History curriculum documents for schools often contain a statement providing a description or definition of the nature of the subject. Recent developments in South Africa draw attention to the need to provide a justification for the vision and purpose of History as a school subject.
History lessons and “Nation Building”
In response to calls made earlier in 2015 for History to be a compulsory subject in South African schools and for the history curriculum to be “strengthened,” the Minister of Basic Education appointed a Task team to investigate and research the matter and held a “round table” consultation with interested groups in December 2015. In her own words, she supported the intervention on the grounds that, “[m]edia reports indicated that many of those who participated in the looting, violence and vandalism (during… xenophobic attacks) were youths … we need to equip our youth with an accurate account of our history in order for them to make educated decisions regarding their own future.” Her spokesperson maintained that the curriculum change was aimed to contribute to nation building. Arising from these discussions is the question of what constitutes History as a school subject and how and where it is defined.