Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.12B, 51-57
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 51
Reliving South African Apartheid History in a Classroom:
Using Vuyisile Mini’s Protest Songs1
Vuyisile Msila
Department of Educ at i on a l Leadership and Management, College of Education,
University of Sout h Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa
Received October 30th, 2013; revised November 30th, 2013; accepted December 7th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Vuyisile Msila. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Vuyisile Msila. All Copyright © 2013
are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Many history pupils in South African classrooms study history in second or third language. This creates a
number of problems for pupils who have to struggle with the language of learning and teaching as they
grapple with historical events. This study sought to examine the impact of the protest song in the teaching
of South African (struggle) history. The researcher employed qualitative research methods to investigate
one teacher’s practice in her two history classes. She used struggle stalwart and composer, Vuyisile
Mini’s compositions in facilitating teaching. The songs were either played from an audiotape or the
teacher taught the class lyrics of some songs for the pupils to sing. Both the pupils and their teacher con-
curred that music played a crucial role in the classroom. The pupils also pointed out that music made them
to remember historical events. The teacher stated that she wanted the pupils to be able to think critically
as they constructed knowledge during the lessons. Moreover, in line with literature, the history classes
were able to use cultural memory for critical learning. The methods used in the class were also able to
make the pupils transfer learning to other situations. Conclusions illustrate that effective teachers will al-
ways seek creative ways to engage pupils in classrooms and music is one of these. Utilizing creative ways
continuously is the crux of effective teaching and learning.
Keywords: Apartheid; Collective Memory; Heritage; Critical Thinking; Creative Teaching
Long before they start their schooling careers, children learn
to sing. The radio, the television and religious groups are some
of the powerful sources of teaching the pre-schoolers to sing.
However, music appears to be less used in South African
schools after the initial grades. Schools around the world
though have been using music for decades especially in second
language classrooms where it is perceived as crucial in devel-
oping the cognitive aspects (Engh, 2013; Heyworth, 2013).
Furthermore, Engh (2013) contends that music breaks the
boundaries between the various communities that pupils belong
to. This author maintains that life outside the classroom is filled
with music and it is justifiable to consider it as a non-traditional
teaching method. Goering and Burenheide (2010) write about
the need to utilize the Personal Practical Theory (PPT) in
teaching subjects such as history. These authors point out that
PPT involves an intense analytical look at one’s own instruc-
tional practice and how a teacher can best enhance their in-
structional practice and their instruction so that all pupils can
learn. Therefore, the use of songs in teaching is among the ap-
proaches that an educator can use to facilitate learning in the
classroom. Using songs can be explored as one aspect to check
what works well in classrooms. Goering and Burenheide (2010)
also point out that there are three distinct phases for PPT:
Identify what guides one’s beliefs and actions;
Analyze how these beliefs can best align to the content
being taught; and
Implement and reflect how this works in the classroom.
A teacher using songs as a form of PPT can see whether or
not teaching is enhanced. The songs in a history classroom
become part of the primary sources. Paras, Piche and Nillas
(2004) state that if one considers the value placed on the pupils’
understanding of history, primary sources can be used to
deepen the pupils’ understanding. It is also crucial to use the
correct criteria in selecting these songs. Kramer (2001) points
out that the text must fit the pupils’ level; the singer’s diction
must be clear, so that the pupils can easily understand the lyrics
and the songs must come from a variety of musical styles to
1The protest song’s roles: Cultural role—these songs were reflected the
culture of the oppressed. They usually showed where the people were and
why they needed to fight the domination. Many songs infused culture, they
had a cultural aspect. The dance and rhythm also reflected the culture. Po-
litical role—all liberation songs had a political message. They were didactic
and show ed the oppressed why they needed to shirk off the ch ains of bond -
age. Mobilizing role-linked to the political role of the song, there was the
mobilising role. The songs’ message wanted to reach as many people as
possible—calling them to join the liberation struggle. Narrative role-many
songs bore history; they recounted what happened in history. The narrative
was contained in the political and the m ob ilising role of the song.
afford opportunities to reach the widest possible audience.
This paper looks at teacher practice in a history classroom
where the teacher teaching South Africa’s struggle history uses
the protest song as a primary source. The teacher mainly used
songs composed by the South African Congress of Trade Union
(SACTU) activist Vuyisile Mini. This trade unionist was also
an African National Congress (ANC) member who was hanged
by the apartheid government in November 1964. The main
question asked was: What can educators and pupils learn in
history classrooms where songs were used as primary sources?
