Is Zimbabwean education walking a tight rope?: Part Four….update teachers with new curriculum

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HOPING to assist the operation and development of education, School Development Committees were established through the Education Act of 2006 (Chapter 25:08).
These committees also assisted to decentralise the education system and the highly centralised structure of Government by enabling parents to elect five other parents to lead a school.
The committees are overseen and established by the School Parents Assembly for parents and guardians of school-going children to participate in developing Zimbabwe’s schools.
The purpose of School Development Committees, according to the Government’s Statutory Instrument 87 of 1992, is to:
l Provide and assist in the operation and development of public schools.
l Advance the moral, cultural, physical and intellectual well-being of students.
l Promote the welfare of the school for the benefit of its present and future students and their parents and teachers
l School Development Committees have a duty to control the quality of the school system.
Their powers include the recruitment and dismissal of teachers (outside of Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education employment), the preservation of facilities and the act of borrowing money and applying for grants.
Prior to the Nziramasanga Report (1999), the ‘Judges’ Commission’ was carried out 35 years earlier in 1962 by the colonial government into ‘the African’ education.
This was followed by the Lewers-Taylor Committee’s Report, also based exclusively on African education.
Zimbabwe’s focus on expanding education opportunities since 1990 has resulted in 3 120 000 children attending school in 2015, with the highest literacy rate in Africa at 91 percent for students aged between 15 to 24 years.  
The Nziramasanga Commission’s recommendations were not timeously implemented to the detriment of the country’s education sector.
It was overridden, instead, by the Government’s decision to localise the examination body from Cambridge to Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC).
The old curriculum was based on the ideological axis of the first ordinance of 1899, crafted by the colonisers under Rhodes in order to control and target African education for servitude, which is inimical to us. So, does a cross in the right place, in multiple choice examinations, constitute knowledge or the understanding of competence matrix of the subject?
Two decades later, since the 1999 Nziramasanga Report, the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) together with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education are developing a new educational curriculum.
But we must ask ourselves: What do we want this curriculum to achieve?
Interrupted by 100 years of colonial subjugation, the process of our organic and holistic development of our educational identity is still distorted by the adoption of Western values and aspirations.
Today we have people ‘googling’ Australia, US, Canada, Britain, South Africa and India, among other countries, for answers to our educational development programmes, when the answers are in our faces.
Since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the Government’s focus has been to provide free and equal education for all.
Most educational policies, however, have been ‘quantitative’ rather than ‘qualitative’, hindering the quality of education substantially.
The rapid expansion of education and failure of available resources to keep up with demand resulted in improvements and developments being rather short-term, with shortages of both qualified human capital and material resources.
This has resulted in the preference of students and parents for a traditional, academic education of the sort often denied blacks under colonial rule over the new, more practical and vocational-oriented curriculum.
The crux of the matter is, we have semi-educated people without life experience and that most of the acquired knowledge is theoretical which cannot be applied to local circumstances.
As such, we have actually not started to address these anomalies.
We may have a curriculum which may address the knowledge gaps chronologically and academically in our educational system, but the bigger question is: How do we address this anomaly?
There are several concerns that face educational development at the moment:
l Have we caught up with the rapid acceleration of systems of bodies of knowledge worldwide via digital education?
l What future do we envisage for our students – technologically/theoretically/practically?
l Is the curriculum to be retrospective or futuristic?
l How much of this information do we control or have?
l Do we have the human resources and scholarship to be able to bring this curriculum to fruition? If we do, on whose standards?
The re-discovery of self and identity in the bigger scheme of all things Zimbabwean should be a paramount component of our education system.
Over a century after colonisation in 1890, do we know ourselves?
We need to articulate our identity and ideology in the curriculum.
There is a tendency for people to rest on their laurels saying Zimbabwe has the best education in Africa, yet even in terms of internet connectivity, places like Mali, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia have far better research materials, educational publications and internet connectivity than us.
While we should not use comparisons based on the disparity of technological advancements in the various African countries, what we have in Zimbabwe is the best of African and occidental educational systems, brought about by default, colonialism and a robust African system of consciousness.
No other African country is eulogised for their education, elocution and hard work than Zimbabwe.
We are a studious people.
In Namibia, Botswana and Lesotho, absenteeism is rife; children are forced to go to school, whereas in Zimbabwe parents struggle hard to send their children to school and monitor them.
There must be many retired Zimbabwean teachers experienced in pedagogy who may need to be brought on board because they are the vital link between the previous systems of education and the current system.
They are cognisant of the anomalies between the two and should be called back into the system.
Teachers, headmistresses and headmasters are people we should hold in high esteem.
They are charged with the development of our nation.
By placing teachers without the requisite knowledge to transmit this new knowledge, we are taking education to retrogressive dumps.
By 2016, the current Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education foresees that every new curriculum teacher would have been in service or undergone training pertaining to the new national curriculum.
New teachers who are already qualified in terms of the new courses or revised course content as well as new methodologies and ideological orientation will be in great demand.
The upliftment of the livelihoods and relevance of the curriculum to the majority of Zimbabweans will come from a radicalised, developmental, patriotic and practical all-embracing curriculum.
Education in Zimbabwe has to be a balancing act between our own traditional education and pedagogy and that of Western systems in order for us to be effective citizens nationally and internationally.
Zimbabwe cannot afford to compromise because our children’s destiny is at stake.
Today’s educational tight-rope that developing nations have to tread is one which should include our traditional knowledge, values and history together with a universal educational system.
We need to re-endow our education with the dignity and value system it deserves.
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.
For views and comments, email: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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