LETTER FROM AMERICA: Zimbabwe: The future of education (2)

LETTER FROM AMERICA: Zimbabwe: The future of education (2)
Lawrence Vambe and BBC journalist  Jim Hawkins

Lawrence Vambe and BBC journalist Jim Hawkins

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.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora

Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora

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)

  • Monty

    Comrade Ken. I agree. Our educational foundations have been left to the Mafioso you reference to run. And that is a huge problem. However, I have a few points I would like to make in addition. You missed Gokomere High School – that was probably the top vocational and academic “African” school in the country pre-Mugabe and even after. Moving on, our teachers, at least after independence, in all schools came from different religious backgrounds – Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist as well as the many variations of Christianity. So even though we had a Christian-based curriculum we had flavours from other major ways of life and that made us even more well-rounded as students, who learnt tolerance, acceptance and that formed what you call the “moral basis” for our individual personas. I still believe today that the teachers in Zim have a moral base and teach from that but the problem becomes what happens when the students finish high school/university these days. How do you survive. Even a mechanic or carpenter cannot make a decent living in today’s Zimbabwe. So they resort to immoral means of survival. Unfortunately that is the situation today in our beloved country. Most people want to work, make a decent living and go about their lives. Unfortunately Mugabe’s economics have meant that is impossible and has given rise to the mafioso of ZanuPF and those who have contacts in that familia. The rest of us become thieves and crooks of a different kind. And now with the current attack on education institutions, we will be turning out amoral young adults who know no other way of life but that of the mafia. As some wise person said in decades past, “normalising the abnormal”. How do we as a society get things back on track ? How do we fight a generation that is growing up with north American values of “I’m ok and I don’t care about you” Trumpism ? We as Zimbos are losing our hunhu, our ubuntu. Can we survive as a people if we do ? I don’t have the answers and my fears are real that this mess ZanuPF has created economically, educationally, vocationally, nationally is going to be beyond repair and we may never see our old ways again. My children don’t believe the stories I tell them of how I grew up, what school was like, how the roads were kept – even the dirt roads were graded every so often – how clean our cities were, the pride we had as Africans living in a utopia unmatched anywhere else. I can go on, but I must not let my reminiscences make me sad to the point where I think Smith was a better human being than Mugabe. Opportunity lost. Fambai zvakanaka.

  • kwv

    In my opinion, the greatest damage to our country over the last 37 years has not been economic, though that is dire. The worst damage has been done to our ethics and morals. Way back I knew I knew I could always trust a ZRP constable to be honest and to act with integrity.
    Every nation’s morals are determined from the top down. Look at North and South Korea for an example. Our problem has been that the povo (the man in the street) have seen all too clearly that corruption in high places always goes unpunished. So the feeling grows, if them, then why not me? Our nation is now sadly corrupt from top to bottom.
    I believe that ALL schools should teach Ethics and Critical Thinking. Ethics, morality whatever you may call it is essential not only for the individual but for the Nation. Critical Thinking is essential for us to use our God-given ability to reason, to ask questions and hold others to account and not just accept whatever we are told, like sheep.

  • Monty

    Comrade, I posted a comment here days ago, but it does not show. There is only one comment from KWV showing. At the top of your article, it indicates 2 comments though – was there a hiccup with the comments section and can you ask the moderator what gives. Tino tenda. Stay well.

    • Kenneth Mufuka

      Iwe Magomo, I shared your wise words with the world. Now you owe me a goat. If Zimbabwe (like India) keeps its British type education, its human products will be in demand all around us. Look at the opportunities opening up in Angola as they transform their society into the Anglo world (they teach English now). One of the main exports in Scotland is their education. When I graduated from St. Andrews, 60 percent of all our students would have left Scotland within one year. Their education was very valuable in Australia and New Zealand while their Divinity degrees were very esteemed in the US. Greetings and Peace. Mukoma Ken

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