9 March 2018

South Africa: MEC Debbie Schafer On Donations of Over 400 Books From Dr Ruben Richards

press release

Yesterday, at Heathfield High School, I had the privilege of accepting a donation of over 400 books from author Dr Ruben Richards (PhD, UCT), a former student of Heathfield High School - matric class of 1977. The book is entitled "BASTAARDS or HUMANS - the unspoken heritage of coloured people (Vol 1)".

Dr Richards, through his Foundation, has been kind enough to donate one copy of his book to every single public high school in the Western Cape.

The book attempts to retell the story of South Africa's origins through the eyes of coloured South Africans and tries to explain why and how the once proud indigenous owners of the land and its resources were relegated to the margins of history.

The book has been described as a "brave endeavour in a country that only knows racism and the bastardisation of coloured identity and its indigenous Khoisan heritage. It is a story that undoes the limiting view of South Africa's narrative as a struggle between white and black".

Our history curriculum has not been inclusive enough of our diverse heritage. It is important that we learn the whole history of our country so we can heal and move forward. The book goes a long way in doing this, and I hope that this book will make a positive contribution to schools across the Western Cape. We are supporting the integration of the works into the history curriculum and our EDULIS branch will be distributing the books to High Schools across the province.

Westerford High School piloted the integration of the content of the book into the [history] teaching syllabus and has described the impact of the book as; "The book is a re-imagining of our history to ensure our learners construct knowledge through stories and experiences of the colonised and oppressed, rather than a re-telling of the story of the coloniser".

They have indicated that they will be using aspects of the book as follows:

Grade 9

In the Grade 9 curriculum it will contribute to the teaching and learning of the focus on 'identities' when teaching both Holocaust history and South African Apartheid History.

Grade 11

Similarly it will be used when teaching the Grade 11 topic on 'Competing Nationalism and Identities'.

Grade 10

We will be using the research in Bastaards or Humans to formulate an entirely new topic for the Grade 10 curriculum which we will teach from 2018 prior to teaching an existing topic covering South Africa between 1800 and 1850, which is referred to as 'Movement and Migration of People in Southern Africa'.

The Ruben Richards Foundation says "It is our pleasure, as the board of trustees, in consultation with our International Advisory Board, to make this donation to the Western Cape Education Department. We wish both educator and learner an exciting journey through the pages of what has been described by others as a must-have and an invaluable resource for any discussion on the history of South Africa with particular reference to its first nation and those unspoken narratives which lie deeply hidden in our past. Our donation is designed to ensure that at least one book reaches the high school library of every public school in the Western Cape. The Foundation hopes that this book will inspire and energise learners and teachers alike and thereby make a positive contribution to the world of ideas through a robust engagement with books, reading and writing".

I share this hope.

Mr Wesley Neuman, Acting Principal of Heathfield High School describes the book as follows; "It is a lively and very challenging retelling of the history of South Africa from a first nation perspective - a rare and brilliant work ... [a history] retold with boldness and accuracy - a narrative which has been hidden and/or under emphasised in our current curriculum ... An outstanding treasure chest, best described as a comprehensive and engaging reference book".

I must wholeheartedly thank Dr Richards and his foundation for their generous donation of this valuable resource to our High Schools, which narrates so accurately the true account of the coloured community's history. I hope it also serves as an inspiration of what can be achieved by our learners.

Issued by: Western Cape Education

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