Revising school setworks

A group of Gauteng educators have deemed a number of school setwork texts outdated and not relevant to South African learners.

Among them is South African Nobel Prize laureate and Booker Prize winner Nadine Gordimer’s novel July’s People, which has been part of the curriculum since 1994, has been called “deeply racist, superior and patronising”.

Another local text regarded as not of value for modern learners are Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm as it is said to “highlight religious and cultural intolerance”.

Black authors were not spared. Njabulo Ndebele’s collection of short stories Fools and Dambudzo Marachera’s House of Hunger have also been deemed unsuitable.

George Orwell’s classic anti-totalitarian satire 1984 reportedly contains “an element of subversive rebellion against the state which is perhaps no longer relevant”.

And Shakespeare has really come under fire for being boring and politically incorrect. Othello is seen as racist and sexist with a “bleak pessimistic tone”, Julius Caesar is sexist because it elevates men, Antony and Cleopatra and the Taming of the Shrew were both described as undemocratic and racist. Hamlet is “not optimistic or uplifting”. But it was the “too despairing” King Lear “lacks the power to excite readers and is full of violence and despair. The plot is rather unlikely and ridiculous,” the committee concluded.

Although the report has been sent to publishers, the department has not taken a final decision regarding the exclusion of these books from the school syllabus.

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg, 18 April, 2001.

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