Taking TVET to the people

Ityai Frank Kurebwa and Thomas Gatsi
Constantly changing technology to provide solutions to emerging problems of the 21st century has affected every nation in all aspects of life.

Every nation, therefore, should be prepared to deal with challenges associated with globalisation and industrialisation through development of relevant skills for survival.

In terms of skills for self-reliance, employment creation and industrial growth, Zimbabwe should be geared towards a huge paradigm shift — Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

This has been upheld as one of the best ways of developing skills for self-reliance, decent jobs, employment creation and economic growth.

The enunciation by President Mugabe of the concept of psychomotor education development, which is meant to raise productivity and grow Zimbabwe’s economy, presents a definite moment of change in our education system.

However, many people generally dread any form of change because of the fear of the unknown.

The change from a more academic to a TVET-based curriculum has come with fear of the unknown to parents/guardians, pupils, teachers and the general public.

Change sometimes come with a package of undue consequences, while on the other hand bringing opportunities. It is against this background that any form of change should be carefully managed, especially during the early phases of implementation because people tend to focus on undue consequences rather than opportunities.

That our education system had a missing link — the practical application of abilities and/or knowledge — is no longer a debatable issue.

De-industrialisation, failure to adequately produce our own food and dependence on imports speak volumes about the missing link. Should Zimbabwe be proud of importing nappies “nezvipeneti zvacho . . . aaa . . . zvigogonzi zvanyanyoita sei?” one can imagine our dear President saying.

The vital question is: What should be done to add value to the reviewed curriculum that is now a reality? Yes, there is no going back. We needed this new curriculum. It is now time to devote our energies in searching for the best strategies to craft the way forward towards implementation of a meaningful TVET-oriented curriculum.

At this juncture let us take the opportunity to congratulate those Zimbabweans, who in spite of the fear of the unknown, have boldly embraced the new curriculum at primary and secondary educations as well as the STEM initiative.

Countries like Brazil, the US, Iran and India have long embraced STEM. The STEM initiative is indeed vital for preparing pupils for the uptake of technical and vocational skills training for industrialisation.

Zimbabweans must know that these initiatives do not belong to the education ministries alone. They belong to all Zimbabweans, and it is everyone’s responsibility to improve all the grey areas that some are complaining about through contribution of practical solutions.

The initiatives vindicate the President’s foresight when he established the Department of Psychomotor Activities in Education to oversee skills development across the whole spectrum of education from early childhood to higher education.

There is nothing bad in constructive criticism. However, instead of spending all our energy on criticising, is it not worthwhile to direct more energy towards solutions?

If the correct image about the new curriculum is to be conveyed, perhaps there is need to immediately embark on preparing teachers for the changes in order to dispel fear of the unknown.

If a teacher is not in a position to explain to parents and pupils what the new curriculum entails, then our work will come to naught. This includes liaising with teacher education colleges for the correct message to be conveyed to trainee teachers for both primary and secondary schools.

There surely is need for a radical TVET teacher education programme sooner than later to equip primary and secondary level teachers with adequate technical know-how in the various technical subjects. This would enable them to prepare school pupils for the next level of training which is skills training for the                                                                                                                job.

We currently have only two technical teachers’ colleges in Zimbabwe – Belvedere and Gweru technical teachers colleges.

These two may not be in a position to meet the demand of technical subjects teachers need for the new curriculum, considering that practical subjects should be taught at all schools, even in the remotest parts of the country.

We applaud the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s incremental approach to implementation of the new curriculum but the general public should be made aware that practical subjects are not only limited to Bricklaying and Agriculture, and will include fields such as Welding, Basketry, Cookery, Music, Sculpture, etc.

Relevance to various localities in which the school is situated is a must. This will enable schools to prepare students to make use of the skills they learn effectively within their respective environments.

Is it not possible to improve some of the existing polytechnics and teachers colleges to train more technical and vocational subjects’ teachers?

Teachers who qualified to teach technical subjects long back need to be re-trained because technology has overtaken the experience which they had some years back, hence there is need to keep the teachers upgrading qualifications periodically by sending them for attachment and or refresher courses during holidays thus keeping them abreast of new technologies and industrial methods.

This is a sure way of motivating teachers.
While in-service teacher training is vital to produce technical and vocational subjects teachers, a deliberate pre-service technical teacher education would produce more technical and vocational teachers considering the magnitude of psychomotor activities envisaged in the near future.

It would be prudent to have these teachers trade-tested at Class 2 levels in trade-testable areas so that they become journeyman Class 2 skilled workers as a minimum.

Successful psychomotor activities will depend on various aspects apart from well trained and motivated teachers, how do we envisage the role of appropriate infrastructure and adequate equipment in readiness for practical subjects teaching? That is food for thought for all interested parties.

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