‘We don’t need qualifications in mass displays’

John Mlilo
The Primary and Secondary Education Ministry should boost public confidence in the new education curriculum by paying attention to feedback emanating from its implementation.

This is our document as we contributed to its crafting.

However, the ministry ought to ask questions regarding steps that should be taken to make it work. In spite of the challenges we are facing in implementing the curriculum, we should not look back. The previous colonial curriculum was, no doubt, outdated, and thus required tweaking.

It is important for us to move away from that system which produces useless graduates to a more practical one that speaks to realities of the day.

Our education system should be credible, dealing with challenges we face as a country. This new curriculum is good and needs to be supported, but must match other policy pronouncements.

How do you embark on a programme that requires additional personnel when civil service recruitment is frozen? How do you embark on such a massive project against a background of tight fiscal space?

There is no budgetary support for the curriculum’s implementation, and the targets we have set for ourselves are too tight.

Proposals

We don’t have problems implementing changes at primary school as this is inception level. However, given our resources, we should have perhaps started with Early Childhood Development just as we did a few years ago. A segmented approach would be successful and would help ensure that a particular level is fully resourced in terms of teachers, equipment and literature.

The critical point here is matching the resources we have and the implementation rate.

Introducing new things at Form Three is counterproductive as it burdens the pupil and implementation at that level may not be fully resourced.

I am also not aware of a teacher training college that offers lectures in Mass Displays, for example. So, who then is qualified to take up those lessons? How do mass displays contribute to the well-being of a learner?

There is, therefore, need to analyse our core learning areas thoroughly. I like the idea, though, of sport being a core module because sport is big business.

It is agreed that the Nziramasanga report laid the foundation; so the argument is not about introducing the new curriculum but about moving calculatively.

Recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training of 1999 are all contained in our new document.

The major worry is that the speed at which we are doing things will end up spoiling an otherwise good idea. We need to implement it step by step. Our targets are too tight, and would have been attainable if resources were available.

There is no literature and supporting infrastructure, and there are no teachers to carry the extra burden. Why don’t we implement the programme in phases?

New learning areas have been introduced and time-tables are congested, with learners are spending at least seven hours in class. What will happen in schools with hot-seating; how do you deal with that situation?

Extra lessons were scrapped on the argument that learners needed to rest and educators couldn’t have agree more.

The question is: Are learners not going to burn out by spending the whole day in class? And where are the 10 000 teachers that the Education Ministry was supposed to recruit?

Some of these issues came up when the programme was piloted last year, but were not addressed adequately.

We are not saying implementation of the new curriculum should stop or that teachers are against the document.

No. Implementation of this new document is overdue, so the argument must not be about its contents, but about how it is being done.

At Independence, Zimbabwe’s teacher training colleges did not have literature, but we developed it ourselves.

Universities, for example, develop their own modules. Surely we can do the same when it comes to the new learning areas. We need to appreciate the challenges Zimbabwe has.

Our minister, Dr Lazarus Dokora, has done well to surge ahead with something that had been put off for years.

However, implementation gaps should be dealt with as we risk diluting an otherwise good cause.

This is not about fault-finding, but raising points that should be considered on this historic journey.

Mr John Mlilo is the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association secretary-general. He was speaking to The Sunday Mail’s Tinashe Farawo in Harare last week

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