The following is President Mugabe’s address at the opening of the Third Education Conference and Expo in Harare last week.
I wish to extend a warm welcome to you all, our esteemed delegates from within and beyond our borders, who are participating in this Third Education Conference and Expo.
Guided by the theme, “Education and Innovation for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development”, the conference has brought together educationists, most of whom are heads and senior teachers from our 9 000 schools, to further interrogate issues of the new curriculum.
Without pre-empting your discussions and presentations, I wish to observe that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a distinctive form of holistic education, which focuses on adopting an educative approach to issues of sustainability.
This speaks to our new curriculum’s thrust of developing a well-rounded individual, with numerous exit skills. These exit skills are abilities that promote positive behaviour which enables individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of life.
The issue of sustainability is embedded in the new curriculum which fosters entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship education and training is meant to inculcate abilities for learners, at all levels, with knowledge, values of unhu/ubuntu, skills and appropriate motivation, and to encourage entrepreneurial success in a variety of settings.
We want to produce people who can do things for themselves and for others; not education to make you just employees vanoda kushandiswa chete.
Vanotsvaga mabasa kwete.
Tinoda vachaita mabasa acho.
Vachidawo kuti vamwe vafunde kwavari. Tinoda education yekuzviitira; kwete education yekuti uitirwe.
Such education is important because learners will be able to transform innovative ideas into economic goods and services.
Upon leaving school at the different exit points, the learners must have various fundamental skills.
Wabva pachikoro; chii chaunokwanisa kuita?
Such skills encompass problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, leadership skills, communication and teamwork skills, as well as technological skills.
The new curriculum also aims to inculcate national identity values, producing citizens who are proud of their nation, and the trajectory that their nation has travelled.
Rwendo rwatakafamba senyika kuti tisvike patava. The trajectory, the history. Then you know what you are. If you don’t know that journey, if you don’t know your history, then you don’t know who you are.
Our learners must indeed be committed to the values of discipline, honesty and the dignity of hard work. I must point out that today’s environmental problems pose a challenge to today’s education, hence the need to find ways of making education sustainable, the need to teach differently to address today’s problems, and the need to transform schools and teachers for 21st century learning.
The new curriculum also aims to transform the education system from a content-based and examination-driven curriculum to a competency and skills-based curriculum that is grounded on both continuous assessment and public examinations.
Further, the curriculum has a values-oriented system where learning areas that instil national values such as self-reliance, business culture, responsible citizenship, critical global awareness, environmental stewardship, inclusiveness and tolerance, among others, have been adopted.
You are being educated to come into an environment now, which does not only have you as an individual, not just your family, village, but an environment which is multi-cultured, multi-nationed.
You have to know that environment and reach out to other people. You must derive also the knowledge of other people which we do not know and impart to them the knowledge we have; which they do not have.
Look at our environment. You are the steward. Yes, don’t cut down trees. Don’t just dig holes everywhere. Your rivers must survive to give us water.
Animals, yes, for the beauty; to give us food. For the comradeship we have even with Mr Lion. We need all those: The elephants, giraffes down to the creeping ones, the lizards, the frogs.
They are part of us. Let’s keep them. Further, the new curriculum has a value-orientated system where the learning areas instil learning areas. I have said self-reliance, relying on oneself. You must do something to look after yourself. So, we must have a business culture.
You must be a responsible citizen with good manners, good habits and a sense discipline that relates you with others with, also, good discipline. So, our environment is safe.
Obedience to the roles, obedience to the rules of social conduct; love and respect amongst us. But, above all, we must have critical global awareness to know the world of today. Environmental awareness, inclusiveness among others. All these are part of the new curriculum.
Optimum benefits of the new curriculum can only be derived if the process is well managed. Changing a curriculum is a delicate matter and, indeed, a cooperative venture. It cannot be done by an individual. It requires us all to build the leaders of tomorrow. All key stakeholders must feel involved and consulted and, ultimately, they should feel they own it.
