought a strong Gauteng Education Department presence with it which contributed to the success of that workshop. The theme of the workshop was Empowering the History Educator and was held on 22-23 June.

Its one and a half days should probably have been extended to two full days to do justice to the input provided. In his welcome, Prof. Tienie Vermeulen, Director of the School of Educational Sciences at North-West University stressed the importance of history both as a means of propaganda and as the means of countering this by developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. It was part of the responsibility of the history educator to make learners see history as dynamic and useful not boring as it may well have been for their parents in days where school assessment of history relied largely on rote learning.

Prof. Elize van Eeden looked at the value of history in the 21st century in a motivational discourse. and commented on issues like teacher morale and the political nature of much of the content of the new FET syllabus but assured us that history is important to every field of study. It trains the mind, develops a multi-perspective approach to thinking and improves judgement. She looked at possible ways in which the skills of history could be developed in a more practical way with a little careful teacher manipulation of the present curriculum so as to create an historical bridge between different fields of study. The problems of standards of assessment she dealt with a later paper.

We explored history games and simulations with Ms Valdi van Reenen of the DoE, Western Cape. This included an interesting game that she had developed with Vernon Titus based on the story of Robben Island. This Human Rights board game uses the history of Robben Island to explore issues of human rights and prejudice.

An early lunch was followed by a look at the need to integrate history teaching with electronic media such as the internet while exploring the links with other subjects such as tourism and environmental studies. A few technical flaws detracted from the effectiveness of an interesting presentation. A workshop presentation on effective questioning by Dr Louisa Meyer and Peter Warnich of the North-West University followed.

Prof. van Eeden then gave us an interesting and informative analysis of the grade 12 examinations over the past few years (2003-5) as well as some useful tips on the use of rubrics. A fairly ‘dense’ talk in terms of content but as we had it as a handout it was relatively easy to follow. Of especial use were the examples of rubrics and sources with the issues they raised.

Unfortunately by this time we were running late and in order to accommodate the scheduled bus tour the talk by Michelle Friedman had to be cut short. She looked at the issues of the support and teaching material becoming available from the South African Historical Association. Most of this is on the opposition to apartheid by the UDF and other groups. Because of the rush the talk lacked its impact but we were given fairly comprehensive notes on the issues and the possible use of SAHA material and how it can be integrated into our normal teaching.

The bus tour was followed by a braai and sleep. Friday’s programme was pure workshop where the teachers were divided into groups and given a set task of preparing a lesson on a given topic. Each group had a different lesson to prepare. A short (15min) presentation of the outline of how they would approach it in terms of OBE requirements would be assessed by a panel of adjudicators.

And so we move on to this conference which has again been co-ordinated and organised by the team from North West University. Especial thanks go to Melinda du Toit and Pieter Warnich and their team for all the work they have done in putting this conference together; to our sponsors (listed on the programme) and to our hosts at Potchefstroom campus of the North West University and to the rest of the executive team of the SASHT to whom I owe a debt of gratitude as I alone seem to enjoy a sinecure and do nothing while all around are busy.

The agenda shows that this is not the end and we are looking at launching our own SASHT website and to increasing co-operation with other history societies and initiatives and so it looks as if the society is growing stronger and looking forward to a great future.

Content for newspaper report on the History Workshop for teachers that was held under the auspices of the North West University (Vaal Triangle Campus) together with the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and South African Society for History Teaching (SASHT)

A triple effort by the NWU-GDE-SASHT for organizing an extraordinary, worthwhile, futuristic History workshop at Emfuleni

On 22-23 June 130 History educators from all over Gauteng assembled at the Emfuleni conference in Vanderbijlpark centre to attend a History workshop titled “Empowering the History Educator”. Academics and administrative personnel at the North West University and the Emfuleni Conference Centre worked closely together with the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and the South African Society for History Teaching (SASHT) to organize the successful two-day practical-focused workshop.

The workshop started with real innovative ideas for the application of History in the 21st century, especially how to access the vocational aspect of History in classrooms. Prof. Elize van Eeden introduced content that enriches a Grade 10-12 learning programme with the intention to implement “Vocational History” that will be explored in future after expanded negotiations with educators and the National and provincial education department’s expertise.

After Prof. Van Eeden’s well- received motivational discourse, some practical sessions focused on new and current methodology issues. Amongst others, they were Ms. Valdi van Reenen from the Western Cape’s meaningful simulations and games practical; Dr. Mary Ntabeni & Ms Luiza’s presentations on interdisciplinary History teaching and the retrieval of content through valuable electronic sources; Mr. Pieter Warnich’s lively presentation on how to utilize sources in assessment; Dr. Louisa Meyer’s active practical on how to phrase questions effectively by means of a play and Ms. Michele Friedman’s valuable insight on the ‘how’ to use and understand teaching support material in History. A good deal of time and insight was also exchanged and spend on lesson development and assessment in general. Dr. Nishana Parsard of the GDE had synthesised all the presentations and educational strings skillfully and efficiently together in her summary of the Workshop and her innovative vision on how to deal with the many educational needs in History in future. Thanks to her enthusiasm and arrangements, some of the leading History teachers attended and made valuable contributions during practical sessions.

