Commentary by Module reviewers on the new “History of Ethiopia and the Horn” Common Course Module
As it is well-known history is an integral part of the national curriculum in any country, which stipulates that students should be taught about ideas, political power, industry, empire, etc. Paradoxically, however, if not arguably, Ethiopia is probably the only country that failed to give history course for its University students.
For the last 25 years, the higher education curriculum was devoid of introductory history course for freshman students. Although this was largely a political decision with full of a flaw, there are some arguments which are observed on the ground related with problems in the history of Ethiopia and the horn which added with ideological orientation gave political justification to erase /ban the History of Ethiopia and the horn from Freshman courses. Rather than dwelling on the political and ideological justification let’s discuss some of the major problems/weaknesses associated with the Historiography and the history of Ethiopia and the Horn, which should be taken as major obstacles in bringing together Ethiopian people and create a common national interest. Ultimately, history failed to provide its support for state-building and mobilize Ethiopianness in having common national interest.
A. Ethiopian history has been characterized by omission, silences, distortions, misinterpretation Etc. We can mention lots of examples on each of these major drawbacks but this short commentary does not allow that and lacks the luxury of time and space to go to the details.
B. Ethiopian history is largely elitist, on which it focuses on only the elite and their associates. Disregarding peoples from below. In other words, it does not have a history of peoples. Narratives in every victory in Ethiopia discuss the deeds of kings and their entourage while peoples from all walks of life have contributed a lot for each victory in Ethiopia. Gundet, Gura, Mettema, Adwa, Maychew, Karamara, etc. The common peoples are not represented in the pages of history.
C. From the time, modern historiography has its impact on Ethiopian history; it has a skriptographic bias whereby only peoples with written culture have history. The consequence of this is automatically denying people with a lack of written culture but ample historical evidence with the accumulated body of Knowledge in oral data were neglected as peoples without history.
D. It has also political biases at the expense of the social-economic and cultural history of peoples.
E. There are also real critics that the history of Ethiopia did not cover the failures Ethiopia faced along the road in the state-building process. All that is covered are our glory, our victory, and great achievements. Of course, that is necessary and should be an integral part of our history curriculum. Equally important is our failure, social evils we encountered, our black spots, our agonies, etc. Both our glories and agonies should be given wait so that our generation should learn from both and have balanced narratives.
It is against these real historiographical problems that the introductory course on the History of Ethiopia and the Horn approved by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education during the validation workshop held at the intercontinental hotel in February 20/2020. The approved
The curriculum is expected to address these dangers and imbalances and is expected to play its role in state-building, narrowing down differences among the young, etc.
The new curriculum, addresses, people’s history across time and space, it tried to uncover what has been silenced and tried to serve as the voice of all. Above all, it tried to give recognition for the victims by addressing some issues in a modest way.
Therefore, we can strongly argue that the critics waged against the ministry concerning the validated introductory history curriculum are unfounded and do not hold water. Instead of being criticized, the Ministry should have been unabashedly appreciated for taking such a commendable step in trying to salvage the generation by introducing arguably a balanced historical document. Because a country with a balanced narrative of its past could create a healthier generation that has an unbiased and logical understanding of the culture, history, psychological makeup, etc. of the peoples in that country.
The endorsement of the curriculum which took a longer gestation period in comparison to other common course modules is really a historic moment for the country.
The other positive aspect of the module is that it has benefited a lot from comments, critics and feedbacks from different sections of the society at different phases of its preparation.
The professionals who took part in the preparation processes starting from the write up through the review process, there has been a heated debate among the professionals themselves. It has also balanced and fair representation of professionals in terms of culture groups, professional proficiency. Lastly, the module benefited from comments and critics from senior professors in the field.