Tshwarelo Hosia: In Botswana, Is History As a Discipline Dying a Natural Death?

Roundup: Talking About History

History as a discipline is dying. Having been associated with the teaching of History for over a decade, I feel am better placed to write its obituary. As a discipline History is slowly being relegated into the background and fast drifting into oblivion. If current trends in our high schools are anything to go by the subject has no future in the school curriculum.

The state in which the subject finds itself in is not helped by, the fact that history is not a core. It is an option and its continued existence in the school curriculum depends on 'market forces'. The future of the subject lies in the ability of teachers of History to sell their 'product' to the learners. The place of the subject in the curriculum is not guaranteed. Bad news, I guess, for the likes of me who eke out a living through teaching History. In the face of the imminent demise of the subject, the prospect of waking up one morning and finding oneself jobless is looming. The sooner one furthers his education and diversifies sources of livelihood the better.

Currently History is receiving a cold reception from the learners. As an option, it is the least popular and least subscribed subject in almost all the schools. The modem and 'sophisticated' student describes History in all sorts of derogatory and demeaning terms. With the current crop of students only the present and the future matter. History is seen as an archaic, ancient and irrelevant study unconnected with moderm day realities and circumstances. This is an era of fast life and the moderm student, is forward -looking. The young generation does not have time and energy to invest in antiquities (the past). The subject is snubbed and shunned. This thing called fate works. Who would have thought that a subject that was once the darling of many students not so long ago, could experience this sudden change of fortunes? Amazing.

Consider this. Just over two decades ago, while I was at high school, History enjoyed a massive appeal. It was the most popular and the most sought after form of education. I see the old generation and my contemporaries agreeing with me on this one. I mean the subject was a must for every child and I think even parents yearned to see their children graduating as historians.

You know, one who had undergone history education was believed to be destined for greater things in life, bound to be a shaker and mover of the world, the sky was the limit. History was ranked second after law. In fact it was a stepping stone to a career in the legal profession. History was deemed to be the finest form of education befitting future royals, kings, and statesmen. Small wonder Sir Seretse Khama and Kenneth Koma had to study History. Those who were destined to rule were expected to possess charisma and refined public speaking skills. History equipped its recipients with such necessary skills.

Then History was a likeable subject. This was partly due to the intimate relationship between History and English language. By its very nature, History has a rich language. Students of history were deemed to be the best speakers of the Queen's language. Many people believed in the power of language. Speaking English language with a high degree of perfection was a trademark of Historians. Mastery of English was everything it elevated one's social status, respectability and prestige....

The old generation of History teachers had a reputation of producing good results. Then History was synonymous with excellence. Sadly the good old days are gone.

History no longer commands the respect it had. Is it because the new generation of teachers is failing to live to expectations?

The issue will be addressed in subsequent articles. The next installment of the article will focus on why the subject has lost appeal and whether there is a chance of regaining its past glory.

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