‘I can hear the founding fathers calling’ …cry no more Zimbabwe


SOMEONE heard the founding fathers calling, heard the mourning of Chindunduma crying out to be requited and  answered the call.

Like Dr Dzingai Mutumbuka, the founding father of Zimbabwe’s education, Professor Amon Murwira answered the call.

Dr Dzingai Mutumbuka, then ZANU Secretary for Education and Culture, and later Minister of Education and Culture, worked with the students and teachers from schools in the struggle to transform the nation’s education

It is gratifying to see education with production, the dream of the nation’s founding fathers, being fulfilled in the nation’s universities and tertiary education institutions. 

Unfortunately not so in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education which remains sold to elitist British education, a remnant of British colonialism in the land. Education with production in this Ministry remains acceptable only in ‘ZANU PF schools’; the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production (ZIMFEP) schools. 

That is the tragedy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

What we see under Professor Murwira’s tutelage is Dr Mutumbuka’s dream, the flowering of the seed he sowed more than 45 years ago during the liberation struggle and in the first five years of independence.  

The fire Dr Mutumbuka lit was almost extinguished, but someone has taken up the mantle. 

The seed Dr Mutumbuka sowed has found fertile soil and appropriate instruments in the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development and Education 5.0, also known as Heritage Education.

Appropriately named Heritage Education because what is yours you hold, you cherish, you use, you develop, you do not design your systems according to models which belong to others; you create your own model. 

Heritage Education provides a necessary departure from such as we see with the elitist education championed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, a model harshly protecting the model of the British which serves no-one except the privileged few. 

Instead of following our own home-brewed education model, education with production, born within our own liberation struggle, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education insists it has broken through to transformation by singing praises to the so called: ‘Competence-Based Education’. 

But what is a competence? 

A competence is a skill, a capacity and the competencies, the capacities, the skills, pursued by the Ministry’s curricula are basically theoretical, esoteric and irrelevant, asking children for instance: ‘What is the history of Roman Numerals’. 

There is no teaching and learning that can exist without competencies, but the question is: What competencies? And in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technological Development, they pursue practical and productive competencies while the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is married to the opposite — elitism.               

Is it coincidence that the one who takes Dr Mutumbuka’s mantle is also like Dr Mutumbuka; a renowned scientist? They argue mistakenly that education is a soft science, but here we are, scientists are taking the lead in making revolutionary changes in our education.

It has been a long journey from Chifombo, in Zambia, where the first ZANU school was set up by Cde Sheba Tavarwisa in 1973. 

Cde Sheba and her colleagues developed an education suited to their needs in the struggle and they called it, ‘Education for Self-Reliance’. 

It was self-reliance that refused to use books imported from Rhodesia wholesale; they wrote their own text books, textbooks which reflected the ethos, content and context of the liberation struggle. 

It was education for self-reliance in the determination to produce for themselves with whatever they could, instead of relying completely on donors. 

So they wrote their own textbooks relevant to the struggle, grew their own food and produced whatever other items they could to meet their own needs in the struggle. 

The school was later moved to Mozambique, and as more children who were too young to be trained as fighters joined the struggle, the number of schools grew to eight.

When Cde Mutumbuka was elected the ZANU Secretary for Education and Culture at the historic Chimoio Meeting in 1977, with  Cde Tavarwisa as his deputy, ‘Education with Production’ was developed to a full-fledged system of education. 

This was the blueprint followed in the eight ZANU Schools catering for 30 000 learners.

Thus it was standard practice for the children to build their own barracks, not just some makeshift shelters but standard pole and thatch structures, scientifically constructed under the guidance of their instructors. 

They made good, comfortable and durable mattresses from grass, which they mounted on wooden bases which they made themselves. 

They ironed their clothes by placing the clothes between the mattresses and the beds and the clothes came out nicely ironed. 

The children worked big gardens that could feed the schools’ population which sometimes ran into thousands. The gardens are where they practised the theory learned in their agriculture classes. 

There was no furniture from anywhere. 

Students made their own furniture from bamboo which was readily available in some locations such as Matenje Base. 

THE physical structures at Matenje Base in Mozambique during the liberation struggle.

In other locations, they made furniture from other materials such as wood and reed. 

From these materials they made tables, chairs, benches; beautiful furniture at that. 

Schoolchildren also sewed their own uniforms

In the female commanders’ postos at Matenje, we  embroidered sack which we used as ceilings with mottos such as ‘ZANLA girls take after Mbuya Nehanda’,  ‘the people are invincible’ and some such revolutionary maxims. 

We experimented with local herbs to make soap and washed our hair with ‘ruredzo’, and it was as good as any shampoo.  

We made our own ‘blackboards’ and used charcoal as chalk to write on the blackboards.  

We produced our own teaching notes and duplicated them for teachers and lecturers. 

The Research Unit developed our own teacher training course, a programme based on education with production principles. 

It is on this programme that the ZINTEC Teacher Training Programme was based, and it is the ZINTEC Programme which made the greatest educational contribution to education for all in our quest to redress colonial imbalances which had marginalised the majority of Africans. 

Borrowing from this model from the struggle, today all our universities have transformed from using a purely theoretical approach; they now incorporate at least one year of practice and production.

We coped by being practical and productive, solving our daily problems and meeting our daily needs by developing homegrown solutions and we conquered.

This way, we effectively augmented what we received from donors and we were able to keep afloat.

This is the genesis of education in Zimbabwe; the genesis of Education 5.0, its source. 

