by MOHAU QALAZA
The Local History Museums (LHM) ‘Passbook’ Competition aims primarily to promote appreciation of heritage through empathy and tolerance. Using experiential learning to develop social cohesion and demonstrate the inherent value of participating sites, the programme has led to an exponential growth in visitor numbers since its inception last year. Participating sites include Bergtheil Museum, Old House Museum, Cato Manor Heritage Centre, Pinetown Museum, Palmiet Nature Reserve and Mariannhill Monastery. To qualify for prizes, pupils were required to visit four of these sites and write an essay describing their experience.
The competition expanded in 2014 to accommodate Grades 4 to 11, and in the first phase 48 teachers from 45 schools attended a preparatory workshop. In the second phase the outreach was extended to more than 80 schools in areas served by the participating museums and heritage sites. Worksheets in line with Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) enhanced the experience of learners during their visits to these sites. Over 1 500 pupils from 23 schools and five homes entered the Passbook Competition, which is a significant growth compared with last year. The three-phase competition completed its cycle on 18 September 2014 when winners of the competition were announced in a prizegiving ceremony held at Bergtheil Museum.
Dr Musa Gumede, Deputy City Manager for the Community and Emergency Services Cluster, underlined this success in his welcome address.
Dr Gumede stated that ‘the South African Museums Association has taken the concept of “Collections making connections” as its theme this year, and I think that this competition is really a perfect example of how to accomplish that. One of the most important roles of our heritage department is to generate better social cohesion among the citizens of South Africa, and simply in terms of numbers the “Passbook” competition is highly successful. The Local History Museums and their partners are clearly using their collections to make connections among young South Africans’.
The second year of the competition ensured that relationships and partnerships formed in the inaugural year were maintained. Once again, one of the principal sponsors was Durban West Community Tourism Organisation, which contributed a voucher to the value of R10 000 for a lucky school to buy IT equipment of their choice. This year’s prize was won by Mayville secondary school. ARROWSA has partnered with Bergtheil Museum in various projects over the past 10 years and joined forces with the LHM in the campaign this year. This generous heritage non-profit organisation invested a lot of time and energy in this project, and also donated books and other gifts.
Without doubt the highlight of this year’s competition was the introduction of an intercultural element that rewarded five learners and a teacher with a trip to Bremen in Germany. These lucky winners represented eThekwini Municipality at the ‘Night of the Youth Festival’, an annual event for young people between the ages of 13 to 19, held on 9 November 2014 in Bremen. This incredible opportunity was facilitated through generous sponsorship by the Federal Republic of Germany’s Honorary Consul, Mr Horst Achtzehn. Travel arrangements were supported by eThekwini Municipality, Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany, the City of Bremen, Inspirations Travel & Tours, Sportsgarten and the Local HistoryMuseums Trust.
Mr Achtzehn, who was a keynote speaker at the 2013 prizegiving, stated in his address, ‘We are proud to be associated with a competition which promotes heritage, learning, social cohesion and inter-cultural exchange. 2014 is a significant year for both the Federal Republic of Germany and South Africa. For Germany, it marks the 25th anniversary of the breaking of the Berlin Wall and the ending of the Cold War. For South Africa it marks the 20th anniversary of democracy. Both events are symbolic. Freedom of association, respect for basic human rights and democracy are important. Human beings cannot be divided by ideologies, race, walls and the hated “dompass”. Participants at the festival will take part in activities which will promote dialogue, tolerance and empathy. For the youth such cultural exchange will go a long way in promoting leadership that will promote, preserve, sustain and enhance South Africa’s democracy. So I would encourage the youth to enjoy and participate in the activities at the Town Hall in Bremen’.
In addition to the five pupils who won the trip to Germany in the essay writing segment, other fabulous prizes included e-readers, board games, globes and books. Eight pupils also won prizes in the lucky draw section. Guests at the prizegiving ceremony included Acting City Manager: Dr Musa Gumede, Honorary Consul General: Mr Horst Achtzehn and chairperson of Durban West Community Tourism Organisation: Mrs Gail Bradfield, as well as Mrs Sue Burrows of the Local History Museum Trust. The keynote address was delivered by Mr B.P. Singh, Deputy Director for the Provincial Sports and Recreation Department and author of the book When the Chalk is Down. The audience was entertained by the lively music of the Marimba Band from Ningizimu Special School and a dance recital by Youngstar Productions.
The 2014 ‘Passbook’ Competition, which was a Heritage Month event, was a resounding success for participating Local History Museum sites. All our primary goals and objectives for the various phases were achieved. It was also wonderful to see how teachers have embraced this competition, realising the value of students learning outside the classroom and using museum collections to improve their understanding of our shared heritage. Some schools brought more than 300 learners through our sites for this competition. Certain teachers actually paid for transport to allow learners to join the competition, while others supplied refreshments when the need arose. This generosity was offered without the expectation of being repaid, simply so that their learners could have this experience. One teacher summarised her experience of the competition by saying, ‘What a brilliant concept to entice schools to visit these museums and heritage sites that we did not know existed. I will make a plan to visit these museums in future, competition or no competition, as my learners had a great time’. This is a wonderful endorsement of what we hoped to achieve. Other heartwarming incidents observed during the competition prompted the organising committee to create a special award for ‘outstanding teachers’.
The value our sponsors and partners saw in this campaign was really encouraging, as most of them came on board after the first meeting. Through their selfless and generous efforts we have enriched the life of the communities we serve. We sincerely hope that we are able to sustain this support as we embark on further attempts to build a South Africa we can all be proud of, and fulfil our mandate as heritage practitioners.