Understanding the present by Researching History

UNESCO IICBA office hosted a seminar on 23 November on the topic Researching and documenting the history of the liberation struggle in South Africa by Dr. Chitja Twala from the University of the Free State, Department of History, South Africa.

In his presentation, Dr. Twala talked about some of the challenges that historians have faced in researching and documenting the history of the liberation struggle in the post-apartheid South Africa (SA).

The participants of the seminar were from UNESCO Liaison Office and UNESCO IICBA.

 How can you understand present if you don’t know your history?

Sometimes this part of history has been seen as irrelevant and trivial in schools as well as the institutions of higher learning. It is also common that this history invokes the oppressive past Pedagogically, the teaching of the liberation struggle also faces challenges in South Africa. Lack of archival material, information is not open or accessible even in universities and then the lack of motivation on the part of the historians to research this topic.

Researching history is not possible only by desk review basis

Dr. Twala sees it is important that historians seek information that is neglected, forgotten or even hidden. Limited research resources of the historians put challenge even though the imbalances of history writing in the South African context could be revisited. Training of history educators is important, so too start history education in the primary school. We need to see this in the broader context. History is our past politics and our past politics is our present history.

Liberation before Education or Education for liberation

Analytical skills are needed in order to interpret the history and research information. Important is to know and look for different sources and look at both sides of the coin. Important to give voice to those involved in the liberation struggle. History is not only the written one but also oral and important to make sure that information is reliable.