South African Society for History Teaching

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Yesterday and Today

Our latest edition of “Yesterday and Today” has been published under Publications.  Please have a look!

 The latest news after a meeting in connection with History as a compulsory subject!  Have a look below…

From the table of the SASHT Executive

January 2015

Observations Mrs Henriette Lubbe (Vice Chair SASHT):

Commenting on the History Round Table held in Pretoria on 3 December 2015:

With regard to the History Round Table, I can report that the event was well organised and brought together representatives from a wide variety of institutions and organisations including some members (but not all) of the government-appointed task team, various National and Provincial Education Department officials, trade union representatives, academics from some tertiary institutions and representatives of organisations such as the SASHT. SASHT representation was strong and included Siobhan Glanvill-Miller, Michelle Friedman, Barry Firth, Gill Sutton and I, but Jake Manenzhe from Limpopo also joined our table (although officially representing the Limpopo Education Department), and we were very aware of Rob Siebörger’s stable and well informed presence. The SASHT team members arrived on time and faithfully stayed for the duration of the proceedings; so did the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director-General, which I perceived as proof that they were taking the future of History in our schools seriously. I really appreciate the commitment, sacrifice and contribution of each SASHT team member, and I am grateful that the SASHT could make its presence felt in a quiet and mature manner at this first round of discussions.


In the first (plenary) session, the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, impressed with a balanced speech in which she argued that we need ‘pure academic history in the interest of our children and country – not a history of the ANC or propaganda’ and ‘a nuanced approach to teaching and writing history’. She assured the audience several times that no decision had yet been taken, or will be taken about the future status of History in our schools before the task team has finalised its report. In the same session Prof Peter Lekgoathi (a member of the task team) shared some international trends with regard to the status of History as a compulsory subject. This talk was very informative, conveyed a broad perspective, and instilled trust in the task team’s vision and research orientation.  


The plenary session was followed by five ‘Commission Breakaways’ which ran concurrently, and the day ended with a plenary report-back session during which a spokesperson from each Commission provided a brief summary of the discussions that had taken place in the session he/she attended. It is estimated that the breakaway sessions were attended by 60 to 70 people who were free to choose which session they wanted to go to. The breakaway sessions focused on topics such as ‘The value of all learners offering History as a subject up to exit level of schooling’ (Commission 1); Strengthen the current offering of History as a subject’ (Commission 2); Exploring the possibility of combining History with Life Orientation’ (Commission 3); ‘Implications of learners offering History and a plan to address them’ (Commission 4); and ‘The role of monitoring, evaluation and research’ (Commission 5). The SASHT team divided itself up and sent different team members to different breakaway sessions.    


My experience of the session that I attended (Commission 1), supported by feedback that I received from a former colleague who facilitated Commission 5, was mostly positive. Facilitators had to adhere to a structured approach which, in typical SWOT Analysis fashion, covered the progress made so far in terms of their particular topic/focus (strengths), the developmental areas (weaknesses) that need to be addressed, ways in which these ‘weaknesses’ could be turned into strengths, and the strategic activities (plan of action) that can be considered for the short term (2016-2017), medium term (2018-2020) and longer term (2020- 2030). I thought the discussions were useful in that they provided delegates with an opportunity to reflect on a wide range of History-related issues, voice opinions, share ideas, record concerns and suggestions for improvement, form a clear picture of the current state of the historical discipline, and act as a quick source of information for the task team. However, the time allocated to these discussions proved to be insufficient and made it impossible to analyse issues in depth, let alone sending delegates home with a feeling of real achievement. On the other hand, being able to potentially shape the work of the task team is very positive.

Another positive element was the promise to arrange a follow-up round table next year. Whether such discussions will have any impact on the work of the task team, or simply serve as a forum where delegates will be invited to rubber stamp the proposals of the task team, is unclear at this stage. Time frames for the work of the task team were not discussed (unless I missed it when I had to leave the venue for a short while), and so we do not know what to expect when from the task team.

Judging from Rob’s feedback, the Commissions were not strongly for either History as part of Life Orientation or a separate FET subject. However, Barry is of the opinion that the task team should be in no doubt of the importance all stakeholders attach to History as an independent subject. The message came through clearly from everybody in the breakaway session he attended (except SADTU and one other Free State representative), that History should remain an elective and that Life Orientation should be strengthened to achieve the aims of nation building and social cohesion. The need for bursaries to strengthen the INSET and CTPD and the broadening of Funza lushaka were also emphasized by many, while the same sentiments were expressed in the formulation of both short and longer term goals…

Observations Mr Barry Firth:

I am of the opinion that the Task Team is now in no doubt of the importance all stakeholders attach to the independent subject HISTORY. It came through from all, except SADTU and one other Free State rep, that history should remain an elective and that L.O. be strengthened to achieve the aims of nation building and social cohesion. This LO curriculum people from around the country re-emphasised. Also stressed by us and others was the need for bursaries to strengthen the INSET and CTPD. Funza Lushaka has to be broadened.long term and short term goals expressed the same sentiments.