These are the origins of Heritage Education which liberates. 

You stand tall and do your best with what you are endowed with. 

Each ZANU school in the struggle was a Chindunduma; the name deriving from ‘Hondo yeChindunduma’. 

Thus, these schools were the origins of the education revolution. 

The headquarters was at Matenje Base in the Tete Province and the young boys and girls proudly called Matenje ‘Chindunduma Youth Academy’. 

This is where Dr Mutumbuka was based.

In ZAPU schools, the story was the same.  

They called it polytechnic education and the young combatants who ensconced in the ZAPU schools in the struggle were in love with it.

In their metalwork classes, they produced cups, spoons, plates and trucks. 

In leatherwork classes, they made sandals and handbags, and they made exquisite furniture and basketry from reed and bamboo — these were export quality. 

They also learned to pan for salt which was not always easy to get in the struggle and yet was of critical importance. 

Their schooling was production oriented.

The schools also produced their own curricula to match their revolutionary philosophy of polytechnical education, an education to liberate the mind and the land.

This was the clarity of the liberation movements, these were the desires, the dreams of the founding fathers of Zimbabwe. 

This was the correct path which they planned for Zimbabwe. 

They correctly analysed that the elitist capitalist education of the British colonialists could never serve the masses but only the privileged few and so could never be the correct path for the liberation movements, whose mandate and mission was to serve the broad masses.

Fellow revolutionaries, such as cadres in the ANC of South Africa, were of the same correct analysis. 

They established the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Mozambique for South African schoolchildren. The college had a miniature furniture factory, a welding workshop, a farm and a clothes factory.

This was the true revolutionary path and Dr Mutumbuka was true to the cause. 

When the children from schools in the struggle came back to Zimbabwe after the revolutionary victory of the liberation movements, both ZANU and ZAPU commissioned Dr Mutumbuka, then ZANU Secretary for Education and Culture, and Minister of Education and Culture to work with the students and teachers from schools in the struggle to transform the nation’s education using the model developed in the struggle; to institute Education with Production, to marry theory to practice and production. 

In accordance with this commission, Dr Mutumbuka established the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production (ZIMFEP) to incubate this model in four schools for children from ZANU schools in the struggle and four schools with children from ZAPU schools in the struggle. 

From these eight pilot schools, the model would spread to the rest of the nation’s schools. 

The Government of Zimbabwe sited farms with plenty of water to settle each school. 

The schools flourished, with Dr Mutumbuka at the helm.

They were a shining example of marrying theory to practice; of education that meets social needs.  

Right from the beginning, they produced wheat and maize in excess of their needs and they sold the excess which raised revenue for the schools.  

With the wheat they produced, they baked bread for the schools’ consumption as well as for sale to the local communities. 

With the assistance of experts provided by the Government, they constructed their own schools, dormitories and teachers’ houses. 

In their woodwork classes, they still made furniture as in the struggle. 

From metalwork classes, they made door frames, window frames, burglar bars, stoves, hoes, which items were used by the schools, and were also sold to the nearby communities. 

Schools in Matabeleland were involved in productive activities such as leather tanning and making leather goods, just as in the struggle. 

Education with production was a winner, it was exciting. 

ZIMFEP reached out to other schools and established a network of associate schools. 

ZIMFEP graduates were assisted to form co-operatives which they did successfully. 

Black Umfolosi is one such music co-operative which has done very well. 

Others went into making tie and dye cloths, bread making, farming and other productive enterprises. 

As Education with Production graduates, entrepreneurship was one of the key tenets they had to master and the ZIMFEP School Leavers Department assisted them.

But with the departure of Dr Mutumbuka from Government, capitalism reared its ugly head and gradually everything so revolutionary and so special came to an end. 

The schools were taken over by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education during the reign of the late Minister Aneas Chigwedere.

However, as of 2020, ZANU PF repossessed its eight ZIMFEP schools and is busy resuscitating the revolutionary idea of Education with Production in those schools and still is pursuing the goal of transforming all the nation’s schools to the Education with Production model. 

But this is 43 years later and we are still in Round One.

The call of the founding fathers has been heard and heeded as Minister Murwira is translating these founding ideas into reality. 

It has been dubbed education 5.0 or, as Professor Murwira proudly calls it: Heritage Education – for we cannot protect our heritage as long as we specialise in speaking English, carrying briefcases and producing nothing. 

He entreats: “Let us change attitudes to ownership of what is ours, to produce our needs ourselves. Let us have correct knowledge and skills and with the right attitude, emancipate ourselves, become our own masters.”

Our universities and tertiary institutions now produce the nation’s needs, to a limited extent, yet but the trend is upward, more and more avenues are being opened for the local production of the nation’s requirements as is demonstrated by the production going on in the universities’ industrial parks. 

This is happening for the first time in our history. 

At Bindura University of Science Education for instance, students now translate the science they learn to make various products, such as drinks and cosmetics from the masau indigenous fruit. 

Who would have guessed or foretold? 

At UZ, engineering students now produce machinery to help farmers, the institution has factories producing cooking oil, bread and cattle feed, the list is long. Something has transformed, is transforming, at a very fast pace. 

In the Midlands, the Midlands State University boasts an Industrial Park where students are producing fruit juice from the fruits from the university farm and, in 2022, from the sales of the juice, the institution realised 112 million in profits. They also produce bottled water, protective clothing and hand sanitisers, degreasers and handwash.

They say you cannot kill a great idea. 

It has not been possible to kill education with production in the land.

Aluta continua!


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