Pedagogy and Song in the Classroom
Van der Merwe (2007) points out that theories of cognitive
psychologists such as Bruner support the idea that knowledge
and skills are synergistic and are established through integration,
interrelationships and interconnectedness which increase learn-
ing. Songs and the arts should be accorded a place in all curric-
ula to actualize this integration in the classroom. Kramer (2001)
also writes about the benefits of using songs in the classroom.
He points out that they offer mnemonic codes, such as repeti-
tion, rhyme, and melody that help the listener’s memory. In the
second language classroom songs have an even special value.
“Since many students enjoy listening to songs in their native
language, the teaching of songs in the foreign language (FL)
classroom can help motivate students to learn” (Kramer, 2001).
Brewer (1995) points out that the intentional use of songs in the
classroom will set the scene and learning atmosphere to en-
hance the teaching and learning activities. Brewer lists a num-
ber of aspects that are accentuated by songs in classrooms and
these include:
Creating the desired atmosphere;
Energizing the learning activities;
Improving memory; and
Enhancing imagination.
All these show that the songs can make learning effective.
Carlson (2010) contends that the songs are able to make per-
sonal and world connections to the content studied. Moreover,
the pupils are able to think critically about the issues raised by
the content studied and song.
Levey and Byrd (2011) also cite White and Cormack (2006)
who explain how music diminishes as pupils progress in grades
at school. Levy and Byrd (2011: p. 64) writes:
However, they proposed that music has a definite application
to the secondary education, social studies classroom. Accord-
ing to their article, older music can enhance understanding of
history and contemporary songs can assist students in critically
examining societal problems like poverty, racism, abuse, and
additions and such global issues as hunger, disease and war
(White & McCormack, p. 122).
As history pupils listen to songs and sing songs they are
guaranteed of active listening. Whitmer (2005) underscores this
need to integrate songs into the lesson plan. She states that
learners need to be taught active listening and songs can help
the pupils set the scene. Moreover, the song can give the learn-
ers a multidimensional, perceptual, and interactive experience
of history (Van Der Merwe, 2007). Heyning (2011) also per-
ceives music as invaluable as a teaching tool which should be
used across the curriculum because it addresses a number of
aspects including differences in people; in aptitude, interest and
inclination. Heyning (2013:22 aptly puts it, “children learn best
about the world by listening, thinking, acting and integrating
new experiences—experiential learning is the format in which
we own our own learning whether we are a child or an adult”.
The Study
The study emanated from the history teacher’s own action
research. She had been reflecting on her use of music and songs
in her history classrooms for more than four years. Action re-
search is a strong tool for change and improvement at the local
level (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2009). Action research has
been used widely when teachers want to replace traditional
methods by a discovery method. The researcher collected data
through qualitative research methods where the history teacher’s
two secondary school classes were observed. Apart from a
month’s classroom observations, the researcher interviewed the
teacher as well as ten learners. Three one hour classes were
observed each week and the researcher was a non- participant
observer. Among others, the observation schedule included
observation of classroom participation, level of interest in the
lesson, how the songs connect with the lesson, how the teacher
utilized the songs. The researcher observed groups of pupils as
they sang along some of the songs before discussions. He also
listened to the group discussions as learners interpreted the
lyrics trying to link them to particular events in history.
Mini and the Freedom Song
In her first lesson of introducing Mini’s songs in her class-
rooms, the educator gave a brief historical background about
the composer, demonstrating his pictures in the classroom and
playing an audiotape of his last words before he was executed
in November 1964. The teacher played an audio recording of a
reader who was reading Mini’s written response to the apart-
heid police who were offering him and his two fellow accused
clemency should they denounce the ANC struggle and work
for the system instead. Mini wrote about this communication
with the security branch in 1964:
I am presently awaiting execution at Pretoria Central Gaol
having been sentenced to death at the beginning of the year. On
October 2, 1964, Captain Geldenhuys and two other policemen
came to see me. They asked if I had been informed that my ap-
peal had been dismissed. I told them I was not interested to
know from them what my advocate said. They then said there
was still a chance for me to be saved as they knew I was the big
boss of the movement in the Eastern Cape. I must tell them
where the detonators and revolvers were, and they would help
me. I refused. They then asked me about Wilton Mkwayi (sub-
sequently sentenced to life imprisonment) and whether I was
prepared to give evidence against Mkwayi whom they had now
arrested, I said no, I was not. When they asked would I make
the Amandla Ngawethu salute when I walked the last few paces
to the gallows, I said yes.
