If Angie Motshekga is to be believed, that this attempt to make history compulsory throughout school is not propaganda, then South Africa will be the first country on the planet not to use historical narratives to shore up the regime in power.

Why compulsory history now and not in 1994? Quite simple. The idea of forcing every senior pupil to do history first emerged in 2012 when the government was under duress. Then President Jacob Zuma was in full sway raiding the state. The police had just killed 34 miners at Marikana and seriously injured 78 more. The 2012 World Report on South Africa lamented corruption, growing social and economic inequalities, and partisan appointments at every level of government.

Ms Baartman teaches a Grade 11 history class on early slavery in the Cape. After taking her class on trip to the Iziko Slave Lodge the pupils are taught skills for analysing original manuscripts, which they have in hand, depicting the lives of slaves in the colony. They not only learn about the political economy of slavery in the 17th century (big picture) but also the connection to ordinary slave lives within that system (the many small pictures). In small groups the pupils identify the different classes of slaves, including free and baptised slaves, and what social and economic purposes were served by such division. Later the pupils are shown the movie Krotoaand are required to write a critical essay on how slave lives are depicted in this movie. For the end of the semester, the pupils are taught and required to use slave records to trace through names (like April and February) the history of one slave family over time. The unit concludes with a discussion on modern-day slavery an...

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