Education for liberation and empowerment…whispers for new Zimbabwe

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I HAVE heard many people saying November 21 2017 is a second independence day for Zimbabwe.
It is, in a number of ways, but I will not dwell much on the reason why we say so, for I believe that those who have been in Sodom cannot be tutored on what hell looks like.
My interest is to move on and talk about reconfiguring a fundamental institution which should champion our route to recovery and growth.
And that institution is education.
I shall begin with an analysing its current configuration paying special attention to the limitations that require immediate redress.
Can I begin with a shocking revelation?
Did you know that in spite of the fact that Zimbabwe is the most literate country in Africa, it is the only country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that does not have a National Qualification Framework (NQF)?
All other SADC countries including Lesotho and the new entrant Seychelles have their NQFs.
When you ask why, you get the tantalising answer: Because we have three Ministries of Education (Psychomotor; Primary and Secondary; and Higher and Tertiary) which do not share anything, headed by ministers of varying and tangential propensities.
They serve not the nation but their own egos.
What dissonance is this?
And yet mind you the NQF is the standard against all educational qualifications, skills and competencies.
A NQF can be described as an instrument for classification of qualifications.
The qualifications are incorporated on different levels in the NQF according to a set of criteria for the learning achieved.
Establishing a NQF in Pakistan has potential to promote transparency and progression and to provide a framework for more robust quality assurance mechanisms.
Also, a NQF has potential to improve linkages between labour market needs of competences and provision of such competences from the education sector.
The focus on qualifications frameworks all over the world displays a variety of objectives.
These aims must be regarded according to the different contexts of countries but international experience shows that aims of a NQF may include:
– Establishing national standards of qualifications.
– Providing a model for transparency and comparison of qualifications.
– Promoting quality of education and training provision and development.
– Strengthening access to learning and progression in learning.
– Supporting lifelong learning.
– Improving recognition of prior learning.
– Creating an instrument for change in the education system.
– Expanding possibilities for international recognition of qualifications.
– Increasing coherence between education output and needs of the labour market.
I have just highlighted these objectives to show you how critical a NQF is.
And yet we do not have one just because personalities heading the critical ministries do not like each other with each doing their own thing.
This is tragic.
Even more so, considering that SADC as a region now has a Regional Qualification Framework (RQF) of which Zimbabwe is a part without its own.
And then you begin to wonder why all these ministries instead of just one well-co-ordinated Ministry of Education!
Efforts to embark on the development of the Zimbabwean NQF were stalled because personalities in the different education ministries have different priorities and exercise rigid ministerial sovereignties. In fact, the media is awash with records of verbal sallies ministers, deputy ministers and permanent secretaries making a fool of each and accusing each other of territorial violations at the expense of the development of a holistic education enterprise for Zimbabweans.
There are many other dissonances and structural dislocations caused by creating parallel ministries addressing the same subject.
One needs to look at the central role of education to understand the argument I am putting here that it can only be best served from a single plate.
At its best, education equips individuals with the skills and substantive knowledge that allow them to participate in the life of their community as fully-fledged citizens.
How education is defined, the purpose to which it is put, the selection of the content, methodology, activities and evaluation procedures are the real focus of a national philosophy of education.
Put simply, the question to ask is: Whose philosophy calls the tune in all aspects of the education process?
The national vision must imbue every facet of education, but it can only do so if it is shared.
Now, if heads of ministries of education do not plan together, how does one expect the lofty goals of education to be achieved?
Recently, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education introduced a new curriculum.
This curriculum, however good or bad, was a product of a national survey/consultation which completely excluded the other two ministries.
The teachers who are supposed to teach this new curriculum are trained in teachers’ colleges which belong not to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, but to the other Ministry, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education Science and Technology Development that happens not to have any clue about the new curriculum just like the teachers they train.
Does one need to be a rocket scientist to see that tiri kutuma mapofu kundomema hunza?
Why are we killing our children?
To make matters worse, the examining body, ZIMSEC, although housed in the same location as the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) in Mt Pleasant, also do not share anything in common.
Quite often, you find syllabus objectives and assessment objectives at a tangent, implying that learners learn what is not examined on one hand and on the other, are examined on what they have not learned.
This discordance must stop and as we march into the new era we need to embark on serious structural realignments and forge ahead with a transformed curriculum co-ordinated from one conscious base.
Our entire curricula across institutions require an immediate facelift beginning with indigenising it and orientating it towards job-creation, of course in line with global trends.
And allow me to end with a reminder from Shakespeare:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.” — Julius Caesar Act 4, Scene 3, 218-224

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