Zimbabwe’s Heritage-Based Curriculum Sparks Nationwide Educational Debate

New Curriculum Criticized for Political Content, Implementation Concerns

by Adenike Adeodun

There is a contentious debate in Zimbabwe surrounding the newly launched Heritage-based Curriculum. Several educators and unions have voiced their apprehensions regarding its political inclinations and feasibility. The curriculum emphasizes the Ubuntu philosophy and intends to cultivate a profound sense of nationalism and Zimbabwean identity. However, the critics contend that it largely mirrors the ruling Zanu PF party’s agenda.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education insists that this curriculum shift is designed to foster a nationalistic spirit among students. According to a recent ministry circular, the curriculum seeks to mold students into disciplined, patriotic individuals who value honesty, volunteerism, and the communal Ubuntu philosophy. However, this has not been well-received by all, with some educators labeling the move as a strategy to produce “politicized robot machines” rather than critical thinkers.

Critics argue that the curriculum serves as an extension of political propaganda, rather than an educational tool. Obert Masaraure, leader of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, expressed concerns that the curriculum focuses on a “fictitious falsified history” glorifying the ruling party, which could detract from a balanced and critical educational approach. “Heritage studies are a Zanu PF manifesto which is used to indoctrinate learners,” Masaraure stated, highlighting the potential dangers of such a politicized educational framework.

In addition, the implementation of the curriculum in Zimbabwe has been called into question by the Progressive Teachers Union. The union’s president, Takavafira Zhou, has criticized the lack of consultation and the top-down approach used in developing the curriculum. Zhou has suggested that the curriculum was created primarily for political convenience rather than educational advancement. He also highlighted the impracticality of the curriculum due to the inadequate resources available in many schools. For example, the lack of electricity and proper infrastructure make it difficult to teach ICT and science technology effectively.

The introduction of the Heritage-based Curriculum comes without a clear budget or plan for addressing significant infrastructural deficits within the educational system. Takavafira Zhou highlighted the absence of a coherent strategy for constructing the necessary schools or employing the required number of teachers. Such gaps raise doubts about the feasibility of successfully implementing this ambitious educational overhaul.

Further complicating matters is the curriculum content itself, which has been described as disjointed and lacking continuity between educational stages. For instance, agriculture is omitted at the Ordinary Level but included at the Advanced Level, and accounting faces the reverse situation. This lack of “spiral learning” could hinder a cohesive educational progression, essential for student development.

The successful rollout of any new curriculum heavily depends on the motivation and support of teachers. However, Tapedza Zhou, secretary-general of the Educators Union of Zimbabwe, pointed out that the teachers are currently demoralized due to inadequate compensation and unresolved reimbursements from previous workshops. Without addressing these fundamental issues, the new curriculum risks failure, as demotivated teachers are unlikely to implement it effectively.

The Education minister has been urged to prioritize teacher motivation as a critical factor for the successful implementation of the Heritage-based Curriculum. This includes fair remuneration and providing the necessary resources and training to empower teachers to deliver the curriculum effectively.

The introduction of Zimbabwe’s Heritage-based Curriculum has sparked a heated debate about the role of education in national identity formation and the extent to which political agendas should influence it. While the goals of fostering patriotism and a unified national identity are commendable, the execution and politicization of these aims have led to significant pushback from the educational community. For the curriculum to succeed, it must be depoliticized and accompanied by substantial investments in educational infrastructure, teacher support, and a transparent development process that includes the voices of all stakeholders in the educational sector.


Source: Newsday

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