Just this background or extract used by the teacher was
enough to involve the pupils who immediately described the
character of the writer of the above words. When the teacher
first played the recording of the above words, there was silence
which reflected pathos and in class. After the playback of this,
the teacher asked the pupils to imagine to have met Mini and
now they had to imagine as they talked about his personality.
Each group presented a page on “the kind of a person Mini
was”. This was then followed by a 30 minutes discussion by the
Open Access
entire class. The teacher then introduced Mini’s brief biography
presenting it as a prologue to a series of lectures and talked
about him as a composer of freedom or protest songs. The fol-
lowing is a summary that the teacher shared with the pupils.
Mini sang in a number of choirs in New Brighton, Port
Elizabeth notably Port Elizabeth Male Voice Choir as well as
the Port Elizabeth United Artists Choir which was conducted
by the composer and celebrated author, Fikile Gwashu. He
loved choral music as well as classical music. Among his many
compositions, was the famous Naantsindodemnyama Verwo-
erd. (Here comes the Black folk Verwoerd!). This is the song
he is said to have sung on his way to the hangman’s noose. In
this song he was warning Verwoerd about the might of the
black people. Hendrik Verwoerd was the South African Prime
Minister in the 1960s. He is also referred to as “the architect of
apartheid” who ensured that black people would be treated as
second class citizens.
Many of Mini’s songs were poignant but even with this sad
tone, one gets the sense that the oppressed were fighting for a
just cause. When Mini appeared in the political scene in the
townships, he became very instrumental in organising people
who were scattered. There was no better thing than to use his
artistic talents to organize the community. He was also an able
administrator, a secretary of the South African Congress of
Trade Unions (SACTU) and worked closely with other struggle
heroes such as Don Nangu and Alven Bennie. The SACTU and
its affiliate unions enjoyed much support from the workers.
“More than just a trade union to protect working class interests,
it became an institution of and from the people” (Luckhardt &
Wall, 1980). Mini inspired the people with his singing and ora-
tory. As a liberation fighter he was ahead of his times by real-
ising that the song can organize and intensify the resistance
against unjust laws.
Collective Memory and Post-Apartheid
South Africa
Effective history teachers know that much oral history in the
society is based on subjective accounts of people. They need to
constantly relay this to their pupils as they teach them about
apartheid memory. For teachers who were activists in particular,
the autobiographical accounts can be an important source of
teaching when used wisely. Coombes (2003) points out that all
memory is unavoidably both borne out of individual subjective
experience, shaped by collective consciousness and as shared
social processes. Any comprehension of the representation of
remembrances of the past must take into account both contexts
(Coombes, 2003). Arguably, there is a need for South Africans
to use memory in places such as the museums, understand and
bring resolve to the trauma before moving towards the future as
matured citizens. Many political activists in South Africa, al-
though they were scarred by political repression, they have
insisted on the productiveness of their years in detention and
necessity of working toward a constructive future (Coombes,
2003). The traumatic memory and experience that can be ig-
nited by some of the songs can actually result to a positive
consequence; it can show the singer what freedom means. It
can sensitize them in some way; that many people sacrificed,
became martyrs for the freedom. These can be both empower-
ing and emancipatory memories. Coming to terms with the past
is one crucial aspect when it comes to dealing with history and
memory in South Africa. Moving away from concentrating on
oppression and atrocities of the past will never lead to liberated
minds, and wounds will not be healed. The new cultural institu-
tions such as museums have to deal with these facts. Liberation
songs that highlight pain should remain in history as reminders
of where the society is coming from. In the absence of leaders
who had gone to exile, the struggle continued through song.
Even after Mini’s execution, his songs continued to live uniting
the oppressed, creating a political culture that pervaded.
The Experiences in the Classrooms
The teacher in the study (we shall refer to her as Sindi) has
been using history and songs for the previous four years after
noting that her learners did not have much interest in the history
subject area. She thought that the songs would interest her pu-
pils. This is a strategy that was shunned upon by her (history)
subject head who told her that the strategy would hardly work
“with the kind of learners we have, instead it would confuse
them as it shifts focus from what really matters”. However,
Sindi started with her novel teaching that supported transforma-
tive pedagogy in her grade 8 classes. This was her second year
teaching grade 8 who were pupils coming from primary school.
