‘Zim-Asset-ising’ the Zimbabwean education system

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EDUCATION is key to the success of any society and yet in Zimbabwe and indeed the entire African continent, it hardly reflects the people’s values.
Some take education to be a system where young people pass through various institutions of learning in order to get papers that certify them to be employable or to be recognised in society.
This attitude typifies what Ronald Dore (1997) describes as ‘diploma disease’; an uninformed chase after certificates for their sake.
This paper aims to puncture the underbelly of such a misleading myth and proceed to correct the misconception about education.
The current thrust of education in Zimbabwe focuses on institutionalised formal transmission of knowledge and values in schools, colleges and universities without ever asking the fundamental question: whose knowledge and values?
This anomalous situation has enjoyed uncritical worship since colonial days with a few cosmetic changes to content and methodology.
Indeed the current curricular structures of our primary schools, secondary schools and colleges have remained largely the same since colonial days.
It is against this background that this article calls for ‘Zim-Asset-ising’ the curriculum so that it can capture the indigenisation and economic empowerment thrust of the nation.
An important recommendation of this paper is that education is the site where indigenisation must begin if ever it should be embraced in other arenas.
In the current set-up that has enjoyed uncritical acceptance since colonial days, formal education teaches a prescribed curriculum which is basically a set of courses and their content and pedagogical tools.
According to Hutchinson and Waters (1987) curriculum designing is primarily a matter of asking questions in order to come up with a reasoned basis for the process of syllabus designing, materials writing, classroom teaching and evaluation.
Yalden (1987) supports this view of curriculum and course designing when he says the focus of any course design is to match the needs of the learner with content selection, methodology selection and selection of evaluation procedures. But the question to ask about the Zimbabwean situation is: have the needs of the people been the basis of such curriculum processes?
And the answer is categorically ‘NO’.
Not even after independence save a few cosmetic changes to content and methodology of fairly countable disciplines, but even with these the supporting literature remains disturbingly exotic.
The curricular structures of our primary schools, secondary schools and colleges have remained essentially the same since colonial days.
And yet are we aware why the colonial regime designed them so?
Dore (1976) could not have been more correct to observe that such an education could only lead to proliferation of papers (certificates) which are of no value to the development needs of colonised or former colonised countries.
Hence there is no wonder why some countries boast unwisely: If you throw a stone in a crowd in our city you hit a graduate – thus betraying an impotent sense of literacy.
This Western concept of education wrongly teaches that literacy is about ability to read the ‘word’ which is in sharp contradiction to the African concept of literacy which teaches that literacy is about reading the ‘world’, and not just the ‘word’.
The underlying philosophy of the African worldview is that education should be about the pursuit of wisdom where wisdom is achieved through the process of transmitting skills and values for the enhancement of society.
In other words gainful education embraces all stages of socialisation beginning with the very smallest social unit, the family.
The family is the major vehicle of socialisation and socialisation is what constitutes true and relevant education.
The community was the larger agent of socialisation.
The entire network of family kinships and community values provided the source of wisdom.
Every child was taught skills to become a useful member of his society.
This is the philosophy that this paper intends to invoke.
The physical structures of former colonial institutions are welcome, but not to teach colonial values.
Instead they should be used to teach African values.
The above point has clear implications about the indigenisation of the curricula across all institutions.
Colonialism has succeeded in casting a spell on the African psyche so that the Africans forever live uncertain of who they are, thus living a predictable life dominated by worry and fear, believing that they are ordinary and powerless to control their destiny.
Such a condition makes them vulnerable to manipulation.
That is why colonial education and colonial religions have been used to systematically destroy the knowledge of who Africans are.
The starting point towards making any education system relevant is to question the basis and purpose of that education, we are reminded.
Even colonialists themselves crafted their education system in such a way as to create labourers and to ‘zombify’ a whole community of the oppressed into accepting their condition as normal.
Today as we awaken from the subsequent lethargy, it is high time we use our acquired education as a subversive force to turn around the structures we inherited including those we erected after independence to re-orient the kind of products our schools churn towards our way; and this entails transforming both the content and methodology to suit our needs.
For our education to be meaningful it must, as Mwalimu posits, “transmit from one generation to the next the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society, and to prepare the young people for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance or development.”
Our education must above all things teach our youth to defend their land with their blood.
Our youths are full of poisoned minds from Western-drummed multimedia, understandably so because we have not configured their minds with our own software, and this has led our society to stagger and falter in its progress.
Our urgent task as scholars and curriculum specialists is to delete the corrupting virus of western education, clean our computers and reconfigure them with our own software; and not with more western literature.
An educated African must of necessity personify the unity of his people and live the values of his community in an exemplary way.

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