Practical content lacking in education

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ALTHOUGH Zimbabwe boasts of the highest literacy rate in Africa, it is often hard to find school graduates with simple practical skills for life in the rural environment.
This says a lot about the balance between theory and practical education.
At our farm, we needed to put up some chicken houses and to do some building repairs.
Although I inquired among locals, I could not find a single person with basic building skills despite there being many unemployed people.
Many have completed Ordinary Level schooling, but have no practical skills even to change a light bulb.
So if our school system is churning out thousands who have little by way of practical skills and knowledge relevant to rural situations, how do we expect to build Zimbabwe’s economy?
The human factor challenge looms large.
You begin to wonder if the 92 percent literacy rate claimed for Zimbabwe is confined to just the ability to read and write and nothing more.
To build an economy requires much more than the ability to read and write.
Does Zimbabwe enjoy a false comfort that it has an educated population?
Industry bosses often complain that school and college graduates require long periods of training before they become productive.
With the decline in formal jobs, the informal sector will require people whose formal education has equipped them with useful practical skills and knowledge.
Even now it is clear many in the establishment are uncomfortable with the brazen Afro-centric thrust of the Nziramasanga Report recommendations, never mind that the report completely ignored our history of liberation struggle as core content of the new curriculum.
If your children grow up not knowing who their enemies were yesterday, they are sure to be recolonised again.
That is how history repeats itself.
You get globalised; you do not become a member of the global village.
You do not become equal to the white Europeans and Americans.
Your resources become readily available for their exploitation, not for your benefit!
That is the real meaning of globalisation.
Young Africans who strut around with a ‘feel-good’ air that they belong to the global village, have a rude shock waiting around the corner; they will soon discover that they, like their fathers and forefathers are still looking in through the window from outside.
Until Africans build their own bonfire and beat their own drums and build their own institutions, they will remain political, social and economic strangers in their own native lands!
Even after centuries of living among whites and, for Afro-Americans, decades of ‘freedom’ from slavery, blacks are still discriminated against and shot and beaten up by white police for flimsy reasons in the land of the ‘free’, America.
In all cases these consultants must be well imbued with British and European values and standards.
The educational authorities have hastily arranged consultation sessions where parents are being asked to express their opinions on the new curriculum for the next five years or so.
Analysts have already commented that the so-called new curriculum is devoid of our Zimbabwean history, especially the story of our liberation struggle, the colonial experience and the slave trade.
The curriculum belittles the role of our heroes and heroines.
Instead of being Afro-centric, the curriculum still puts Europe at the centre of the world.
How well does our education system prepare our children to build Zimbabwe’s economy through producing, storing, processing, marketing and utilising or consuming our food?
We shall avoid technicalities and talk about everyday experiences.
One morning I gave a lift to two teenage boys on their way to Raffingora Secondary School in Zvimba North district.
The father of one of the boys had just joined my farm staff as an assistant manager.
They were in secondary school.
Keen to make conversation, I asked what subjects they were studying.
English and Mathematics led the list and Agriculture was mentioned last.
I thought it fair to ask them about practical issues to do with land preparation.
Although he had grown up on a mechanised farm, the assistant manager’s son had no idea about tillage tools or implements except the hoe; certainly nothing about tractor-drawn equipment.
The other boy from a nearby A1 resettlement farm also had little knowledge about in-spanning oxen and ploughing the land.
I was thinking of what practical agriculture skills these teens might be getting from their agriculture lessons.
Had the school at any time invited local farmers to bring in a tractor and related implements for demonstration?
Had any local village farmer been invited to give practical lessons on how to tame an ox, to set an ox-plough or to describe its power train?
It seems there would be ample opportunities to discuss the science (physics) surrounding tillage operations and the biology of the animals involved.
I thought that when the vast majority of the youths left school they would seek opportunities to earn a living through agriculture.
How could they do this if the agriculture course content did not impart practical relevant skills?
Did the school authorities and the parents think that all these young people would migrate to town to seek employment: where, in which industry?
What if any skills did these young Zimbabweans acquire at school in agriculture to enable them to engage in productive farming?
Or to seek employment in cities?
Recently I was invited to a Careers Day for high schools in Chitungwiza.
Altogether 17 schools were invited with ‘O’ Level and ‘A’ Level candidates in attendance.
A wide range of potential employers were also in attendance from the public and private sectors to give the would-be school leavers information on possible careers.
I was introduced as a professor of Agriculture (Soil Science) from the Faculty of Agriculture at University of Zimbabwe.
I decided to find out how geared the students were to help build Zimbabwe’s economy in the agricultural sector.
In the next episode I will share with readers some of the surprises that greeted me as I interacted with students who were a few months from leaving school.

1 COMMENT

  1. I THINK NOW YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT TRACK I HAVE ALWAYS SAID THE TRUTH HAS BEEN ELUSIVE
    FOR TOO LONG
    NOW THE TEACHERS WHO TEACH CAN NOT EVEN DO WHAT THEY TEACH SO WHAT CAN
    YOU EXPECT WHEN A TEACHER TEACHES AGRICULTURE BUT CAN NOT DRIVE A TRACTOR
    SET A PLOUGH OR PLANTER
    KANA KUPINGUDZA MOMBE YACHO
    DZIDZISAI ZVAMUNOGONA KUITA HAUNGADZIDZISE MUNHU ZVOUPFUMI
    IWE URIMUROMBO HAZVIITE NGATIREGE KUHLA KUITA LETS BE PRACTICAL
    WE THEN CAN HAVE A BETTER FUTURE.
    I PERSONALLY WENT THROUGH PAKAOMA WHEN I DID WHAT OTHERS THOUGHT IMPOSSIBLE
    IN 1979/80 DURING THE CEASEFIRE SINGLE HANDEDLY I MOVED FROM BINDURA POLICE CELLS
    CHALLENGED THE STATUS QUO TOOK OVER AND DIRECTED MAFUNGIRO AIVE MATSVA PANGUVAYO GAVE AND PROVIDED SOLUTIONS WHERE NONE HAD EXISTED KUNYAGWE MWARI NAVADZIMU VAKANDIBATSIRA ASI NENI
    I HAD THE THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL BASE THIS MADE ME CONVINCE THE ZANLA AND ZIPRA JOINT COMMAND1979/80 I HAD TO SHOW THEM THE WAY THEY HAD NO CHOICE
    THEY REALLISED IF THEY DID NOT DO WHAT I WANTED THEM TO DO THEN I WAS GOING TO DO
    WHAT I WANTED DONE I MADE THEM REALLISE I HAD THE POTENTIAL AND CAPACITY TO DO THE WORK SO THUS WE WORKED TOGETHER MUNAZVO NDAKAZOVE VA CHUCHU VANOTAUGWA
    POSE KUMAPA MUZIMBABWE
    AND RENDER THEM REDUNDANT IF THEY DECIDED NOT TO WORK WITH ME
    VE JOINT COMMAND 1979/80 KWAMUSHANDIRAPAMWE HOTEL MUHARARE
    PANDAKAVASVIKIRA
    VASINA AUDZA VAKAZIVA VAKURU VASVIKA NDIZVO
    RUZIVO GWEMENE HAGUBVUNZIWE GUNOWONEKWA MUKUGONA KUITA!
    ICHO! KUSAGONA NDIKO KUNECHITSOTSI BUT CAN NEVER LAST/CHEAT THE TEST OF TIME

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