Is Zim education walking a tight rope?: Part One


THE education system inherited by Zimbabwe from the colonial powers was designed for the formal sector and public administration and not for the overall development of indigenous entrepreneurship.
In contemporary times, during the first 20 years of independence, Zimbabwe witnessed incredible strides in education through school expansion, teacher training and resource improvement.
‘Growth with equity’ is the core driving principle adopted by the Zimbabwean Government to enable the Government to redress the inherited inequities and imbalances in access to basic needs such as education, health facilities and social services for the indigenes.
Primary schooling was made tuition-free and resulted in gross admission rates that exceeded 100 percent.
By the end of the first decade of independence, Zimbabwe had achieved universal primary education.
Missionaries conducted the first Western formal education in Zimbabwe.
After the arrival of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) and the European settlers in 1890, finding it easier to spread their influence among the indigenous people, the company administration created Christian missionary schools to serve and convert local communities.
For the missionaries, indigenes in Zimbabwe were considered inherently inferior beings, described by missionaries as ‘wild, barbarous and uncivilised’.
For many years therefore, education in Zimbabwe was the preserve of the Church within missionary-established schools.
Their main aim was to bring ‘morality’, ‘light’ and ‘civility’ to ‘barbaric’ communities.
The colonial administrators limited education and censored knowledge in schools in order to control thinking of the local population.
Education offered to Africans had limited academic and foundational skills in order to promote exploitation of cheap labour and indentured servitude.
The missionary schools provided education for the indigenous population that focused on agricultural production and industrial development, including carpentry and building.
Mission schools as the source of formal education for indigenous people retained (and still retain) a strong religious affiliation, while the colonial settler governments provided education primarily to white children.
Formal education in colonial Zimbabwe was a creation and product of a foreign dominant culture formulated and structured around the 19th Century British middle-class education system that reinforced the superiority of white settlers even though they were the minority.
Missionary schools perpetuated social and economic repression of the indigenous population by reducing their chances of earning well-paying jobs or positions of power.
The missionaries’ assignment was to convert many indigenous people through schooling the ‘converted’ to preach and translate the Bible to ‘heathens’.
Their education system supported imperialism as well as colonialism and its evolution was parallel to the imposition of colonial rule.
The Church identified itself with Anglo-Saxon civilisation and culture; simultaneously perpetuating elitist cultural values of the British colonial society; values that fostered racism and ethno-centrism.
These elitist cultural values associated with the ‘civilised’ middle-class were used to justify, rationalise and legitimise British imperialism and superiority.
In Rhodesia, the religious and educational state machinery was used to compel indigenous people to conform to the colonial British middle-class culture.
The British colonial philosophy discounted African indigenous knowledge systems which were never considered important and rendered invisible and devalued by their dominant colonial cultural systems, promoting the myth of their superiority and Western worldviews.
Both the missionaries and the colonial administrators introduced an educational system designed to deliberately and unequivocally marginalise Africans while strengthening and sustaining African domination.
In 1939, with assistance from the colonial government, following the Anglican Church, missionaries established the first secondary school for Africans at St Augustine’s in Penhalonga.
In 1945, the colonial government had assumed full responsibility for African primary education in urban areas with 42 schools built by 1957; being fewer than 101 schools under the Church’s control.
In 1946, the colonial government opened its first state-controlled secondary school at Goromonzi and its second, Fletcher, in Gweru in 1957.
The established secondary schools were a carefully worked-out strategy by the colonial authority aimed at ultimately gaining control of church policies on secondary education and its curriculum.
The missionaries were the pioneers in the area of post-secondary education, with 33 colleges; 24 of which offered post-primary teacher training; pre-service training for teachers was given at Waddilove Mission, Howard Mission, St Paul’s Musami and Nyadire Mission.
The remaining nine were engaged in post-secondary teacher education.
Later, the colonial government provided training facilities at a few educational institutions by establishing an indigenous teachers’ training college in 1955 in Mutare, which was opened in 1957.
Throughout colonial Rhodesia, the education system was racially segregated and disproportionately funded.
For many years, the colonial government paid attention mainly to funding European education, while African education survived on grants-in-aid allocated to missionaries.
The era was characterised by discriminatory policies that marginalised and disadvantaged the majority of the population.
Between 1951 and 1955, expenditure for African education was £2 209 389 (42 percent of the total education budget) against the vote for European education of £3 096 175 (58 percent of the total education budget).
The discrepancy became even more apparent when one considers that there were about
50 000 white pupils against
800 000 African pupils; according to the Government of Zimbabwe, (2005); the annual cost per white child was £126 compared to £6 per African child — (Government of Zimbabwe, 2005).
In the 1970s, although white settlers represented less than one percent of the country’s total population, the annual budget for their education was at least 10 times more than that spent on indigenous children who represented 99 percent of the school population.
By 1971, due to inadequate funding of African education, only 43,5 percent of African children of school-going age were in school.
A two-tier system was installed, dividing between African and European schools by the Ministry of Education, when the colonial government took a degree of control of some urban schools; one being responsible for African education and the other responsible for white settler education.
The Zimbabwe-Rhodesia government, formed briefly in 1979, called for an education reform that created a three-tier school system.
The Education Act of 1979 regulated access to each type of school through a zoning system based on residency.
The education system divided into government schools, community schools and private schools.
Government schools were again divided into three types: Group ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’.
White students historically attended Group ‘A’ schools located in white suburbs and denied housing opportunities for indigenous Africans, offered highly trained teachers and a quality education; reinforcing segregation based on ethnicity and race.
With less resources, funding and qualified faculty compared to Group ‘A’ schools, Group ‘B’ schools required a low-fee payment and ‘C’ schools did not require fees beyond educational materials.
The arrival of European colonialism in Zimbabwe, as elsewhere in Africa, led to the forced imposition of colonial Western worldview, which was largely responsible for not only the deliberate distortion of the traditional systems of education already in position, but also of the comprehensive indigenously-based programmes of development that were achieved and established over hundreds of years.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practising artist and Corporate Image Consultant. He is also a specialist Art Consultant, Post-Colonial Scholar, Zimbabwean Socio-Economic analyst and researcher.
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