By Tawanda Chenana
WE, in the village, bore the brand of the liberation struggle; our homes were the theatre of the epic fight for our independence.
And it was clearly evident to every villager, young and old, that the comrades were inspired by far grander values — economic, social, cultural and spiritual independence; freedom to be masters over our God-given natural resources; freedom to chart our own destiny and to get out of the white man’s cultural, language and religious shadow.
In the village we are masters at engineering innovative solutions to our challenges and never content to mimic, copy and integrate systems without infusing them with our own indigenous ideas.
We accept our African identity and culture before aspiring to be whatever else.
We, long ago, emerged from the white colonial shadow of make-believe and live our real lives.
And I cannot help but continue to emphasise the importance of education in the development agenda and how it should be guided by our indigenous values.
Education prepares us for a better life, imparting skills, knowledge and values that make us useful self-reliant citizens.
A people’s capacity to produce food, goods for trade and services depends on the soundness and relevance of the education system they put their children through.
I have noted there is a continued craze, by many parents, for British education through sitting for the Cambridge Schools Certificate Examinations.
I, however, insist that the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC), which runs our examinations, is equally good.
For the greater part of Zimbabwe’s colonial period, Cambridge examinations were the yardstick in the country. Syllabi were designed in Britain, papers were set in Britain. After sitting for the examinations, the answer papers were shipped to England for marking and subsequent release of results. Examination fees were remitted in British pounds sterling to Britain.
After Zimbabwe attained political independence, the country moved to establish its own examinations council. The first stage was to localise the setting and marking of the Cambridge School Certificate Examinations.
Zimbabwean teachers and senior officials were trained on the modalities of setting and marking examinations. Even syllabi were revised and new subject areas developed but still under the watchful eye of the colonial master, Britain.
Regrettably, the system and content of the syllabi remained foreign, that is British.
Independent Zimbabwe had the right to develop its own syllabi and content as well as conduct its own examinations.
Our situation was one where colonial interests were at play and needed to be corrected.
Apart from the large sums of foreign currency transferred to Britain as examination fees, the marking exercise itself kept thousands of the Queen’s subjects gainfully employed as markers and examination officials.
So by continuing to use Cambridge as the examining body for our O- and A-Level candidates, Zimbabwe effectively denied its own educationists opportunities to determine the destiny of its people.
By retaining syllabi crafted by the British, Zimbabwe was endorsing the continued mental colonisation of its people.
That situation was not consistent with the country’s political independence and sovereignty ideals.
Colonial education created generations divorced from their communities and country.
It is through education that we can produce real pan-Africanists.
It is no lie that British education prepares our people to easily integrate in Britain and, in the process, Zimbabwe loses valuable manpower.
I dare say the desire for Cambridge School Examinations for our children denotes some colonial hangover.
It is a reflection of the effectiveness of education as a colonising tool.
We must completely exorcise this ghost of colonial education in the form of Cambridge examinations.
If we interrogate the issue of maintaining standards, we find that Zimbabweans who have sat and passed the ZIMSEC examinations continue to perform well when they pursue their education at local or overseas academic institutions.
Without a shadow of doubt, the ZIMSEC brand is very strong, and its pedigree is unquestionable.
Only Zimbabwe’s detractors and the mentally colonised argue otherwise.
Zimbabweans do not need Cambridge examinations to gain legitimacy!
Establishing ZIMSEC was in itself a strong statement underlining our independence and sovereignty.
Zimbabweans have asserted their sovereign right to determine their educational future and to set the standards that will ensure the competitiveness of our graduates in the global market.
The capacity to set up and run national examinations underlines the country’s capacity to run its own affairs.
Education funding made available to Zimbabwe by Western donors was meant to keep the country, through its education system, in the Western fold dominated by the West.
Books are ‘soft’ power and very dangerous if the content undermines the integrity and self-esteem of the reader.
What some readers may not realise is that foreign books in our schools represent a huge influx of external cultural norms and values being foisted on young impressionable minds.
The literature in these books is Eurocentric and often distinctly biased against indigenous African people’s norms and values.
Children reading these foreign books imbibe foreign ideas and acquire a Western world outlook that historically has remained inimical to the interests of Africa.
The content of many of these books is foreign even to our values as well as cultural and religious norms. Ideologically, it is against our liberation and independence ethos.
The content of the books is not neutral; it is meant to acculturate our children into Western values.
There is an urgent need to generate Afrocentric literature that has a distinct pan-African thrust that puts Africans at the centre of the universe.
A good example of an anti-African value is the Western view of a nuclear family as consisting of father, mother and the biological children.
Other relatives are part of what is termed ‘the extended family’.
In African culture, both parents, their children, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts and grandparents all belong to one family.
As students read novels and other literature, they become exposed and innocently imbibe cultural values that contradict the African concept of family.
All the set books for the Cambridge examinations syllabi are carefully selected by British officials who ensure the books adequately speak to British norms and values.
What is the benefit of an education system that creates a compliant population that not only tolerates but aids and abets the exploitation of African resources at the expense of indigenous populations?
We must not stop the struggle to create new institutions that are consistent with our culture and traditions as well as serve us as Africans.
We cannot be anybody other than ourselves.