Many of her learners were daunted by the study of South Afri-
can history in particular. She started using popular township
music or kwaito2 to relate historical events. She asked the
learners to write their own kwaito songs as well. She was
amazed when she heard from the English Second language
teacher how this improved the pupils’ language skills as well as
their confidence. The pupils’ historical knowledge also im-
proved gradually because for the first time they were able to
recollect events because they were linking these to certain
In the grade 12 classes that Sindi was teaching, she was as-
tounded to find how learners improved their grades in South
African history. Sindi used the protest songs by Vuyisile Mini
(Figure 1) to illustrate the plight of the black people’s struggle
for freedom in South Africa. Before focusing on specific songs
that Sindi used, the concentration is on what the songs achieved
in the pupils; one is critical thinking and the other is the transfer
of learning.
Figure 1.
Vuyisile mini. (Sechaba, 1969).
2Kwaito is a music genre that emerged in historically black areas in the
1990s. There is a wide use of poetry and beat. It encompasses some of the
qualities of house music and is ve r y popular among the teens.
Open Access 53
Critical Thinking and Emotional Experience
Sindi spoke at length as to how the process of analyzing the
lyrics of Mini’s songs sharpened the pupils’ critical thinking
skills. This analysis enabled the pupils to get into the com-
poser’s mind and “see the world as he did decades before”. This
was a good exercise for constructivist learning which enabled
the pupils to construct knowledge based on the songs. More-
over, this became part of the telling of her biography that she
shared with the pupils. As they learnt about Mini, they were
also learning about her times in the 1970s as a student activist
their age.
The pupils mainly worked in groups as they listened to the
songs and sung some whilst learning from their history texts.
They were also excited about being able to discover Mini
through his compositions as they learnt about the struggle’s
history. Paras et al. (2010) also underscore the role of primary
sources that help pupils to think critically and analytically as
this allows them to interpret events and question the various
perspectives of history. It was also noteworthy to observe how
the learners’ working groups tried to see the events from vari-
ous angles and possibilities. Vos (1999) argues that music does
a number of things to pupils; it inspires emotion and can be
used effectively to get pupils into an effective learning state.
As highlighted above, during observations of group discus-
sions, the researcher noted how the pupils used the songs’ lyrics
and emotions evoked to interpret the historical events critically.
Sindi’s teaching was amenable to the post-apartheid system of
education which requires learners who are critical thinkers.
There are so many challenges in teaching that can make teach-
ers forget about the learning aspect. Lujan and DiCarlo (2006: p.
17) contend:
Teaching is not telling students what we know but showing
students how we learn. Learning is not commuting a set of facts
to memory, but the ability to use resources to find, evaluate,
and apply information. However, the curriculum is packed with
so much content that, to cover the content”, teachers resort to
telling students what they know and students commit facts to
The history learning area can easily end up into telling
methods. However, a teacher who is a critical thinker would be
opposed to use these frequently, as she will want to instil a
sense of understanding among learners as witnessed in this
study. Critical teachers will transfer this vital skill to their
learners. In fact, Yang (2012) argues that in order to foster
critical thinking in learners, it is necessary to first nurture the
teachers’ critical thinking. The combinations of aspects such as
assessment, critical reflection, are all factors that help in en-
hancing the teachers’ skills in teaching. Fostering critical think-
ing is about the teachers’ belief systems. “The influence of
teacher belief and teacher experience in developing the ability
to conduct critical thinking integrated instruction is profound,
particularly given the diversity of student ability levels...”
(Yang, 2012: p. 117).
In this study the pupils had to discuss the songs and events
linked to these. They constantly had to employ their critical
thinking skills as the teacher frequently employed the Socratic
Method of questioning. Shelley (2009) writes about the close-
ness between the Socratic Method and critical thinking. This
Socratic Method of questioning designed to help learners ac-
quire, develop and retain knowledge through guidance rather
than lecture. Shelley also argues about how group work pre-
pares learners to the inevitability of collaboration in all aspects
of adult life and specifically in the workplace. Group work
helps elicit important factors for critical thinking and these are
analysis, explanation, interpretation and self-regulation. All of
these are what Facione (2013) refers to as core critical thinking
skills. Of importance here is the transfer of learning.
