THE question is: Why have successive Ministers of Education shunned ‘Education with Production’.
The last we heard of Education with Production advocated at Ministerial level was during the reign of Minister Dr Dzingai Mutumbuka.
Was he the only Minister conscious and committed to the ethos of ZANU’s educational goals?
Dr Mutumbuka was the ZANU Secretary for Education and Culture who headed the Education and Culture Department during the liberation struggle and for some years after independence.
He was fully conscious of the place of education in the struggle and he articulated it very well during the liberation struggle as well as faithfully pursued it after independence as Minister of Education and Culture.
“In the present context of the Zimbabwe Revolution, the armed struggle is the principal form of struggle. However our struggle is not merely military but rather a struggle on all fronts; political, diplomatic, educational etc. While our military front is the foundation of the struggle, we are well aware that our military successes can easily be reversed if we fail on other fronts.” (Mutumbuka:1978)
And for this reason, the liberation movements took time to deliberate and strategise on the kind of education that would champion the cause of the struggle during the war and in independent Zimbabwe.
“Foremost in this regard was the creation of a new mentality which, imbued with the spirit of the struggle, would be divorced from the debilitating effects of colonialism. Such a mentality would be the bastion of a new and revolutionary society,” he underlined.
When he became Minister of Education, for the duration of that mandate from the ruling ZANU and its Government, he was true to the goals that had been set during the liberation struggle and Education with Production was a critical component of that.
He pursued it relentlessly, with spectacular results.
After he left in 1988, capitalism sunk its teeth into the concept of Education with Production and the Education with Production schools the Minister had set up in those eight years slowly bled to death.
Four years ago, ZANU PF reclaimed the eight ZIMFEP schools which had been taken and neutralised by the Ministry of Education during Minister Chigwedere’s reign. Since then the Foundation for Education with Production has been restoring the eight schools to the Education with Production ethos and practice.
A simple question?
Obviously this does not answer my question. The current eight ZIMFEP schools are not the answer.
Why is it important to raise this question at this moment?
For two reasons:
It is ZANU’s 60th birthday, and to celebrate this meaningfully is to trace and honour its legacy, the very legacy for which thousands were prepared to, and indeed died for.
Education with Production is a key ZANU legacy; it is also an important ZAPU legacy and, therefore, of utmost importance to ZANU PF.
When the founding fathers of both ZANU and ZAPU thought about education during the liberation struggle, they realised that capitalist education in Rhodesia, tailored to serve capitalism, could never serve the masses of Zimbabwe; could never serve the goals of Zimbabwe, the interests of the majority of Zimbabweans.
So they crafted a very special education model, one which shunned the capitalist artificial division between mental and manual work, one which shunned elitism and sought to raise young Zimbabweans imbued with the honourable mentality of both workers and thinkers.
Pursuant to this, during the struggle, Dr Mutumbuka unequivocally taught the youngsters that:“To build a hut is as important as to write an essay.”
Thus underlining to the youngsters that wealth comes from the labour of their hands, for:
“It is our people who, through their productive activities, will create wealth and develop Zimbabwe because the strength of any nation or society is directly a potential and the culture of its members as expressed in constructive efforts towards a common goal.” (Mutumbuka: 1978)
The people of any nation is its greatest resource and we have hundreds of thousands of youths whose force is not tapped for the people of Zimbabwe. These constitute such a massive spiritual, intellectual and physical force at the disposal of Zimbabwe which force, with due diligence, we should be able to marshal to solve the nation’s problems. It is an indictment against us if we leave this force to waste away instead of harnessing it for the good of the nation.
The first school to be opened by ZANU during the struggle was at Chifombo, in Zambia, in 1973.
Comrade Sheba Tavarwisa was at the helm and she set the foundation stone of ZANU education in the struggle. Teaching materials, blackboards, writing materials, desks and other necessities had to be improvised, and she underlined this was the way forward; that the schools would not, and should not, depend on donations. This is how education with production started. It started out of necessity.
This set the tone for the development of ZANU schools during the liberation struggle.
Schools were not going to depend solely on donations, begging, but would produce what they needed as much as they could.
So they built their own barracks, grew their own vegetables, made their own furniture, cooked their own food, thus producing well-rounded individuals who knew the honour of being both workers and thinkers.
A student at Doiroi Chindunduma, one of the eight ZANU Schools in the struggle, recalls: “One of the most important and the best activities was self-reliance. We had no money to buy our own things, we had no stores to buy our own things, and we had no factories to manufacture some required items. So we had to make some things on our own and one of the things was the making of needles for sewing torn clothes and hooks for shoe repairing. These were just as good as those we buy today but we could do it at no charge.” (Schools in the Struggle:1991).
Why are our schools not harnessing this potential in our children from grade zero to the highest levels of education?