Teachers afterwards expressed the wish that practical History workshops of this nature should be organized more often. It was remarked that the motivation and hopes obtained from the workshop with regard to History’s future could only benefit all to be proud and more efficient in the professional space history teachers fill. The SASHT and NWU academics in History will follow up on more workshops in close cooperation with the GDE. A SASHT conference will be held on 21-22 September at the PUK-Campus of the NWU in Potchefstroom. It was promised that some of the papers that were dealt with during the History workshop at Emfuleni will be followed up on. Amongst others, Mr Eddie Smuts will also attend to present a paper on Gr 12-assessment.

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Verskroeide Aarde / Scorched Earth (PDF, 52k)

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Geskiedenis van provinsies ‘word deel van leerplan’

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Mnr. Dewald Klaasen

18 February 2006 10:28 PM
From: Sam Gellens
Horace Mann School (Bronx, NY)

Certainly the very accurate re-enactment of the battle of Omdurman in “The Four Feathers” (1939) is worth showing regarding Britain’s struggle with the Mahdist forces in the Sudan and the firepower of European armies. Ditto for some scenes from “Zulu” (1962).  From the Dutch side, there is the film, “Max Havelaar”, which is based on the famous novel of the same name and the plot of which takes place in Java in the 1850s.  The original Dutch film (early 1980s?) with English subtitles is hard to find on VHS/DVD so far as I know.  What about selected scenes from the French film, “Indochine”, even though it takes place, I think, in French Indochina in the 1920s? Finally, there is the wonderfully funny French film, “Black and White in Color”, about what happens when news of WWI reaches neighboring French and German colonies in Africa? It really skewers the hypocrisy of colonialism.

18 February 2006 10:29 PM

Jeff Fear
Harvard Business School

The Man Who Would Be King (Sean Connery/Michael Caine) works on a lot of different levels.
—–Original Message—–

Curt Cardwell
Drake University

I am looking for films appropriate for a freshman/sophomore world survey course that treats the subject of 19th-century colonialism/imperialism. Early-twentieth century would also work.  The geographical area is entirely open.  Do listmembers have any suggestions?

Thank you in advance

18 February 2006 10:31 PM
From:  Kenneth Wilburn
East Carolina University

If you mean a documentary, I suggest Ali Mazrui’s “Tools of Exploitation,” Part 4, from “The Africans: A Triple Heritage” series.

18 February 2006 10:31 PM
Curt Cardwell
Drake University

I am looking for films appropriate for a freshman/sophomore world survey
course that treats the subject of 19th-century colonialism/imperialism. Early-twentieth century would also work.  The geographical area is entirely open.  Do listmembers have any suggestions?

18 February 2006 10:34 PM
Ane Lintvedt
History Department

The first 30 or so minutes of Zulu (the one with Michael Caine, ca. 1963) make for great conversations about imperialism in Africa.

18 February 2006 10:35 PM
Monty Armstrong
Cerritos High School

One series comes to mind-“Africa” with Basil Davidson-Especially Parts 5 and 6-The Bible and the Gun and This Magnificent African Cake.   The series was done in 1984 and I know some people have a problem with Davidson, but there is some great informantion and some great visuals.

Also, dealing with Southern Africa, there is the PBS Nova series “The Secrets of the Dead”. One of them “The Day of the Zulu” looks at two sides of the Battle of Isandlwana with a CSI approach.

18 February 2006 10:36 PM
Roland Wenzlhuemer
Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin

I recently held an introductory course to the history of the British Empire and Commonwealth. In the last session of the course we watched the 1985 film “Water” starring Michael Caine. The film is an excellent satire on colonialism and many different aspects associated with it (“going native”, freedom fighters, American capitalists, environmentalism etc.). Apart from being great fun to watch, the film is rather uncompromising in highlighting the absurd logic of colonialism and imperialism.

The main drawback for you might be that neither does the film deal with 19th or 20th century colonialism (but with the 1980s and the remnants of Empire), nor is it very likely that freshmen with little prior knowledge of British or Colonial History will share many of the good laughs in the film. However, I highly recommend the film to everybody interested in colonialism.

Another option (if you have time enough) is “Lagaan” – a Bollywood production dealing mainly with the excesses of the British Raj in late 19th century India. In a very rich Indian style (with loads of singing and dancing) the film tells the story of an Indian village that suffers from the arbitrariness of the British commander-in-chief. It is
literally bled dry by the British. Only if the Indian people manage to beat the English in cricket, will the tax burden be relieved. Well, all in all a light-hearted Bollywood despcription of the Raj, but nonetheless a very enlightening one with loads of fine metaphors.

I hope this helps!