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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