Is Zim education walking a tight rope?: Part Two……how far should colonial system of education remain intact?


PRIOR to colonisation, traditional African education was mainly rooted in the land for survival and self-perpetuation.
Children were taught how to handle and operate homestead facilities, to conserve and cultivate land, to rear cattle; practise traditional industry, trade and ensure the future welfare of the inhabitants and environment.
Girls were taught traditional domestic science; how to bring food to the table; where to find and how to fetch water; to get and use firewood and to maintain self hygiene and the environment.
These elements were taught to ensure sustainable survival of the community.
Girls and boys were taught separately in their formative years; to prepare each gender for their adult roles in society, with every member of the community contributing to the instructive upbringing of the child.
This included socio-cultural etiquette, deportment, hygiene and sexual reproductive health; culminating in a child with hunhu/ubuntu common to many prototype African education systems.
Pedagogy in most traditional African societies was equally straightforward; initiation, imitation, practice and finally creativity, production, self-sufficiency and trade.
Education was a combination of honing psycho-motor skills, developing linguistic and communication skills, imparting cultural philosophy, environmental awareness and the practice and theory of one’s particular craft or profession (humhizha).
In early traditional Zimbabwean societies, education included such disciplines as oral literature, manual computation, hunting, animal husbandry, agriculture, botany, traditional agronomy, cosmology and African meteorology, domestic science, hygiene, knowledge and use of herbal medicine, clay moulding, sculpting, construction, iron-smithing, weaponry, carpentry and artistic performances.
In these instances, education and responsible citizenry resonated with the child’s source culture.
The institutionalisation of education today, has since removed it from the people and the immediate community.
With this in mind, should the first ‘school’ not be the home, as in the past, where parents taught their children the ‘rights and wrongs’ and ‘dos and don’ts’ of living harmoniously and respectfully within the society and environment?
Today the ideal citizen must acquire enterprise skills, digital literacy, appreciate environmental issues and demonstrate literary and practical competencies necessary for life.
However, have we defined our educational needs?
Have the present crop of educated African ‘elite’ failed to spearhead meaningful growth and development in education in Africa, let alone in Zimbabwe?
As the respective African countries attained their independence, Zimbabwe in particular, was aware of the need to develop relevant education curricula of our own, since most post-colonial African education was based on Western experiences.
The key issue has become: How?
Education in Africa began as a tool to prepare the neophyte to take his/her place in their respective and immediate societies and not necessarily for life outside of Africa.
When European colonialism and imperialism took place in 1890 in Zimbabwe, it changed many indigenous systems of instruction.
Instruction was no longer simply about social responsibility, function, rituals and rites of passage.
Instruction in colonised Zimbabwe meant acquiring an education that would build a force of human resource for servitude to sustain their Western economies.
But when a nation has been set free from the shackles of colonialism and are no longer the ‘beasts of burden’, some unfortunately have become fond of the chains of imperialism.
For some it has become the template of normalcy and opportunity.
This is why when there is talk of a new Zimbabwean curriculum, some ask: What is wrong with Cambridge, or AEB Examinations?
In fact, should we not develop a Zimbabwean education curriculum that surpasses the limits set by Cambridge, or AEB?
Given it is the beginning of a new scholastic year, with the impending Grade Seven, Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations being topical, I thought it important to examine education, which is critical for the empowerment of Zimbabwean individuals with the most appropriate knowledge and skills, for any given environment and our national development.
The pre-independent system of education and training in colonial Zimbabwe was based on racial discrimination and unequal accessibility to education.
Cecil John Rhodes and his company created Christian missionary schools to serve local indigenous communities, mainly to facilitate their conversion to Christianity.
The limited missionary Euro-centric education offered was for foundational skills that focused on carpentry, building, agricultural and industrial production for worker exploitation, thus reducing their chances of better employment.
The system kept the indigenous subordinate to white colonists in order to advance imperial political and economic gains.
At independence, the Government of Zimbabwe allocated 17,3 percent of the total national budget towards education.
It was politically considered an ‘education miracle’.
The United Nations International Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF) said: “Zimbabwe’s education system was one of the most developed on the African continent.”
Ultimately, Zimbabwe’s education system reform was to ensure equal access to education by providing primary and secondary education to all children.
The objective of Government policy was to provide full primary education for all African children; to ensure that all Africans were able to read, write, spell and count, universal literacy at its lowest point of definition was their initial aim.
Until 1964 African education was assumed free in Government schools. However, moderate fees were charged at most mission schools which comprised 90 percent of the school system for Africans.
School fees were introduced, although thought to be modest, taxed the low-earning resources of most African parents.
This later resulted in national school boycotts against fees in 1966, mounted by nationalist political activists.
The 1966 Rhodesian Educational Act provided for compulsory education for white, Asian and coloured children between the ages of seven and 15.
However, education was not compulsory for African children.
In order to reinforce the dehumanisation of the indigenous people as merely a reservoir of cheap labour, in 1966 the colonial government introduced an educational policy that restricted access, transition and progression through various educational levels, by monitoring and limiting the number of indigenous students who could get access to secondary education.
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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