‘Our children’s future is in our hands’

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By Charles T.M.J. Dube

LAST Saturday, I was watching the Junior Parliament session on television.
I could see children being acquainted with parliamentary democracy and governance.
I could also see children learning to speak out to their environment about the things that affect them and others.
The Junior Parliament is programmed to coincide with the Day of the African Child.
The 220 child-parliamentarians are elected from across the provinces by other children and reflect gender parity; there are 110 female and 110 male child-parliamentarians.
Four of the five officers of Parliament are female.
I was impressed by the youths’ ability to articulate issues that affect them and bringing to the attention of the official Cabinet portfolio holders and getting policy issues articulated at their own behest.
My mind took me to our own days when we used to make our own toys.
How we could mold all manner of animals or objects from our environment, including planes and cars, ducks, dogs, cattle, houses and all from clay.
There were those who were so gifted.
Some of the cars made out of wire were quite a novelty.
We had nhodo (some pebble-throwing and scoring gymnastics), tsoro yamakomba (yomutatu, muna, mutanhatu) and sema, a game I have always thought could be developed into an Olympic game.
We made our own wind instruments, including the whistle.
All being exploitation of waste material and the environment.
We were proud of whatever we had.
Then as we got more and more ‘educated’; the more ‘educated and prosperous’ bought their children factory-made toys.
Children who were otherwise independent in terms of organising their entertainment world became all of a sudden dependent on a father’s pocket for entertainment.
These parents, who themselves had lost all their originality and independence in terms of livelihood (depending on formal employment from multi-nationals or civil service) also passed it on to their children.
Making it without independence became a symbol of success.
You needed a good job to earn respect in society.
If you were seen struggling, trying to set yourself up, you became an example of failure.
Successful people had to have good paying jobs or at least a job.
This is the self-inflicted death of a people we have to fight and replace with a new mindset, the one we always had.
Remember, our people had to be forced into formal employment through such instruments as the Land Tenure Act as well as Poll and Hut Tax.
This took me to what steps the education system is taking to address this problem and if not, then it has to do so.
I looked at the Grade Zero curriculum.
Their syllabus includes social sciences, pre-mathematics, technology, science and discovery, language arts, indoor/outdoor and expressive arts.
In social sciences, the aim is to make children learn about other people and the world around them.
The aim is to transmit a culture or a way of life to the young and equip them with moral values that will enable them to develop stable personalities, including the development of self-understanding about others that will serve as a foundation for learning about others and the nature of the world around them.
They also touch on religion, including other people’s religions.
In pre-mathematics, it is recognised that children are active participants in the world around them and hence develop interest in numbers, shapes, position and size.
They naturally develop mathematical skills as they move, touch and manipulate real objects.
Children get exposed to such concepts as number-matching, sorting, comparing, ordering, classification and numbering, including patterning, measuring as well as space and time.
Children should be enabled to practise and apply pre-mathematical knowledge and skills to everyday experiences like buying, selling and telling time.
For technology, the children must be helped to explore the world around them and discover answers to the many questions they have about life.
It links home and pre-school experiences.
They also get exposed to technology in and outside the home.
In science, the children get exposed to science and discovery.
They learn about the human body, plants and animals.
Electricity, health, nutrition and safety, the weather or even the air they breathe are some of the things children will learn about at the early childhood development stage.
That is so much a window for what goes on at the infant stages.
To crown it all, these same children are expected to recite the National School Pledge for the infant level which reads: “Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies.
“I salute the national flag.
“I commit to honesty and the dignity of hard work.”
Three distinct things emerge from the pledge, viz. God, country and hard work. They are being taught at a tender age that with God on their side, they will stand to prosper as individuals and country if only they love their country and hard work.
There is no doubt that such a mindset, if inculcated in our children, would change the face of this country when they become the adults and assume the driving seat.
The quislings among us cannot help but go to war with such a pledge, for it is a threat to the interests of their masters who would rather we remained an extension of empire and appendage state feeding into the international economic system as junior partners.
The new curriculum thrust, that bases itself on self-realisation and acknowledgment of self, marks the beginning of an era and end to miseries of a lost generation when our educational system emphasised on producing literates more than educated people.
We produced literate helpless products using an education system that had been designed to produce servants more than employers.
Even the expectations of the parents in terms of a good education system were more based on whether a child would get a good job more than whether a child could earn himself and others a livelihood from the education.
Hence the interest was on fluency in English, which is why our lost generation parents will go ballistic if a child speaks less English than Shona at infant school.
They forget children have a capacity to learn many languages at infancy.
My generation of infants fought for political independence with the nationalist generation.
The current generation must win the economic war.
For this step, we need a revival and mindset regeneration of which the educational system will play a vital component.
Our future and that of our children and grand children is in our hands.
We owe a legacy of prosperity to future generations.

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