I was particularly impressed by the public utterances of the minister and deputy who came across as genuinely interested in shaping a history (subject) which does not disregard the integrity of the subject. I have faith that the Task Team is aware of our position. The task team

must now show their mettle and do justice to their mandate. PS…i do now begin to feel a twinge of doubt…similar to what Neville

Chaimberlain must have felt as he announced to all.”peace in our time!”


Observations Ms Gillian Sutton:

As SASHT members we placed ourselves in different ‘Commissions’. I attended Commission 1, which was assigned the task of considering: *The value of all learners offering History as a subject up to exit level of schooling*. The group was diverse and was facilitated by Dr. Edna Rooth, who I found out later, is a Life Orientation person. Her lack of knowledge about the history curriculum and textbooks initially frustrated me. However, in the end we managed to come to some consensus in answering the four questions set. I was pleased that Henrietta attended the same group as I did, because I was fairly direct with colleagues. It was good to hear from her, afterwards, that I hadn’t been too forthright. Jake’s was also with us and he did a great job of feeding back to plenary. In fact I believe that the members SASHT made a valuable contribution to the broader discussion.



The positive aspects that came out in our group, were:

  • The value of the Albert Luthuli Oral history competition in developing learner’s skills and   understand of the past.
  • The value of excursions
  • The value of showcasing learner’s workThere was considerable discussion around the challenges of history being a compulsory subject, these were:


  • Number of teachers
  • Teacher competency at present
  • The nature of pre-service and in-service training
  • That “Not all history teachers are good history teachers”
  • History as a ‘dumping ground’ for learners not passing other subjects
  • How history is timetabled in schools
  • Many schools don’t offer history
  • Often learners are ‘progressed’ – this has a negative impact on
  • teaching and learning and results in very large classes
  • Language proficiency – both in terms of the language of instruction
  • and in terms of an understanding of the language of history.The strategic activities for the short, medium and long term were discussed in an animated and energetic manner.


  • Short term 2016 -2017*:


  • Engage with Universities
  • Set a national standard at the GET level, as some schools don’t
  • Teach history at that level if they don’t offer history in the FET phase.
  • The suggestion was a National Assessment/Common Paper. 


  • Medium term 2018 – 2020*:


  • Use the DBE diagnostic report to help analysis the weaknesses and
  • Develop strategies to counter them.
  • Strengthen teacher training 


  • Long term 2020 – 2030*:


  • Develop quality curriculum intervention strategies
  • Make the Funaz Lushaka (spelling) bursary available to those wanting
  • to study history education – *personally I think that this should be
  • priority number one.*
  • Analysis of the textbooks
  • Promote partnerships – museum, heritage sites, institutions …
  • Fight the financial battle so as not to be hamstrung by money 


  • The plenary session was good. The five groups had a number of common themes and left the Task Team in no doubt about the challenges and opportunities for history teachers and history teaching in South Africa. It seemed to me that there was general agreement across the Commissions that the integrity of history as an elective subject was to be preserved, and that Life Orientation would develop of patriotic citizens. I was impressed by the fact that the Minister, deputy Minister and DG all stayed until 15:00. The general feeling was one of, doing what is best for the youth of South Africa… I believe that they are genuinely interested in doing what is best for South Africa. I can help wondering if they are not under considerable political pressure to adopt a ‘patriotic nationalism’ approach to history education….

Emeritus Associate Professor Rob Siebörger has responded on behalf of the SASHT to the task team responsible for looking at History becoming a compulsory subject in the FET phase.

The statement has now been finalised – our thanks to Professor Siebörger for his work on this!  Please have a look at the statement below and you are welcome to send us further opinions and thoughts on this important matter.

History task team SASHT statement November 2015

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A fresh look at the Constitution of the society – in case you have not seen it!



An article about compulsory History in schools from the Wits education History department. Weekend Argus 26 July 2014

A summary of the CAPS curriculum for easy reference! SUMMARY OF THE CAPS HISTORY CURRICULUM Illustrative summary of the CAPS History curriculum

A REALLY important site from Google on Interactive History lessons!   This you must see!!