Transfer of Learning
Hearing the songs in the history class enabled the pupils to
be able to transfer learning. For learners to be able to transfer
skills, they should first comprehend the subject. Lujan and Di-
Carlo (2006) emphasize that we must help learners become
more active, independent learners and problem solvers, because
active processing of information and not just passive reception
of that information leads to learning. Transferring learning is
easy when active learning strategies are employed. Active
learning strategies reach all types of learners in visual, auditory,
read/write, kinaesthetic and tactile schemes (Lujan & DiCarlo,
2006). Facione (2013:p. 10) also argues:
The experts are persuaded that critical thinking is a perva-
sive and purposeful human phenomenon. The ideal critical
thinker can be characterized not merely by her or his cognitive
skills but also by how she or he approach3es life and living in
general. This is a bold claim. Critical thinking goes way be-
yond the classroom.
Again, the expertise of the teacher is crucial in enhancing
transfer of learning. There is a close connection between trans-
fer of learning and problem solving. Yang (2012) points out
that there is a link between critical thinking teacher training
with classroom outcomes. Furthermore, Yang contends that
there are three important features in the transfer of learning;
task features, learner features and organizational features. All
these have an impact on the transfer of learning. Task features
have to do with the similarity of the learning task and target
behaviour as well as opportunity for practice. Learner features
include attitudes and dispositions. Organizational features in-
clude the design of teacher training programs and relationships
among teacher education programs.
Mohammadi et al. (2013) point out that educators should re-
spond to the following questions: What should be learned?
How to learn?
Why to learn?
These authors state that educators should put more emphasis
on self-judgement and self-controlling issues. The latter is the
basis of teaching children to be critical thinkers. Teachers must
be aware of their professional growth as thinkers otherwise they
will not be able to nurture thinkers who can be able to transfer
learning. Mohammadi et al. (2013: pp. 654-655 ) postulate, “Tea-
chers need to rethink about their role again focusing on their
own activities on training skills because this leads to nurture
students’ critical thinking way”. Critical thinking in classrooms
depends on teacher readiness and professional accomplishment.
A teacher needs to have attained best practices by gaining con-
fidence as well as commitment to be able to use alternative and
creative ways in class.
Sindi’s Classroom: Memory, the Song and the
Subject of History
As Sindi pointed out, the song accentuated critical thinking
as it enabled memory. The pupils were able to create a relevant
Open Access
atmosphere they had never seen. The primary source of Mini’s
songs enabled them to visualize the experiences of history. The
memory in the song made learning more meaningful to the
pupils. Usually teachers of history argue that their pupils find
history flat and uninspiring. However, as evident in this study,
music has a potential to inject life into historical events. Paras,
Piche and Nillas (2010) argue:
Historical songs were considered to be valuable primary
sources as they provided students with direct commentary,
attitudes, and emotions expressed by real people in particular
historical periods (p.515). Therefore, the use of music as a
primary source allowed for students to be engaged in historical
learning. Binkiewicz also maintained that melodies and lyrics
are natural means to remember material; though memorization
is not a goal songs helped students imagine and remember
historical concepts…
Sindi as well as the pupils pointed out how the songs made it
easy for them to understand the context of many events. Vos
(1999) contends that music is a powerful anchor that moors
learning in memory. The latter is crucial for the history pupils
in South Africa who study history in second or third language.
Below, the focus is on a few songs used in the presence of the
researcher where Sindi demonstrated the use of memory. Sindi
demonstrated various roles that the protest song embraced.
These are the cultural role, the political role, the mobilizing role
and lastly the narrative role. The pupils were also able to find
these in a number of songs.
Vuyisile Mini had compositions that fitted under these cate-
gories although many of his songs played a mobilising and
political role. The song, IzakunyatheliAfrika was one of the
songs where he was addressing the apartheid leader Hendrik
Verwoerd, the most famous being Naantsindodemnyama
Verwoerd cited above. The song Izakunyathela... (Loosely
translated, Africa will trample on you), was composed in prison
during the 1956 Treason Trial. The lyrics are as follows:
Verwoerd Africa is going to trample
on you, Verwoerd
Verwoerd shu u! Verwoerd c areful!
Uzakwenzakala You are going to get hurt.
There are a number of songs mentioning leaders such as
Vorster, Strydom and many others. This showed the intense
plea by the oppressed for these leaders to outlaw apartheid laws.
