We have a full-blown crisis

19 Jan, 2020 - 00:01 0 Views
We have a full-blown crisis

The Sunday Mail

Phew!

What a frenzied week it was as those brats, who are used to hogging TV remote controls or causing unending trouble during holidays, were finally banished to school, where they rightfully belong.

It was absolute chaos in schools, from hyperventilating parents who sought to finally push through the transfer of their kids from those greedy casinos they call private schools to public schools; to nervy former “A” level students unwrapping the fruits of their two-year toil.

But Bishop Lazi has reassuring words for parents who have or are transferring their kids from those hoity-toity private schools to our hard-knuckle public schools: your little demons would definitely be put on the straight and narrow.

If there is a Bible verse that public school educators — I heard they are now called educators, and not teachers — religiously follow, it is Proverbs 13:24.

“Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.”

Well, in spit-and-polish public schools, the rod is certainly wielded with gusto, perhaps a tad too much sometimes.

For those snobbish parents that might want to be pretentiously presumptuous, it might be worth their while to know that only judicial corporal punishment was outlawed, which means spanking is still perfectly legal. Kikikiki.

During Bishop Lazi’s time, the teachers’ choicest rod, which could tame even the most stubborn of brats, was the PVC flexible tube or transparent hose, most often “borrowed” from the school lab.

This prehensile “weapon” — oddly intended as a lab accessory — could take pain, and discipline, to another level altogether.

At no time were these tubes and hoses used for their intended purposes other than spankings. To all intents and purposes, poorly equipped school labs were dysfunctional, and for those of us who were condemned to study Chemistry, Physics and Biology, we were never blessed with the opportunity of conducting experiments — not even once.

It was all theory, theory, theory and more theory, which made the subjects thoroughly abstract. Essentially, poorly equipped school labs were just white elephants, or better still, torture chambers.

Without the most basic of chemicals to conduct the most elementary of experiments, perhaps it might be too much to ask for human skeleton dummies or transparent human body anatomy models for schools, which is sad.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that of the 17 749 brave souls that sat for Biology, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry ‘A’ level exams last year — some of whom could have been our future doctors and scientists — only 5 610 passed.

Looked at differently, it means a staggering 12 139 learners flunked.

For a people that seek to leverage on science and technology to take this country out of the rut from which it has been stuck for the past two decades, this is just tragic.

In fact, this, folks, is a full-blown crisis.

Encouragingly, however, Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) board chair Professor Eddie Mwenje seems to have an idea of what is going wrong.

“There could be a number of factors which need further interrogation that could be contributing to this poor performance. We need to closely look at each subject because these are the second results for the recently introduced competency-based curriculum.

“The other contributing factor can be that science subjects require a lot of input and equipment, which most schools do not possess.”

We just hope that this suggestion would be earnestly followed through.

Look to the geeks and nerds

Apparently innovation, science and technology are integral to the current political administration’s plans to extricate the country from the present unenviable circumstances and establish a prosperous society.

Bishop Lazi always tells folks that if they really want to know the inner workings of President ED’s mind, they need to look at the reign of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping — the reformer regarded as the father of the Chinese economic miracle — especially after he assumed power in 1978.

The trajectory is just eerily similar.

Soon after he took over, Deng immediately convened the National Science Conference in March 1978, after which spelt out the Four Modernisations, which were meant to revolutionise agriculture; industry; defence; and science and technology.

“The crux of the Four Mordenisations is the mastery of modern science and technology. Without the high-speed development of science and technology, it is impossible to develop the national economy at a high speed,” remarked Deng in a speech to the National Science Conference in March 1978.

Later on, he made the observation: “From a long-term point of view, we should pay attention to education and science and technology. We have already wasted 20 years when we should have been developing. If we paid no attention to education, science technology, we would waste another 20 years, and the consequences would be dreadful to contemplate.

“When I met (President of Czechoslovakia Gustav) Husak (1969-1989) recently, I mentioned that (Karl) Marx was quite right to say that science and technology are part of the productive forces, but now it seems his statement was incomplete.

“The complete statement should be that science and technology constitute a primary productive force. The future of agriculture will eventually be in bio-engineering and other highly advanced technologies.

“So we must recognise the full importance of science and technology. We should put more money and effort into developing them and into developing agriculture and education. We should try every way to expand education, even if it means slowing down in other fields.”

Sorry for the gratuitous but necessary quote; however, you could easily attribute it to ED than to Deng, for the former speaks about modernisation and infinitum.

And his vision has already started bearing fruit. The incubation hubs that have since been established in our universities are a refreshing starting point.

Already, the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) has since developed the tap-and-go system for electronic payments in Zupco buses, and their electronic fuel gauging system will soon be rolled out across the country.

Imagine, how much the country could pay if it were to outsource this technology.

Better still, such technologies can easily be sold to the region. How a country such as Zimbabwe can spend a fortune buying software for a mere billing system for Harare ratepayers truly boggles the mind.

Observably, there is a direct correlation between declining revenue collections by Harare City Council and the collapse of the local authority’s billing system.

But this task now lies squarely with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), which has been mandated to incubate software development initiatives, among others.

Also, having manual systems in our banks, of all places, especially in the 21st century, is a sad indictment of our commitment to modernisation.

Not only does this breed corruption, but it also slows down our development as well.

Most, if not all, of our processes need to be automated and mechanised to improve both production and efficiencies.

 Investments

One would imagine that emphasis on science and technology would improve local industrial processes that are crucial in giving local firms comparative and competitive advantages over their peers in the region.

It would also help to increase productivity and cut costs for both the public and private sectors. We need not even talk of the convenience that is afforded by technology.

While cash — bank notes and coins — is worshipped or even sought after in Zimbabwe, in China it is dying.

More and more retailers are no longer accepting cash. They actually prefer online, mobile money, debit and credit card payments, and this has revolutionised the Chinese way of living. It also makes it easier for the taxman.

That Government has committed to set aside 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for research and development has to be commended, but these resources should also be judiciously allocated to schools to ensure that school labs have everything they need to teach science.

You cannot reap where you did not sow.

2 Corinthians 9: 6 makes it abundantly clear that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully”.

Over the centuries, the evolution of societies has been largely driven by science and technology. This means as we increasingly look to exponentially improve production in all sectors of the economy, we should necessarily look more to science and technology.

So the recent Zimsec ‘A’ level results for science subjects should force us to seriously introspect and double down on our investments in this critical field.

Bishop out!

 

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