Nkosi Albert Luthuli Oral History Competition 2008

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2008 Competition Report

The 2008 national Albert Luthuli Young Historians Competition was held in Cape Town at the River Club in Observatory. More than 90 learners and their teachers gathered in the Mother city to present their oral history research projects. Learners could devise projects from six broad categories: Our unsung heroes, Community action against apartheid, the influence of the UDF in your community, the Durban strikes of 1973, family or community involvement in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale (Angola) or the history of your school. Although learners could present their projects in any of the official languages, most chose English and an overwhelming majority of projects were on 'unsung heroes'.

The focus of the Albert Luthuli competition is to nurture and craft oral research methodologies and to make history come alive in the classroom by exploring untold local history. Many of the learners whom I spoke to highlighted this aspect of the competition as being very significant in their understanding and appreciation of the study of history.

Learners from Gauteng, Limpopo and Freestate. Aletta, far right, was placed 3rd overall in the competition

Oral history competitions like the Albert Luthuli Prize make history come alive for learners and teachers alike. The challenge for historians, educators and learners is to grow a culture of innovative and original research around local history - much of which has never been recorded or has been sidelined in the past. Oral history research allows for this and is advantageous because it is relatively cheap and very accessible. Let's hope that next year the Albert Luthuli Young Historians competition will be even more popular amongst learners as this will be a sure sign of creative and meaningful learning in history classrooms around the country.

We interviewed learners and teachers from various schooling backgrounds and asked them about how they experienced the competition and why a competition like the Albert Luthuli Prize is important for history students today, here is a snapshot of some their responses:

Why did you choose the topic 'unsung heroes' for your project?

Albert Luthuli Young Historians Gala Lunch and awards ceremony at Kirstenbosh Gardens, Cape Town

"My name is Tswa Mokgoto I'm from the North West...and then the topic I have chosen is unsung heroes. I chose this topic because I needed to know more about my community. All the time the media speaks about the heroes in Joburg and it seems like in my community there weren't any heroes so I was surprised and shocked to find out that there were people like that in my community. I mean the media make it look like Johannesburg was the only province that was active during the struggle and others were not really that active..."

"I'm Amry Christians... because there is a lot of unwritten history, we only know about the history that's in the books but we don't know the history that's IN our community especially when you have to go do research obviously it's going to be hard work but it's through going out there and getting to know what really happened from the people themselves and not just reading about the history that everyone knows but going and finding out more about what happened in your own community."

How do you encourage and support learners to take part in this competition?

"At my school I don't work with conventional topics, I try and expand the kids' knowledge by allowing them to choose topics of interest. I also just facilitate and guide them and they do the work so it can become more of a learning experience for them. It's not just about the competition and winning but about developing more skills."

(Anitha Chetty, history teacher at Crawford College La Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal).

What value does oral history have for you and your learning process?

Hlengiwe Mtshali (KZN) using photographs and a dvd feature for her project on an unsung hero

"It has value cause if we just Google stuff most of the time those websites end up you know something happens to them but then if you go and look for it, research it you actually can go 'ah dude look what I found!' and you tell someone and that person's going to be interested also. You know it kinda has that effect so I think it's very important."

(Dumelo Leseke, Limpopo province, research project done on her school).

Do you think the youth of today is interested in history? Or are they interested in Mxit and like 50 Cent?

"Ok I'm not gonna diss Mxit because I'm a Mxit addict but then it is true that children aren't into history. Mostly though people in my class when they hear about this were like 'OK fine it's her thing' you they think it's boring, you just go sit and read, lots of reading."

(Dumelo Leseke, Limpopo province, research project done on her school).

What did you find in your research?

"Learners enjoyed the project, we have also revealed unrecorded history, particularly the history of that (sic) racial groups. Like from the place where I come from I interviewed some of the parents and what I discovered was that there was forceful removal from a place known as Matlekabe, they were moved to Motlabe... (continues story) .... I exposed my learners to what happened in the past and we have also revealed unrecorded history. Therefore it is very important to record these very same histories."

(Yvonne Khube, history teacher in the North West Province. Mrs Khube did her research project on introducing oral history to learners).

Do you like researching about history outside of reading what's in your textbook?

"They think that Mandela, Steve Biko, Sol Plaatje, are the only history we've got in South Africa and that's not the only history we've got. These unsung heroes they are our today's history so we have to tell about these history, if they cancel history then the future generation how are they going to know about these unsung heroes? They only going to know about Mandela... [But] let's let the public be responsible for unsung heroes, not the government."

Several merit awards and special mention awards for original research were also awarded.

Last updated : 17-Feb-2012

This article was produced by South African History Online on 31-Mar-2011

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