History in danger: the (non) quest for a national history in Botswana.

17 February 2012

The socio-political context for history teaching in postcolonial Botswana did not provide for multicultural history approaches, and in fact it discouraged multiple approaches to national history. One of the ways in which the government sought to do this was through constant discouragement of what was regarded as tribalism, and an emphasis on a monolithic, monoethnic and homogenous national history. Part of this has to do with the government policy and practices that propound and subscribe to a monoethinic and monolingual society and education system, where history's role in that education system has been to tow the monoethnic line and to present a singular view of the country's origins and evolution. In all syllabi in the formal education system, national history is presented as a singular one, with the predominance of a Tswana ethnicity as the national curriculum's defining characteristic. This situation is deeply embedded in history, and reflects the social tensions that are generally being articulated in the wider society, particularly by minority groups, which are dissatisfied with the total neglect of their histories, cultures, and traditions. Hence, as communities continue to reflect on their place in Tswana society, the history syllabus will become highly contestable ground, and requires a rethinking and repackaging in order to avoid this pitfall. This paper seeks to explore the historical dimension of this current scenario, and reflects on curricula control and urges a rethinking on the question of a national history within the multiethnic and "multi-historied" Botswana.