“We refuse to be
What you wanted us to be;
We are what we are:
That’s the way it’s going to be. You don’t know
You can’t educate I
For no equal opportunity
Babylon system is the vampire
Suckin’ the children day by day
Me say de Bablon system is the vampire, falling
Suckin’ the blood of the sufferers
Building church and university
Deceiving the people continually”
SOMETHING never works if some people never tell the truth.
At Independence, the Ministry of Education and Culture took a landmark decision, that the Ministry’s Curriculum Development Units, then PEDU and PEDU would not only develop new syllabi, but would also write the accompanying teaching and learning materials for both teachers and pupils.
This was critical in ensuring that the transformation of the curriculum in line with the goals and aspirations of a new independent Zimbabwe would be effective.
This was a departure from the colonial system which left the production of teaching and learning materials to publishers.
This set up produced magnificent results for the first decade of independence.
There was consonance between the new syllabi and the teaching and learning materials and for this period of the Curriculum Development Unit carried the Zimbabwe flag proudly, beautifully.
After 1989, the unit began to disintegrate finally scaling down to the present situation where it is back to square one; the Ministry only produces syllabi and the publishers write the teaching and learning materials.
This is the kind of unholy alliance that existed during the colonial period.
What is disturbing about the re-incarnation of this unholy alliance is that during the colonial period there was a perfect fit between the goals of the colonial regime and those of the publishers hence the teaching and learning materials produced by the publishers flew the Rhodesian flag high; children read and sang ‘London Bridge is Falling’, and read about London’s Double Decker buses, and also read that Mbuya Nehanda was a witch whose most glorious moment was overseeing the murder of an innocent whiteman.
Today the leopard has not changed its spots and yet it is supposed to complement the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and sing our song, the song of the people of Zimbabwe.
How is that possible?
If you go through the children’s text books produced by commercial publishers, and approved by the Ministry, there is much that brings you to grief.
But it is even more disturbing when it is about something as fundamental to the nation as the issue of our independence.
A Ventures New English Syllabus Grade 6 text book published by College Press and approved by the Ministry, talks about Zimbabwe’s Independence; that it is on April 18 and that it came after a long liberation war.
It also talks about Heroes Acre, that the heroes of the struggle are buried at heroes, and we should all remember our heroes of the liberation struggle.
Well and good perhaps, but what was the struggle about? Independence from what or who?
Why was it necessary for people to fight and die for independence? These questions are not answered.
This is amazing!
How can our children appreciate the liberation struggle when they are denied kernel of what it was all about.
The British are left unscathed, that a British company led by Cecil John Rhodes led an armed invasion of our country, brutally took over power and control of our land, mineral resources and everything that is in it is not mentioned.
People don’t just fight a long liberation war in order to be independent without causes, people are not senseless, but this is what our children are meant to believe.
That the people of Zimbabwe took up arms to fight an evil that had descended on them, the evil of British colonialism is securely locked away from Zimbabwe’s children.
Jules Henry, an American curriculum authority, in his critique of American Education as ‘Education for Stupidity’, chronicled how the American education curriculum stupefies its citizens by systematically misinforming them so that they can think as the state wants them to.
It becomes education for stupidity if our children are denied the truth and instead are told things that do not make sense.
Bob Marley echoes Jules Henry when he sings of the Babylon System (representing America and the oppressive Western World) accusing it of: “Building church and university!
“Deceiving the people continually!
“Me say them gradutin’ thieves and murderers; Look out now: they suckin’ the blood of the sufferers.”
This is what is happening, this is what is being done to our children.
The Babylon system is very secure, unchallenged in a book approved for study by our children.
What kind of Zimbabweans will they turn out to be?
Certainly not heirs?
And it is obvious, College Press is not interested in them turning out to be heirs, fair and fine, but then leave our children to ourselves.
‘None but ourselves shall set us free’, sung Bob Marley in another song. As long as those with an agenda inimical to us educate our children, we shall never achieve mental freedom, we shall never achieve our goals.
Why give the children an empty calabash and hold it to them so gingerly as if it is filled to the brim with pure spring water.
That is deception.
Even to this day, 33 years after independence, the wrath of the colonial master is not spared on our children.
At the end of the passage on independence in this book, instead of the national anthem of Zimbabwe, there is a song by a certain Cecil something, talking of a nameless country loved dearly.
This continual denial of Zimbabwe and its rightful place in our children’s hearts is not incidental, it is meant to ensure that our children do not grow to love their Zimbabwe, that they do not feel like heirs of Zimbabwe and that they never turn out to be so.
The profound lyrics of our national anthem are a fundamental education each Zimbabwean child has a right to, our children should never be denied this special relationship with their country
So where shall our children learn about the national anthem if not in their school books?
During colonial rule, we were made to sing ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’ at Assembly every day, it seems we can’t even insist that our children read about it in school books.
The colonial regime certainly had its act together, do we?
Dr Mahamba is a war veteran and holds a PhD from Havard University. She is currently doing consultancy work.