Sindi played a number of similar songs whilst explaining and
facilitating lessons on the defiance campaign in the 1950s. In
fact, many of the songs she played were showing how the De-
fiance Campaign was strengthened. The Defiance Campaign
was conceptualized by the ANC at a conference in Bloemfon-
tein in 1951. The people wanted to do away with various seg-
regation laws which included, pass laws, Group Areas Act, the
Suppression of Communism Act. During this time the people
were breaking all laws in a peaceful manner and were not even
resisting arrest. Later though, it turned violent when police
started shooting defiers. Many songs composed about Verwo-
erd illustrated how this apartheid mastermind was regarded by
the oppressed. In another composition the Congress Volunteers
in the 1950s tell Verwoerd in song to open prisons and free the
political detainees. The song Sikhalelizwe lakithi went like
Sikhalel’izwe lakithi We mourn for our land
Elathathwa ngabamhlophe Which was grabbed by the whites
MZulu MXhosa MSuthu Zulus, Xhosas Sothos unite!
Verwoerd, vula la majele Verwoerd open these p r is ons
SingamaVoluntiya s izongena Else the volunteers will storm them.
When women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria
1956 they sang:
Wee Strydom! You Strydom!
Wathint’abafazi, You strike a woman,
Wathint’imbokotho, You strike a rock,
Uzakufa You will die.
Again this was Mini’s composition. The women were pro-
testing against a law which required women to carry passes like
men did. They were disparaged, but the song was lifting them
to be resilient. They did not march to kill Strydom. They were
highlighting their plight and mobilizing one another. The songs
were mighty in that even those people who were initially
doubtful about their participation would see the spirit of a song
and would go and confront the enemy; with song. The context
of most of these songs captured the mood of the singers. An-
other Mini composition used in the classroom was Thath
umthwalo. He also composed this song when he was in prison
during the treason trial in 1956. The treason trialists had been in
prison for a long time when he composed this one:
Thath’umthwalo bhuti
sigoduke Take up y our luggage brother
and let’s go home
Balindile oomama
noobab’ekhaya. Our mothers and fathers are
waiting back home
This was the nostalgic Mini. During the Defiance Campaign,
many people were held behind bars and were longing for free-
dom. Mini was inspiring them to sing as they longed for home.
Sometimes this nostalgia will show in song when the singers
longed for the days before colonialism. One of the oldest songs
is Thina sizwe esimnyama.... (We the Black Nation).
Thina sizwe We the nation
Thina sizwe esimnyama. The black nation,
Sikhalela, We weep,
Sikhalela izwe lethu. For our land.
Elarojwa, Which was robbed,
Elarojwa ngamabhulu, Robbed by the Boers.
Mabawuy eke, They should leave
Mabawuyek’umhlaba wethu. They should leave our land alone...
Another composition has a powerful message for the ANC’s
rise. The song was also sung widely in the 1950s when the
ANC was organising in the Cape:
Mayiham be le Vangeli spread Let this gospel
Mayigqib’ilizwe lonke world it Around the whole should be hear d
Open Access 55
It was interesting to listen to the pupils singing some of these
songs. Sindi asked them to write placards to carry around as
groups sang these. The pupils told various stories about how
they felt after moving around singing some of these songs.
Some adjectives they used to describe their feelings were:
“Made me feel committed”
“Saddened me”
“Made me feel the pain”
“Left me feeling confused why there was segregation!”
Sindi talked about how she saw these songs as part of mem-
ory. She maintained that these songs, like the “new museums”
and other monuments were explicating various aspects of heri-
tage. She added that these were necessary for all the youth born
in the post-apartheid South Africa.
Memory and Heritage
All the pupils saw the meaning of the protest song and un-
derstood its place not only in their learning area of history but
in their heritage as well. It was interesting to see how the 1950s
or the “Defiance Years” (as Sindi referred to them), were en-
acted. In fact, Sindi asked the groups to present defiance cam-
paign in song which was enjoyed by the pupils as they re-
counted historical events. One group acted out a 15 minute
musical drama enacting an event that happened in 1952 where
Mini and other ANC volunteers were part of the defiers who
walked through the New Brighton Railway Station in Port
Elizabeth. In the actual event Mini and 30 volunteers walked
through the “Europeans Only” entrance of the segregated New
Brighton Station. They were accompanied by a crowd singing
the song, ‘What have we done, we African people?’ the twenty
five men and three women were all wearing (African National)
Congress armbands and shouting, “Mayibuye iAfrica!” (Ben-
son, 1985). The defiers had all intended to refuse to pay fines
and go to prison instead. Sindi had earlier taught a lesson on
this event. Roux (1964) writes that a newspaper report on 25
July stated that 32 defiance women had been sentenced for
using the Europeans Only entrance at the New Brighton station
near the Red Location. The report went on to declare:
Non-European defiers of unjust laws are being turned out of
gaol against their will by the prison authorities. Money found
on them at the time of their conviction has been seized and is
being used to pay their fines, although they refused the option
of a fine when sentenced.
