CPUT students to learn story of District Six
Initiative aims to impart history
DISTRICT Six orientation tours are planned for students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology ( CPUT) as many apparently do not know the history of the area.
Mandy Sanger, head of education at the District Six Museum in the city centre, said this week the museum management was consulting with CPUT on making sure new and existing students became familiar with the area’s history of apartheid-era forced removals.
“We have proposed to CPUT that all first-year students and others be oriented through the museum about District Six. They need to walk through the area,” said Sanger.
Jacqui Scheepers, who manages community engagement projects for students at CPUT, confirmed a proposal was on the table to start the orientation tours early next year.
Her colleague Desmond Jackson, part of a CPUT task team working with the museum, said they wanted students to “know what happened where they are walking”.
“Students live there (in residences) but don’t even know the history of the place. When you ask them if they know where it is, they don’t even know,” he said.
“They may have heard about removals that happened here, but they don’t know who was removed.”
Jackson said they were also looking at adding history lessons about District Six “into our students’ curriculum so they can be sensitised”.
Scheepers added: “We are growing citizens who are meaningful to society and can make a contribution to society. It’s about the development of the self in the context of a democratic nation.”
The tours would start building a bridge between the museum and CPUT, which has in the past been in conflict about how to restore justice for people of colour forcibly removed 50 years ago from District Six.
Sanger said the museum had long been concerned that CPUT “has not grasped the need for memorialisation” of District Six.
“There are now individual staff and students who are invested in raising consciousness about the area where they are learning,” said Sanger.
The museum had held public dialogues involving CPUT staff, students and former residents. Sanger said they wanted to ensure CPUT would not initiate projects that did not appropriately memorialise the area’s history “for the sake of ticking boxes”.
“We are concerned that CPUT will take a Disney-fication approach,” said Sanger. “They could pay ex-residents to dress up as minstrels to welcome visitors without really telling them the area’s history. We are heritage experts and want to work with them on this.”
Sanger said the initial District Six was 150ha in size, with only 42ha available for reclamation to former residents who have lodged land claims with the gov- ernment.
Sanger said this meant the “area for memorialisation and return has become smaller and smaller”.
CPUT is the largest occupier of land where families previously lived before their homes were bulldozed.
Sanger said CPUT needed to start creating memorial spaces to secure the history of one of the most well-known examples of forced removals.
The museum was “not against new developments, but there are ways of developing that acknowledges the history of a place”.
Jackson said students could meanwhile also get involved with schools in the area to teach art classes and work on urban gardens with residents who have returned, as part of CPUT’s involvement with its neighbours.
“When the minstrels are in town they can perform in the amphitheatre. There’s space for an urban skate park and garden,” said Jackson. “We need to look at how we can bring back the communal spirit of District Six.”
Scheepers said there had been shifts as “it’s a national trend for universities to be more responsive and engaged with society”.
“We are also from the same traumatised community. We sit in meetings at CPUT and understand the need for transformation.”
District Six Museum staff Mandy Sanger and Chrischene Julius are working with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to ensure the stories of forced removals are passed on to the institution’s students.