Decadence in the Zimbabwe educational system


Zimbabwean educational system was hailed as the best in sub- Saharan Africa in the 80s and 90s.. My late geography teacher Mr Kwenda, had a penchant for asking his pupils questions like; ” Why was Ziscosteel located at its location?”

 Some bright students would answer; ” proximity to raw materials, like water, iron ore from Redcliff, good road networking both road and rail.”

 The gurus like us would furnish more; ” availability of competent labour force derived from schools in the Midlands like Chaplin, Fletcher, Regina Mundi, Kana Mission, etc.”

Years gone by these schools produced real superstars, guys you thought were made of brains only. Mr Kwenda would pose similar questions like,” why sugar producing companies are located in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe?”. ” Fertile soils and high temperatures and flat terrain made Hippo Valley Estate and Triangle Limited, viable places for the production of sugar”.

 But nowadays our children rely on artificial intelligence applications like Chat GPT, Poe, Pi etc. They plagiarize, who cares? Come examination time ‘ they cheat’.

It was funny going to school in our days, to outshine each other and we made it a hobby to read a ‘ Pacesetter novel’ every night. It made us master the English language which is the means of communication in former British colonies.

 I always ask myself why we had that gusto which appears to be lacking in our children. Some blame too much freedom and rights given to our kids by those enlightened ones.

Spanking has been outlawed and a scholar can report anything that s/he dislikes from his/er teacher to relevant authorities. And those relevant authorities to appear ” wokery”, they always favour the complainant.

So too much rights entrenched to our children is one reason why our education system is going berserk. Years gone by, my grade 1 teacher at Guni School, Mr Gusha, would give us ten quick English spelling test, ten Shona spellings and ten quick mental maths, before school starts.

 The number you failed to answer correctly were the number of lashes which visited you. It was harsh but it made us who we are. Thanks, to Mr Gusha you played your part.

I was prompted to write this article by the novel l am reading right now called ” The America we Deserve by Donald J. Trump, he was complaining about the American education going to the dogs;

“Today’s economy may be humming along, but how long do we think the United States can survive schools that pretend to teach while our kids only pretend to learn? How can we hope for a healthy society when kids are being forced into a war-zone mentality before they reach their teens.

“How can a kid hope to build an American Dream when he hasn’t been taught how to spell the word “dream”? Our children to be precise, Zimbabwe teachers are doing their best but the kids are pretending to learn. Teachers in Zimbabwe are lowly paid compared to their compatriots in the region.

 “This low salary scale for professionals like nurses, teachers, magistrates are multifaceted. Right now Zimbabwe is a consuming and not a producing country. We have no industry to talk about that brings in much needed revenue in the form of taxes.

“The few companies which are heavily taxed do not meet the threshold to sustain reasonable salaries to pay civil servants.

Some pro- opposition activists as usual blame the government of today of not giving much priority to its workers. Pro- government activists on the other side blame sanctions for choking the country’ s economy, both maybe right or wrong.

Stern warnings on the school closing days were given to teachers not to conduct extra lessons during holidays and let the children rest. One parent l met told me that ” mwana wake here wavanoda kuti azorore, inini ndichiona kuti pakaipa” ( whose child is s/he who they want to rest, whilst l am noticing s/he is lagging behind). Teachers are risking and are conducting those lessons to mitigate the little salary they get. Adapt or you die.

 In Zimbabwe every education minister since 2000 are in the habit of changing goal posts, from CALA to no CALA. New books are introduced in the schools annually and does the responsible authority know the burden they give to teachers to adjust every year?

 Good educational books are now in the dust bins and new curriculum books are in circulation; where someone just copy and paste, changing only the headings.

 Books must be introduced in the system after many reviews from different academics and ministries. During the days of CALA l appeared stupid when l failed to answer some grade 4 Shona questions.

The subject needed guys like the late Modecai Hamutyinei to solve them. Learning is not about throwing ” jaw breakers” but it is a gradual process to instill knowledge.

The entrance tests which were done for aspiring form one students to test the aptitude of children were scrapped as money spinning ‘ ponzi schemes’. Now everything is centralisiesd in Harare where students apply online, further alienating rural schools and students who lack Wifi at schools.

 That automatic entry is a recipe for disaster. In the old days we had classes A, B, C, D, etc. A, was reserved for the brightest, B, brighter, C, bright and lastly D, special class.

This system encouraged the lazy pen pushers to work harder. Most ended up in classes A or B. Now the system has been labelled segregatory and discriminatory. And we have adopted ” regai zviyo nemashawi zvikurirane”.

But when applying for apprenticeship some good STEM results are asked for. So, who is fooling who? Unions are sprouting out every year, but they all have a common mission statement: ‘ Better wages for teachers’.

 Sure, teachers must be paid decent salaries that make them go an extra mile. But these unions, do they look at how teachers are dispensing their duties to our children?

To wrap up here is another quote from Donald J. Trump, ” Start with the teachers’ unions. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers might think they’re different from other unions—they may even call themselves professional associations to show they’re a cut above. But just because you’ve got chalk dust on your sleeve instead of drywall dust on your dungarees doesn’t change things. Unions are unions. That’s something I know all about. They help workers in the construction trades but not in education”.

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