“Education with production, a key tenet of socialist pedagogy was, for us, the exact remedy to the maladies of capitalism. It destroys the principal ideological support of capitalism: that mental work is reserved for the elite whilst manual work is for the majority who receive little or nothing.” (Mutumbuka:1991)
The material sustenance of a people is created by their labour. To create a socialist society in which the material wellbeing of people is qualitatively and quantitatively higher than in capitalism, production is a key activity, he taught relentlessly.
Education in ZAPU developed along the same ideological lines; it still was socialist education, recognising the pivotal position of production in education.
The concept was called Polytechnical Education and it had spectacular results.
As in the ZANU schools in the struggle, production of desks and benches was the duty of the students — bamboo was used to make desks, chairs, benches, and tables.
“Some of the students made this so artistically that one thought they were provided by a donor and not made in the camps,” recalls one of the students from the Jason Ziyapapa Moyo School (JZ School) (Schools in the Struggle:1991)
Students were involved in many productive activities emanating from need but also from the socialist ideological perspective which shunned the elitism of capitalism. In classes, therefore, and in their clubs, the students produced spectacular items which improved lives in the camps.
Leatherwork, for instance, was a practical subject introduced to repair old shoes as new ones were not available; eventually they would produce purses and new shoes as well.
Leatherwork was the most important club, and the Party managed to supply sewing machines and tools for the projects. Eventually the club made sandals for the ladies at the (Victory is Certain Camp) VC Camp, handbags as well as repairing shoes.
The metalwork club produced buckets which were critical for carrying water, trunks, cups and spoons while the woodwork club produced desks, benches, tables, shelves and picture frames; the horticulture club grew enough vegetables to feed the entire camp.
Thus the energies of the youngsters who had left home to take up the gun and fight to free their land were still developed along those of the freedom fighters they were, their own masters, their own liberators and it fashioned the consciousness necessary and correct for those who were waiting to join their older brothers and sisters on the battle front once they were old enough. These were not refugees; they were the ZIPRA reserve army.
The wisdom and relevance of the education developed by both ZANU and ZAPU during the struggle is demonstrably relevant to our situation today but our school system has shunned production as part of education, it has shunned the wisdom of the founding fathers of the land, insisting steadfastly on elitist education, capitalist education which, because of the very nature of capitalism, can only serve a few while the majority of the young who pass through our education system, hundreds of thousands of them, are relegated to the periphery where they hopelessly scrounge for the crumbs that fall from the capitalist table.
Individuals educated as we have chronicled above would serve Zimbabwe well, would make hands-on engineers, mechanical and construction engineers, agro-engineers, manufacturers.
It would be easy to do so, because they would be educated so, and educated to believe in the honour of being producers.
It would be natural for them in any situation to search for means and ways of harnessing the natural environment so that it yields our means of survival.
Such youngsters would, and did, understand the relationship between ownership of the means of production and production. They learned this at school in their textbooks.
An extract from one of the textbooks produced in the camps by the ZANU Education Department Research Unit taught the children unequivocally the nature of the relationship between production and capitalism:
“The people work in the factories
They work hard
The capitalist are rich because the people work hard
The capitalist steal the riches of the people
Today the people are poor but they work hard
After Independence the people will be rich because they work hard
The people will be the owners of the factories after independence….”
(ZANU Education Department 1979)
Following Dr Mutumbuka’s departure, no Minister of Education fought to transform the schools in the entire nation into the ZIMFEP model ZANU and ZAPU had done and planned to do through the eight pilot schools.
So when no Minister of Education picked up the tab, what does it mean?
Is it because they never heard of it, never understood it, or is it they understood it was the nemesis of capitalism and fought to destroy it to protect capitalism?
A simple question?
Is it so simple?
Who now wants to take responsibility for the hopelessness our youngsters are going through?
Jobless, aimless and still locked into the mentality that some capitalist somewhere must, and will, give them a job.
They have been de-schooled to see the potential in themselves, in the terrain and terrain features of the land. The parents have spent everything they have sending them to school. Schooling has done nothing for them to sharpen their appetite for capitalist goods and services, the good life for which they have no means to satiate… and inevitably all hell breaks loose.
Each thing they pine for, they have no means to satiate, they have no means to reach; everything is out of reach — capitalism tells them you’re part of the global village, this is how you should live, your country is letting you down.
Year in and year out, thousands join the hopeless, jobless while the capitalist smiles, waving the situation as a flag that no-one can do it but the West.
Our children, in their thousands, are victims of capitalist education perpetrated for the last 42 years.
This is the root cause of the drug problem, the drug problem will not die until the root cause is removed. The drug problem is a capitalist problem, and we have embraced capitalism and its ills.
A simple question!