How to teach our children to be heirs of Zimbabwe

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DURING the liberation struggle, the comrades, freedom fighters were the heroes of our children.
Both at home in the villages and in the camp schools at the rear.
At home in the villages, the children loved to be associated with the freedom fighters.
If you spoke to a child and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they would say ‘a comrade’, if you said ‘a soldier?’ they would say ‘no, a comrade’.
In their minds the comrades were not the same as the soldiers.
They clearly understood the reality that the soldiers were the enemy and the comrades were one with them.
Their feelings towards the comrades were very positive.
They admired the freedom fighters and they too wanted to join them hence some of them crossed the border to Mozambique and Zambia even if they were too young to be allowed to take up arms, they were already comrades at heart, they were freedom fighters.
Similarly in the camp schools the children could not wait to be trained.
Many times the children would run away to the military camps to be trained so they could join the others and fight for the freedom of their country.
The current administrator of the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production, comrade Kanda is one of those who ran away from the camp schools to be trained.
Although he was under age, he got away with it because he had ‘a big body’; he laughs as he boasts today.
So he got trained ahead of the many other youngsters who still burned with desire to be trained so they could go home and fight.
In the camp schools what they learned related to the liberation struggle, they understood perfectly that the struggle had to do with their destiny as Zimbabweans and they wanted to be part of it.
It cultivated in them a love for Zimbabwe and a burning desire to free it.
They were part and parcel of the struggle as they read:
“We are all fighting to free Zimbabwe from the settlers
Father and mother are fighting too
The boys and girls are fighting for their country.
“The men of Zimbabwe.
“The women of Zimbabwe.
“The youth of Zimbabwe.” – (ZANU Education and Culture Department 1979)
So at home in the villages at the front and at the rear, there was unity of purpose through and through such that even the children identified with the liberation struggle.
Thus there was no way we could have lost the liberation war.
The unity of purpose, the focus on the goal of freeing our country ensured our victory.
There was total mobilisation and the call to fight for Zimbabwe caught on like wild fire in the middle of summer.
Today however, what one sees in the teaching and learning materials in our schools is that heroism is not centeredaround the same goals for which the liberation struggle was fought.
In many cases, the heroes put before our children are not even Zimbabwean.
Heroism is no longer centred around the freedom fighters and the goals they fought for.
The comrades who not only fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe, but also championed the Third Chimurenga, a milestone in the fulfillment of the goals of the liberation struggle and who to this day remain the custodians of the revolution are no more the heroes of our children.
Neither is the heroism centred on those who toiled daily with the freedom fighters, giving logistical support and intelligence, vanamai, vana baba, vanasekuru, vanambuya, vakomana navasikana who fed and clothed the liberation forces, and who were their eyes and ears, who protected them with their minds and hearts.
It is not centred on our armed forces who protect Zimbabwe with their very lives 24/7, our body guards who ensure that we carry on with our lives in security, nor is it centred on our Police Force, without whom it is not possible to lead normal lives.
In the children’s books we do not find a celebration of the heroism that has achieved landmark strides in what is so intrinsically important to each Zimbabwean; the heroic struggle to immunise, to bring basic health care to each and every Zimbabwean, to bring primary education within reach of each and every Zimbabwean child, to bring electricity and running water to parts of Zimbabwe that would never have dreamt of it before independence, to make university education universally accessible where there had only been one university at independence and now there are 12 and the heroic struggle of the new farmers, how they their lives have been transformed by their new status as land owners and how they in turn are transforming Zimbabwe.
The children’s heroes are not the lone doctor who mans a district hospital out in the depths of our rural areas single handed, nor the simple teacher who struggles to teach out there with very little to ameliorate his or her life, sometimes with no electricity or running water.
Our children need to know what is happening in their country, what is important in their country.
This is what will inspire them, what will motivate them and commit them to their nation’s cause.
There needs to be a tally between what the nation has achieved and is striving to achieve with what we teach our children.
We need to give the children something to be excited about, something that gives them a deeper meaning in life, a cause around which to mobilise their energies.
We don’t want to lose the so much they have to offer, we need to allow them to celebrate the true heroism in Zimbabwe, we need to show them their real Zimbabwean heroes so they too can yearn to be heroes for their nation, for their people.
Dr Mahamba is a war veteran and holds a PhD from Havard University. She is currently doing consultancy work.

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