SCHOOLS are about to close for the holidays.
In an ideal set-up, this means a break from school work and a time to rest and recuperate from the stress imposed by rigorous learning routine.
It is a time to regenerate.
The language composition titled: ‘During the School Holidays’ was a popular one in primary school.
School holidays were a time for adventure.
Rural students looked forward to a time in town, while urban students looked forward to a time in the country.
Boarding students looked forward to a time away from campus.
It is was a critical time to visit and be with family because education was not an end in itself.
The meaning of education is in the context in which it takes place.
Education unpacks the lived environment into digestible bits designed to enable the learner to adapt and survive the real world.
Education decodes nature and interprets experience for the sustainable existence of the individual.
In that respect, periodic breaks are essential to experience what has been decoded.
Periodic breaks are essential to test and confirm interpretations of the real world.
Ironically, the critical truth in the foregoing is that effective education involves all faculties.
There is knowledge that is passed on in the classroom and there is knowledge that is experienced in the context of home, doing chores, cleaning, cooking, taking care of the sick, the young and the elderly, producing food by tending gardens, fields and livestock as well as earning income from selling agricultural produce at the market or manning family businesses.
In other contexts, school holidays go beyond child play.
In Rhodesia school, for instance, holidays provided the opportunity for learners to join the armed liberation struggle, acting out their lessons from history as collaborators and fighters.
There were no registers and roll calls to account for missing students during school holidays and that condition gave them enough time to go beyond reach before alarm was raised.
In essence, there never is really a break in the process of education.
Holidays create a physical and periodic distance from the routine school environment.
And the irrefutable benefit is that certain critical views become clearer only as perspectives created by the holiday distance from the learning environment.
The perspectives translate to fresh looks that confirm and cement what has been learnt.
This makes school holidays an indispensable part of an effective education system.
In this sense, ‘indispensable’ means that there cannot be any feasible or sustainable alternative to school holidays.
Another way of looking at the foregoing is that school terms build the ‘national herd’ from a curriculum supposedly abstracted from the lived communal experience.
Schools make children read from the same page issues that sustain their communal security and livelihood as a nation.
Schools integrate children into a nation.
But the nation is not a school and school is not the family. There are no mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grand-parents and neighbours during school terms.
These are critical relationships that build the individual as a member of a family that is the basic unit or basic building block of human societal organisation.
The nation is organised and built from the family unit and, it is important to recognise that family values are not passed or experienced in school.
They are created and passed by the extended family in the home context that is accorded by school holidays.
Family relationships that sustain individuals for life.
Critically, the constitutional bill of rights according to learners the right to family and freedom of worship, opinion, language and cultural practice would be an unsustainable wish list without the practice, in context, accorded by school holidays. School holidays afford learners time away from the national herd to develop as races, clans, communities, families and individuals.
It is also pertinent to state that the generational problems we face today as families and communities and ultimately as a nation largely stem from our failure to appreciate that the extended time spent at school and at work is ultimately at the expense of the time spent at home as family. School and work build the national herd and if an objective balance is not struck with family, chaos is the result.
Pre-independence family and community ties only seem to have been stronger owing to the less time spent at school and the more time spent as family. Schools were fewer and the bottleneck system retired the majority from school into the community of family after Grade Seven.
Today, a growing majority stays away from family ties from the age of three when they start pre-school, to the age of 23 when they finish university education and it is critical to understand and appreciate that the associated problems are inexorable and exponential. There is no easy solution to that ‘cost of development.’
It seems to be a dire ‘adapt-or-die’ scenario.
Having said all the foregoing, it is critical to acknowledge that Zimbabwe and the rest of the world are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic-restricted era where everything had been put on hold and every life sector, including education, needs to make up for lost time.
In education, this may unfortunately mean extended ‘prison’ terms.
The foregoing scenario makes Zimbabwe’s case an extremely complicated and tricky one because, even before COVID-19, the education system had already degenerated into a state that was far from ideal.
The hyper-inflation that is dogging the national economy has apparently not spared the education sector. The hyperinflation is actually mirrored in the education sector where there is too much going school and less knowledge and development to show for it.
There are too many charges and payments being made and no tangible value to match the investments.
The intangible value includes the new generation of teachers and the exponential factor is in how that generation of mercenaries reproduces itself and feeds all the other sectors with ‘fake’ or mercenary professionals.
The extra-lessons after hours and holiday lessons syndrome has cut deep into the meagre incomes of the struggling populace.
And yet, the extra lessons are not necessarily translating to any extra value.
They are simply a mercenary pandemic; the symptom of a nation feeding on itself like Shakespearean ‘monsters of the deep.’
You talk of exclusive uniforms from exclusive outlets feeding into exclusive pockets of mercenary networks. You talk of elitist Cambridge examinations for elitist private schools for elitist executives manning a national ZIMSEC education sector they have no respect for.