Letter from America: Zimbabwe: The future of education (2)

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By Ken Mufuka

Let me once more give a background to Lawrence Vambe as his lifework relates to our present debate with Primary and Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora, on the future of education.

When I attended a get-together at the Royal African Society in London, where Vambe’s book was introduced, I felt that Vambe reviewed the erosion of the VaShawasha culture in the face of Harare’s modernising influences with nostalgia.

To Vambe, his description of the VaShawasha life introduced the phrase, a community of love into my vocabulary.

I am almost certain that to Vambe and all of us in attendance, the end-product of education must be the moral person.

Now you will say: “Ken, you are engaged in lofty theoretical calibration of ideas, which means nothing to us here in Zimbabwe.”

Bear with me a little. You see, the tribe was a community of love. The Zimbabwe Christian Leaders Network refers to a community of faith which has now subsumed the tribe.

These two ideas are in fact complementary to African Heritage Studies, which include ubuntu.

The idea was first proposed by Professor Stanlake Samkange, long before Bishop Desmond Tutu became its chief proponent.

Our disputations with Dokora are based on his complete lack of appreciation for the moral basis of education.

“In the scheme of development of this planet, it does not pay, in the long run, to be bad, but it does answer in the long run to good, to practice the rules of personal and public conduct.”

That is the foundation of Christian education.

Therefore, we propose that Christian and Heritage Studies be applied in our schools as foundational (from pre-school).

There is no doubt that Zimbabwe society, under ZANU-PF, has been subverted.

A friend, Mike, worked as a senior security officer at the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company.

He interrupted a lorry laden with machinery and scrap metals for the black market. The driver referred him to the boss. “Sorry Mike, you are not in the loop. I will have to organise something for you.”

Take a deep breath. The chefs were looting the company over which they were placed in trust. If you cannot fathom Vambe’s idea of education, and of the moral man, I have nothing more to say to you.

We need to emphasise the point. Look all around you and you will see the Mafioso trying to manage railways, electric supply companies, and “grab farms”.

Dokora has gone further. He has nationalised school committee funds. The headmaster and a Ministry official are the two signatories, excluding the parents.

Let me tell you a secret. Many of our “chefs” are so afraid of their shadows that they rarely sleep in their own beds. I know for certain that even the late great general, moved each night from place to place fearing that he could be “done a Mujuru”.

We can be great again

If by consensus, we are agreed that Zimbabwe’s education was the best in the Commonwealth countries, even beating New Zealand, our task is to expand those items which made it great.

In fact, examination results run by Cambridge boards were far superior to those done by whites in Zimbabwe. Please give credit to missionaries, dummy. Their schools were communities of love, even though I got a canning on my bottom.
Missionaries were meticulous about their English language teaching.

“One thing we prided ourselves in, especially when visiting other countries, was our unmatchable education. We could spell, and we knew the difference between there (location) and theirs (possessive), then (time) and that (comparison), too, (also) two, (numeral) and to, (transition) principal and principle.”

Without a good grasp of the English language, students cloud the window to the world.

To cut a long story short, Domboshava, Mzingwane and many black schools produced such skilled builders and carpenters, that the white trade unions had them closed for fear of competition.

Blacks who entered Bulawayo Technical College outshined their white fellow students, and their numbers were restricted.

ZANU-PF does not give credit where credit is due.

At independence, ZANU-PF proclaimed a socialist state, and in its curriculum, attempted to introduce “education with work.”

Typical of their arrogance, the dunderheads emphasised “equality”, a uniform academic curriculum, and mother of all mistakes, abolished vocational subjects.

One test of their sincerity is to find out where they send their own children, and when sick, where they locate their doctors. Vocational classes in white schools survived, because the brothers sent their children there.

Dzingai Mutumbuka’s “education with production” was supposedly borrowed from Tanzania.
Having abolished vocational subjects, “it was more than tricky to make pure mathematics, history and language arts productive”.

In fact, the idea of skill training for blacks was developed in the United States by brother Booker T Washington.

The idea of “normal schools” was adopted in South Africa and East Africa through the Carnegie Foundation Report in 1932. Missionaries rejected its over-emphasis on skills without proper literary background.

Sister Fay Chung introduced “Political Economy” as a compulsory subject at all colleges. The lectures lasted one year and perished.

My conclusion is that the Christian churches must speak boldly. Religious education tempers man’s souls and is a foundation for happiness.

Vocational education is a life saver. Politicians who espoused socialist education were probably fake. It was resisted at all levels down to parents.

(Ken Mufuka acknowledges research input from Mary Ndlovu, an education consultant and Magomo Mukaranga, a social activist)