The Sunday Mail
By Professor Augustine Deke
A current curriculum of theology is only concerned with the study of religious experience and expression across all civilisations; ancient and modern within the context of philosophy.
Much emphasis has been placed on careful reading of theology’s primary texts, preferably in the original language and the general belief systems. The curriculum is almost defunct as proved by the low intake at higher learning institution.
I strongly support Professor (Amon) Murwira’s thrust for transformative education. Technology and science have changed our view of the world radically, leading some to say that we have entered a new stage of human existence as Africans.
In the age we live in, religion has become influential in all facets of life. We discover religion at the centre of global issues and cultural conflict. Most conflicts around the world are increasingly becoming of religious nature. This implies that development can as well be affected by religion.
As the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology refocuses Zimbabwe’s education to shift from pedagogy to androgogy by 2030, development theology must also be ushered in.
The field of theology and development is a relatively untested discipline within theological studies in Africa. We heavily rely on the Western template meant to produce philosophers only. Key to this discussion is the contested nature of ‘development’ and the need for theological perspectives to engage this contestation through a social analysis of the global structures of economic injustice.
The sudden influx of the philosophy of miracle money and other unorthodox means of prosperity gospel exposes a deficiency in the corridors of theology education. This means that theology now requires an engagement with the social sciences. The current curriculum of theology was shaped by context, politics, situation and environment.
Africa must now produce theologians who are relevant to the context. Relevant enough to transform the communities they lead. They must be able, after prayer and preaching, to design strategies which address economic justice.
They must be able to initiate development which touches the individual as well as the social order. They must be able to guide the church in designing it into economic institutions.
These institutions will determine how each person earns a living, enters into contracts, exchanges goods and services. The institutions will help its members to have a mindset of economic sustenance. The ultimate theology curriculum must address economic injustice not rhetorically. It must practically free each person to engage creatively in the unlimited work beyond economics.
Our higher learning curriculum of theology must answer the following questions in the quest to fit in Vision 2030;
Is the theology graduate fit for the context?
This is where the debate around contextualisation of theological education becomes relevant. Besides deliverance, our context is that of Africa with its particular needs and realities that include industrialisation, rapid urbanisation, employment creation and so forth. Do our curricula address these matters as we train theologians for the people in Africa, or they will end teaching religious studies?
Is the theology graduate fit
In this definition, the actual competences of the graduates (the ‘product’ of the seminary or university) on the job are evaluated against the educational objectives of the college/university. Thus, if the college exists to produce theologians for the society, one needs to find out if society is satisfied with the training the students have received. It would be a sobering exercise for every college to bring together small groups of graduates and ask them three questions: namely:
Which courses that you attended have been valuable to you in your ministry and society? Which course was a waste of time because you have never used the material since leaving college? What do you wish you had been taught that would have helped you change society? The point behind these questions is simply that some of our courses are irrelevant and negate the ‘fitness for purpose’ hence compromising quality.
Is the quality of the curriculum
Students have to learn a large body of knowledge which the Christian tradition has generated. That is a good idea, but this raises the question of “So what?” What difference will the theology graduate student make in the life of the nation? Knowledge plus skills equals competency, that is, the ability to be effective.
There is another important aspect to the subject of transformation. It has to do with social transformation. When theologians fail, it is seldom because they did not learn enough hermeneutics or Greek. They fail most often in the areas of management and development.
It is evident from the three descriptions of quality curriculum listed above that the notion of “quality” is a fuzzy one because there is no universal law. Put another way, quality has many dimensions which overlap and interact with each other. A major shift is occurring in higher education away from measuring the inputs only, that is, the teaching content, towards outcome-based education based on systems of quality assurance. What do you think? Must our theology curriculum remain the same till Jesus returns?
Augustine Deke is an adjunct professor at Team Impact Christian University (USA) and also lectures at Zimbabwe Theological Seminary.