Success in introducing the new curriculum is guaranteed when the entire system, including learners, parents and communities sufficiently embrace it. And yet, both by nature and training, they are generally known to be conservative. They want to keep what they learnt long back; the ways of teaching that they learnt long ago.
They, especially the experienced ones, could feel threatened by innovation that comes in the form of a new curriculum.
They, therefore, need to be strongly capacitated by the provision of teaching materials of the new curriculum.
When we introduced computers at the time, I felt, single-handed, and we didn’t have much of the resources . . . but I made up my mind that every school would at least get 10 computers.
It was not a Government initiative. So, whatever money I could get, whatever money I could save when I travelled . . . I stored computers in a room for distribution.
My efforts gained support; and more and more teachers started learning using computers. But now it is all over.
That put us into a world of today.
You cannot do without it. Now, young children in schools can draw some knowledge from teachers due to the interconnectivity. So, teachers are central and key to the new curriculum.
I am glad to know there is a desire to know and improve amongst our teachers. As long as they keep open minds, they will know a lot. Your job is to know how to learn and how to teach. It is a new science of teaching.
This national conference, I believe, is a step in the right direction as it will be, subsequently, supplemented and complemented by other seminars and workshops at provincial, district and school levels.
The use of technology to innovate teaching and learning cannot be overemphasised. Large classes can be taught effectively by use of computers.
As a way forward, I am challenging the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education on the need to implement the best practices that will be learnt from this conference and expo in order to make education the tool that will generate employment creation and other life skills.
This conference must, as I hope it will, produce new inspiration on the part of teachers to learn more. Once upon a time, when we got our Independence in 1980 and the girl student suffered from inferiority complex . . . “I cannot do science. If I do science and mathematics, I will fail. I will just do history. Physics and chemistry are for boys.”
This was the belief in many girl students. But today, we are stimulating the girls, and they are a challenge to the boys. They also outnumber the boys in our schools. We have more girls in our secondary schools.
Parents in the olden days would say, “What benefit is there in educating the girl child? You educate a girl for someone else to come and marry her? Ko changu chi- chazova chii ipapo? Achazotorwa zvake kunoita musha kumwe. Mukomana anga achifudza mombe ndiye wandichaendesa mhuri yake igogara pano. Ndiyo ichazova mhuri yangu. Ndiye achadya nhaka yangu. Ndiye wandichafundisa iyeye.”
The reasoning is quite false. It turned out the girl child sought and got recognition that the girl child was of greater help to the family. Why?
“Mukomana anongopengereka; haagarisike. Mabasa anofurira kunaanaHarare, kunaanaMbare uko. Asi mwanasikana wangu ari kumba ndiye anoita basa. Ndiye ane ruzivo. Well, let’s not have tables turned against us.”
Both children matter and both of them can be good children. Let the schools make even better children to their parents, villages and to their country.
I am talking from history and experience. I wish, on behalf of the entire education fraternity and the Government of Zimbabwe, to pay tribute to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for organising and hosting the Third Education Conference and Expo.
However, my innermost gratitude goes to all delegates, foreign and local exhibitors, presenters and, of particular mention, the teachers and heads of schools.
Remember, I am one of your own. I went through a number of challenges during the struggle, in jail. But even in jail, we taught those comrades who had up to Standard Two.
We also had some who provided us with materials. So, we managed to produce graduates. Vamwe vakazonopamhidzira vave panze, and we were very happy.
I will never forget those days.
Even when we got out, I had small classes pamba for some of my commanders. One or two vanga vasina zvefundo mumusoro, asi vamwe vakateerera.
Some are now doctors.
The Commander veDefence Forces has a doctorate. VeIntelligence is studying very hard to get well educated. They must know the world. They must know some of the sciences and build the nation.
That is education. I, therefore, view you as the anchor points of any nation’s civilisation. As Aristotle noted, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
A teacher will teach someone and that someone will teach others, and generation after generation will benefit.
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