By Dr Ireen Mahamba
OUR children know they are Zimbabwean, and deep down they each have a specific identity and theirs is Zimbabwean.
Psychologically, they are Zimbabwean, thus being Zimbabwean goes deeper than their mental functioning, it goes down to the self.
Like all other children in the world, they want to love themselves, they want to love who they are, they want to love their chocolate skins, their short curly hair, their brown, black eyes, they want to love their African bodies, everything that is part of their heritage.
But we caused them to deny themselves, and then we turn around and say these ‘Born Frees’, they are like this or that and yet it is us who make them so.
They are not born wanting to be white, but it is us who make them so. Tisu tine nhomba yehurungu.
The children know that whites look down on them and this hurts them, deep inside.
They are dying to live in a world in which it is special to be African, Zimbabwean, they long to be at peace with themselves, with their families, their relatives, everything they love, they long for a world in which it is the best thing to be African and Zimbabwean, a world in which it is fashionable to eat African food, to dress African, to walk like an African, to dance like an African.
This longing is natural, because it is what is natural for people to love themselves.
What is not natural is to deny oneself, to dislike oneself, when that happens, it means the self has been disturbed, it is no longer functioning as it should and something has to be corrected.
Dr Franz Fanon, a renowned revolutionary psychoanalyst, correctly identified this condition in his book, Black Skin White Masks, as one in which the colonised internalise the white colonial master and hate themselves, but we in Zimbabwe do not need to be victims of such, 33 years after independence.
So our children yearn to be themselves, but what do they find?
They find a world in which the odds are stacked against them, everybody celebrates their first English word, “uyu chirungu haabviri?” They cannot help telling their friends how well their children speak English, and they insincerely lament “ah, their vernacular is not so good mhoti!”
When the children come into the classroom, we ice the cake, instead of us redeeming them and restoring them to their true identity they so yearn for deep down, we alienate them further, the teaching and learning content and context is still contrary to that which they are, that which they long to find in their world, their home world and their school world and the problem is compounded.
As a result the children cannot find themselves, so they cannot relate and when they cannot relate, they do not engage, and when they do not engage, the desire to learn is extrinsic and not intrinsic, so it does not work, their performance is mediocre and we cry foul as if it is not us who have fouled.
We have to start at the beginning and ensure that our children are truly who they are.
When they see white children or children of any nationality being happy with themselves, being content with who they are, enjoying their national food, their families and relatives in their cultural ways, they wish the same for themselves, they want to be on par with them, they want to be people in their own right, they do not want to be photocopies of others, they know that they are ‘originals’ as they are and that should be respected, they know that they are equal to anyone in the world.
In learning matrix, the most decisive factor is the child, and if this child is not in the best state, it cannot connect with what it learns then we do not make much difference.
Each person has to be at peace with themselves before they can be at peace with everyone else, and everything else, thus our children have to be at peace if they are to give their best in school or anywhere else.
The children know what is correct in themselves.
They know that they are Zimbabwean and when we go against the grain something does not work in them.
They cannot sing their song in a strange land.
Dr Mahamba is a war veteran and holds a PhD from Havard University. She is currently doing consultancy work.