PRIMARY and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora has courted controversy since 2013 when he took over from David Coltart, introducing a raft of changes within a short space of time much to the chagrin of parents and pupils, who felt he was on a mission to take the country’s once-revered education system down the drain.
BY VANESSA GONYE
Besides launching a new curriculum, Dokora introduced the National Pledge and many other policy changes, with a view to make the education system remain relevant to fast-changing international trends.
NewsDay reporter, Vanessa Gonye (ND) recently spoke to Dokora (LD), to get an understanding of the ministry’s position, as well as progress regarding the new curriculum and many other policy changes that he has introduced.
ND: Your ministry this year introduced a new curriculum. With this new system of education are several reforms and a cause for concern is that this year Grade 7 students had an agriculture paper in their exams. Can we say they had ample time to learn the basics?
LD: Agriculture has never been a new area in the primary level curriculum. We just took it out of general paper, as a proper salience to agricultural sciences. General Paper, if you must know, encompassed many fields including agriculture.
ND: With every transition comes a great need for resources; are these adequate to register a huge and positive success in a short period?
LD: The new curriculum is based on a framework with five pillars namely professional standards, infrastructure, teachers’ capacity development, establishment of an institute for research, as well as legal and regulatory reforms. I will explain the pillars in detail.
We have been able to secure some support for the infrastructure and we are already in the process of constructing 17 schools.
These schools are modern and they correspond to the new designs. Also, bilateral arrangements between the school and parent communities, as well as triple Ps (public, private partnerships) with government sectors, as well as private entities are in place as we are determined to ensure that adequate resources to keep the curriculum going are in place.
Teacher capacity development targeting 3 000 teachers is ongoing with 400 graduating last year, others completing this year. The teacher capacity programme was launched in July of 2014 by his Excellency, President Robert Mugabe.
Establishment of an institute for research meant to enable further enhancement of skills to teachers. A number of universities will be approached in line with this pillar as we already have the seed funding to establish the institution.
ND: Can we then say the curriculum is meant to separate or enhance talent?
LD: Please get me right, a person who is astute in the use of their hands is not disengaging in intellect, so the new curriculum embraces everyone and not in the mode of saying that those oriented in the hands skills must not be regarded as intellectual and academic, not at all. But one and the same person is stimulated to be innovative because they are handling the medium as they learn so for us we cannot make such a distinction.
If persons were sent to school and they ideally learnt theoretical knowledge forms, those theoretical knowledge forms cannot bring bread to the table. This is where we are coming from, where thousands say I have 7 A’s at O level, and none of them speaks to technical skills that they can utilise.
That then tells you that the commission of inquiry into education and training long sounded the warning bell that our system was too academic and in need of review and fine tuning to make sure that it constitutes a form of empowerment.
ND: Are you working with other ministries and departments so that students are assured of work placements soon after school?
LD: Remember we are the basic education ministry; any of our graduates on the new platform should be good news to higher and tertiary, youth ministry, women affairs ministry, in any sector actually because they will not only appreciate the environment that they will be completely at home where discipline and work ethics are concerned and they are skilful at something as well as being willing learners.
The habit of willingness to work is what we have lost in some very key sectors of our economy. People want shortcuts to wealth where they earn where they have not worked.
I would not like to go into another zone where they are encouraged by some fortuitous intervention that it will happen, without their lifting a finger. Suddenly your field is filled with crops, and you have not worked, I would not eat those crops, I would run away because tinofanira kudya zveziya.
In 2015 we had people who claimed to be in some of those churches who said that there were anointed pens and when I said we should denounce that there were others who said no, but it’s true that if you want to pass Zimsec examinations or any other examinations you must study and go through the algorithm.
To believe that a pen sold to you at an exorbitant $10 is somehow anointed and that you will somehow use it and pass certainly is not in the spirit of a scientific outlook to life.
ND: How far are you in terms of implementing the new curriculum?
LD: As you know, it is already in effect and we are making steady progress.
ND: There are students who may have the capacity and are able to exceed the said 10 subject limit at Ordinary Level, how will they be considered?
LD: They can go as far as they want, but if you follow the new curriculum in its true depth and breath, we don’t know how many would want to get to the numbers they were getting to in the past. In the past, there were no tasks to undertake, it was just theoretical, Some kids can be smart and memorise things. In the past we had a kid with 17 disciplines, is that still learning or its regurgitation?
ND: It has been noted that the authors of new curriculum books on indigenous languages are mainly white foreigners, is it a shortage of indigenous/local writers?
LD: That decision does not rest with the ministry but on the publishers so I wouldn’t know the criteria they use in selecting authors. The ministry’s role is assessing teaching learning materials while the publisher is responsible for the authors.
ND: Are private schools also abiding by the new curriculum?
LD: There is only one national curriculum for the Republic of Zimbabwe. Have you ever heard of other republics within a republic? (Laughs).