The National Department of Basic Education (DBE) says it has received numerous complaints over the use of the term “Mandatory Palestine” in a question that appeared in the Grade 12 maths literacy Paper 1 that was written on Friday.
The question states: “Timothy will fly from the United States of America to Mandatory Palestine to play in a tournament. Before he leaves, he wants to exchange $2 580 for new Israeli shekel (NIS). The currency used in Mandatory Palestine is the new Israeli shekel (NIS).”
The Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) said it was concerning that the messaging in the exam paper undermined the dignity of the Palestinian people and legitimised the illegal military occupation of Palestine.
“This term was used by Britain as the colonial power in its subjugation of the Palestinian people. A condition that the Palestinian people still suffer today under the settler colonial apartheid state of Israel.”
According to the PSA, the term inferred that Israel was a legitimate democratic state and occupier.
ANC Western Cape legislature education spokesperson Muhammad Khalid Sayed said the caucus condemned the use of the term to refer to the State of Palestine.
“Mandatory Palestine was a geopolitical entity established between 1920 and 1948 following the end of World War I when the League of Nations granted the UK a mandate to administer the territory.
“The use of ‘Mandatory Palestine’ therefore denies the people of Palestine statehood; as this term is used to refer to the historical period when the region was under British administration and before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948,” he said.
Sayed said the department’s choice to use this term demonstrated a blatant disregard for the deeply rooted political sensitivities surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“The inclusion of such terminology within an educational context is highly inappropriate and reflects a lack of consideration for the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli apartheid state, which has been widely criticised for human rights violations and allegations of genocide,” he said.
He emphasised that the decision to use Palestine in this question, when other countries could have been chosen, was also alarming and troubling, and that it indicated the insensitivity of the official responsible for drafting the paper.
“The ANC has demanded a thorough investigation into the matter and for the officials involved to be disciplined,” said Sayed.
The PSA called on Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to conduct an investigation into how the term was allowed in a national examination paper.
“We further call for a total review of the curriculum in the education system to correct the colonial and apartheid biases that still permeate much of the conduct of those in authority as well as the content of our education.
“We, as South Africans liberated from apartheid, especially those in the education sector, cannot be indifferent when thousands of children are denied access to schooling because their schools, which are serving as shelters, are being bombed.”
The department said it regarded the use of this term in a national examination question paper as highly unfortunate and regrettable.
“The DBE regrets the use of the term ‘Mandatory Palestine’, which certainly does not take cognisance of the rooted political sensitivities surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the DBE will put mechanisms in place to ensure that this unfortunate incident does not recur.”
The PSA said to date the Israeli military bombardment of Gaza had killed more than 10 000 civilians, including almost 5 000 children.