They went to jail and as they traversed the road they defi-
antly sang:
Imithetho kaMalan Malan’s laws,
Isiphethe nzima Are oppre s sive.
Mayibuy’iAfrika! Africa must com e back!
The pupils enacted some of these songs in their simulation.
Mini’s songs were short, repetitive and melodious. He had an
uplifting voice, his singing of his compositions spread
throughout the South African provinces. In the discussion
above we also “heard” his famous, Naantsindodemnyama
Verwoerd, which was also telling the government that despite
the intensification of apartheid laws, the Africans were orga-
nizing. One composition that was sung in the townships from
the 1950s to the 1990s and beyond was Sizakubadubula
ngeembayi-mbayi (we will shoot them with cannons), whose
lyrics were:
Sizakubadubula ngembayi-mbayi We’ll shoot t hem with cannons,
Bazobal eka, They will flee,
Dubula ngembayi-mbayi Shoot with cannons.
The pupils found it a powerful way of learning South Af-
rica’s struggle. In fact, they soon learnt to attach songs to vari-
ous historical events of the defiance campaign. Sindi’s use of
the songs also demonstrated how history can be preserved using
one aspect of memory. Deegan (2001) argues that a process
needs to be found through which collective memory of the
country could engage in recognising the tragedy of the past.
She adds that it is only by looking back that a nation would be
able to move towards normalized multiracial co-existence.
Schools, like museums, can play a crucial role while starting off
the memories there would be debates raised about issues as well.
Schools and community museums should promote healthy dis-
cussions as people embrace democracy and a new future. The
museums also need to strive for success where the society has
not succeeded. Much oral history in the museum is based on
subjective accounts of people. Sindi talked about this “inevita-
ble symbiosis between a history class and museums today”.
Coombes (2003) points out that all memory is unavoidably both
borne out of individual subjective experience and shaped by
collective consciousness as well as shared social processes.
Any comprehension of the representation of remembrances and
of the past must take into account both contexts (Coombes,
2003). Arguably, there is a need for South Africans to use
memory from oral accounts, from museums, understand and
bring resolve to the trauma before moving towards the future as
matured citizens. When one goes to New Brighton’s Red Loca-
tion Museum today, one sees an immense picture of Mini with
a number of hangman’s nooses behind; an intimidating and sad
spectre. The traumatic memory and experience is ignited by
these hangman’s nooses but it results to a positive consequence;
it can show the user what freedom really means. It can sensitize
them in some way that many people sacrificed, became martyrs
for the freedom. These can be both empowering and emancipa-
tory memories. The perceiver is empowered through the under-
standing of history and it will be liberating as the users will
understand their own purpose in history. The liberation songs
can achieve the same.
The reflection by Sindi in her history classes was a topic of
another paper and was not explored here. Yet, it can be high-
lighted that using music enabled Sindi to utilize her PPT as she
looked at her instructional practice critically. She used music
because she believed it would bring success to all her pupils.
This article has also shown how history teachers can enhance
aspects such as critical thinking, transfer of learning and mem-
ory whilst they try to raise learner success. Music has an appeal
in classrooms because of its interdisciplinary nature. Teachers
of all subjects can use music effectively if they select relevant
songs for their subjects. This paper has also shown that the
other advantage that music has is the influence on feelings,
memory and enlivening the historical events. Music is also
useful because it can be used in all classrooms by various age
Open Access
Open Access 57
groups. Classrooms where music is used can also be fun be-
cause song enhances imagination and play; with these, it also
improves the thought processes. Effective teachers will also
choose songs to use in the classroom wisely. Some songs are
more relevant than others depending on the themes taught.
Good choice of songs will also support creative thinking among
learners as they try to interpret the content.
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