Fitting award for champion of education

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THE recent conferment of President Robert Mugabe with a special award as a scholar of the century by the African Council for Distance Education marks yet another endorsement to his glowing legacy as one of the greatest leaders ever to grace this world.
The award is a fitting honour bestowed on this esteemed leader.
This is because; the African Council for Distance Education has 51 countries.
Long before he was given the award, there has been recognition of his contribution to the education sector in the country with his policies never in doubt.
More than three decades after independence, Zimbabwe now has the highest literacy rate in Africa of about 90 percent.
Prior to taking over power, the colonial regime sidelined Zimbabweans from acquiring education.
Only 12 percent of the 100 000 blacks who completed seven years of primary education proceeded to secondary education every year.
The colonial regime had come up with a restrictive law, the Native Education Department and the Education Act of 1979 which made sure that blacks received inferior education in the form a watered-down curriculum.
In 1980 President Mugabe’s Government made a pledge to ensure that education was a top priority for the people of Zimbabwe so that it would equip them with necessary and relevant skills to become drivers of their country.
In its 1980 election manifesto, ZANU PF highlighted education not only as a priority for every Zimbabwean, but as the engine that would drive Zimbabwe’s economic prospects for the better.
It said:
“The State will, under a ZANU PF Government, maintain a uniform educational system between African education and European education.
“It will be the Government’s major concern to maintain an education system of high quality in respect of both its organisation and content.
“The following will be cardinal principles:
1. The abolition of racial education and utilisation of the educational system to develop in the young generation a non- racial attitude, a common identity and common loyalty.
2. The establishment of free and compulsory primary and secondary education for all children regardless of race.
3. The abolition of sex discrimination in the education system.
4. The orientation of the educational system to national.
5. The basic right of every adult who had no or little educational opportunity to literacy and adult education.
6. The special role of education as a major instrument for social transformation (through the empowerment programmes that President Mugabe is pursuing).”
In 1976, over half of Zimbabwe’s black population, at that time estimated to be around seven million people were under the age of 15, yet only 846 260 of them were in primary school.
According to the Monthly Digest of Statistics more than half of all black children admitted to school dropped out before completing their primary education, and only a tiny fraction, around zero to five percent reached the Sixth Form.
This was as a result of the racist settler regime well calculated and crafted policy of systematically sidelining blacks from acquiring education through hostile policies, prohibitive fees and discriminatory laws such as the Education Act.
The revolution of the country’s education system began under the leadership of President Mugabe and ZANU PF in September 1980 with the provision of free primary school education for all children in Zimbabwe.
With these favourable conditions, parents who previously could not afford sending their children to school could now do so.
President Mugabe and ZANU PF implemented this under a policy called ‘Education for All’, a policy which ensured near-universal education at both primary and secondary levels.
As a result, school enrolment at both primary and secondary school levels dramatically increased with total enrolment increasing from 850 000 in 1980 to
2 560 413 pupils in 2010 for primary schools.
In secondary schools, it increased to
1 897 106 in 2010 from 71 321 in 1980.
The same increases were witnessed in higher and tertiary Institutions with teachers training colleges increasing from four in 1980 to 15 in 2010, universities from one in 1980 to 13 in 2010, and polytechnical colleges from two in 1980 to 10 in 2010.
During the same period enrolment at universities increased from 1 000 in 1980 to 55 000 in 2010, at polytechnics it has increased from 2 000 in 1980 to 15 000 in 2010, while at teachers’ colleges it has risen from 1 000 in 1980 to 20 000 in 2010.
All these achievements were and still are premised in the future projections made by the party in 1980 which included and still include the stocking of rural areas with modern technology so that the education being offered responds and adapts to the demands of modern day.
The Government of President Mugabe also came up with a facility to cater for the underprivileged so that they could acquire education through the provision of school fees.
Called the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), the programme assists poor students to acquire education after realisation by Government that some children were failing to attend school as a result of failure by some parents to pay school fees due to the colonialism induced poverty.
The programme has so far managed to reduce the number of children dropping out of school and is now reaching out to those who have never been to school due to financial limitations and so far 1 000 000 have benefitted since its inception.
President Mugabe has also initiated the Presidential Scholarship Programme that has so far seen more than 5 000 academically gifted students from disadvantaged families countrywide and those that would have failed to secure places at local universities because of stiff competition for places being sponsored to study for various degree programmes at universities in South Africa.
Candidates for the programme are sought from all the country’s provinces and those that are successful pursue studies in agriculture, law, education, social sciences, arts, theology and pure sciences.
President Mugabe and ZANU PF also established satellite schools in newly resettled areas so that children can get education and by 2010 more than 1 000 had been established.
To give education a sound footing, the sector received the highest vote totalling ZW$223 million in the 1980 National Budget and today it continues to enjoy the same privilege in successive budgets that have followed since then.
Let those with ears listen.

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