The successful Anglo-Boer War 110 Anglo Boere-Oorlog International History Conference organised by the Ladysmith Siege Museum Trust and the KwaZulu-Natal Branch of the South African Military History Society and held in Ladysmith, 23-27 January 2010, elicited this comment about the school subject of History from an educationalist in Pietermaritzburg.
Thank you for a wonderful Conference and congratulations on the magnificent attendance and interest that you generated, from every corner of our own country and many overseas countries! The planning, organisation and systematic presentation of the Conference were absolutely superb and the speakers were outstanding. It was so inspiring to listen to the very significant local and international experts illuminating various aspects and issues of the Anglo-Boer War with such sincere passion, precision, authenticity and keen insights.
I have no doubt that this Conference and the other activiti~s that the Siege Museum Trust and the Military History Society organise, must contribute significantly to enhancing our identity as proud South Africans and the international positioning of our beloved country. Yes, how vitally important to nourish and keep alive our historical roots and to be aware of where we came from and who we are and what we have endured and achieved in becoming a modern state.
This consciousness of the human energy, aspirations, values invested in the development of our country and given so bravely over the years in tackling various existential predicaments and conflicts, is vital to keep alive.
Through networking with the various museum services, guides, institutes, schools and universities, you are indeed making a very important contribution to true transformation in promoting this consciousness and new awareness of ourselves. I feel that true transformation is about transforming mindsets and enabling people to grow rather than be victims of the past or continue to want to dominate others.
As an educationalist, I so enjoyed the papers on the AngloBoer War and especially the meticulous care and focus on substantiating views with evidence and perceptions contextually from authentic diaries, letters, reports and other documents. Again, as I listened to the various lectures I reflected on reading as a thinking process, whether reading texts or sityations, reading on the lines, between the lines and beyond the lines, those skills of sequencing and reasoning from cause to effect, interrogating, interpreting, distinguishing between fact and opinion/perceptions, analysing, synthesising, inferring and making deductions and predicting, applying, contextualising and empathising too ... all were highlighted in the papers presented!
And isn't it significant that, with more schools shifting to enquiry-based teaching and learning, and cognitive engagement of learners, these very skills can be taught effectively and applied by learners at all levels to various contexts?
It seems to me that History is indeed the subject, par excellence, that can teach so many of these thinking skills and enrich our learners and teachers' humanity and empathy in a most engaging and purposeful way.
The Conference highlighted for me the importance of History as a subject for all learners at all levels! I trust that the Ladysmith Museum Trust and the South African Military History Society can also target our schools more widely and generate more interest in authentic history and the rationale for studying it.
Manfred Schroenn, Education Consultant, Dr MB
10 Moss Place
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