Apart from the SASHT’s connection with the Bielefeld University in West Germany from 1990, no other international connection is recalled. Prof. Jörn Rüsen from this University in 1990 delivered the key address at the SASHT (RAU) conference on historical education in a multicultural society. His plea was for identifying a common identity to establish a national identity. With his extraordinary input The Georg Eckhardt Institute supported South Africa’s history financially (as part of their activities worldwide). They assisted by helping societies like the SASHT in bridging the gap between differences. As specialists in textbook analysis they certainly played an important role in ensuring a multiple perspective. The organising of such an international association and liaison could be regarded as an effort by the SASHT executive to operate as a society that is all-inclusive and to which the majority of educators should belong.
The SASHT Members’ Involvement in Curriculum and Other History-related Changes
Despite a SASHT concern that a feeling of exclusion existed from time to time with regard to DoE structures on curriculum change and development since 1986, the SASHT (and some members/former members in their individual capacity) was always in some way involved in directing the way forward for History in the GET and FET phases. The following are some examples to recall a few achievements:
- The first chairperson, Prof. Trümpelmann, was involved in the compilation of a HSRC report on an alternative history curriculum in the late eighties. Some Yesterday & Today editorial team members were also involved.
- A few SASHT executive members were actively involved in the development of Learning Outcomes for the HSS for implementing in the GET and FET phases. Dr. June Bam (former SASHT executive member) was involved in the working out of Curriculum 2005. She also later headed the South African History Project.
- Prof. Rob Siebörger (former chairperson) played an important role, amongst others, in assisting in the way forward for assessment in Grade 12 as far as the sources approach is concerned. He was also involved in the development of Specific Outcomes for the Human and Social Sciences.
- Elize van Eeden was a member of the first group that developed Learning Outcomes for the Human and Social Sciences. She was also member of the reference group with regard to curriculum development. She also proposed the implementation of world history in classrooms in a structured way before it was actually made part of the history curriculum. Her introduction of a new learning programme for “Practical History/Vocational History” in the FET phase, Grade 10–12, certainly has the ingredients to lead to the changing/adaptation of history curriculum themes in future to benefit History’s vocational value.
- Mr. Jimmy Verner (and others like Ms. Gill Sutton and Van Eeden) are involved in the writing of history textbooks.
- Prof. Kapp’s outstanding role in the 1981–1997 Yesterday & Today initiative and his memorable academic involvement for seventeen years in promoting quality history teaching.
Sense of Community, Identity and Memory
From the discussions in Yesterday and Today and at SASHT conferences it can be concluded that the Society always proved to be informed on the newest trends and prepared to debate issues that created concern. The history curriculum (old, new, interim, and newly-developed) always gave rise to debate. Similarly, historical consciousness, the influence of ideologies and the value of political literacy were always critically assessed and/or debated. In 1992, for example, Yesterday and Today (as SASHT mouthpiece) raised its concern and doubts about the new curriculum suggestions that the DoE intended to phase in as Social Studies. The defending of history as independent, autonomous and essential subject in any school curriculum can be traced in the Journal since then.
From a community perspective, it is always difficult to obtain a representative view on the thinking about history, although Yesterday and Today published letters from readers and FET learners on a regular basis. These letters were mostly along the lines of “I love History / I don’t love History” followed by some form of explanation. In essence, negative feedback also forced educators to rethink and market their profession in history. Creativity and renewal were expected, and communication on the value of history was often exchanged during conferences and in Yesterday and Today.
Not enough appeared on the improvement of history teaching at tertiary level in Yesterday and Today up to the termination of publications in 1997. At SASHT conferences, a number of papers were presented that also focussed on HET educational improvement. In hindsight, however, much more could have been done in this phase because tertiary academics are not necessarily effective in a classroom situation even though they may be masters of knowledge.
A New Page to Be Reviewed?: The Yesterday & Today revival, 2006–2009
Perhaps 2011, when the SASHT will celebrate its fifteenth conference, could serve as a podium to reflect its own past and doings through its conferences, its Newsletters and Yesterday & Today publication through the means of a session during this conference that will be held at the University of South Africa.