Participants at the International Conference on
History Education in Africa.

The History Education Programme in the School of Education together with the International Research Association for History and Social Sciences Education (IRAHSSE) hosted the International Conference on History Education in Africa which took place in Durban.

The Conference theme was “Teaching and Learning History in Contemporary Africa: Past, Present and Future” which elicited stimulating discussion and reflection on the state of history education in Africa and the challenges and opportunities associated with teaching and learning history across the continent.

Professor Johan Wasserman of the School of Education said the conference provided a snapshot of existent and emerging knowledge and debates in this field and raised new questions for future research.

‘Further, it seeks to help build a network of scholars and practitioners working in this field, with the aim of maintaining communication and facilitating co-operation into the future,’ he said.

The highly anticipated keynote address for the Conference was delivered by Professor Keith Barton of Indiana University in the United States who spoke on: “History Education for Democratic Participation”.

Barton argued that ‘if we are not clear in our purposes for teaching history, decisions about the content and process of history education will be made for convenience rather than for a directed goal.’

Following his own advice, he explicitly emphasised that history education needed to contribute towards citizenship and emphasise plurality, participation, and deliberation. He showed that this goal could be achieved by structuring history education on a humanist framework that incorporates reasoned judgement, an expanded view of humanity, and opportunity for public deliberation.

‘By giving students the opportunity to reach conclusions by examining a variety of viewpoints found in historical evidence, history education can create the conditions for responding to and accepting difference in society, which, is the goal of humanist education,’ said Barton.

The Conference also covered a wide range of relevant political and practical issues related to curricula, textbooks, pedagogy and classroom practices, and teacher education at both primary and secondary level, as well as history education in informal settings.

Melissa Mungroo