SITHABILE Tshuma, a 53-year-old Mdubiwa Secondary School teacher in Lower Gwelo, burns the midnight candle as she pores over a dense document sprawled across a worn wooden table.

The cold beats down through the corrugated asbestos roof of Tshuma’s two-roomed teacher’s cottage as she momentarily stares blankly at the Heritage-Based Education Curriculum introduced recently by the government which she has to master in a few days to impart it to her pupils.

Confusion raves her mind as she longs for the 1980 post-independence education curriculum, which she believes was a straightforward programme with little to no complications as the government christened Heritage-Based Education Curriculum 5.0.

“This government is just confused. From Cala [Continuous Assessment Learning Activities] to Heritage-Based, I still don’t understand what really the government is trying to implement, let alone no one was consulted,” she told NewsDay.

The Heritage-Based Education 2024-30 Curriculum Framework — which replaced the Cala curriculum which was rejected by both pupils and teachers — starts from early childhood development (ECD) up to upper secondary school level with the exemption of exam classes. It has five components which consist of teaching, research, community service, innovation and industrialisation meant to move the nation towards innovation and a knowledge-based economy.

However, Tshuma is failing to understand the new journey riding on an “imposed curriculum”.

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“The truth is that even former Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Lazarus Dokora’s imposed Cala and this Heritage-Based learning, teachers are not aware and it’s just being forced down our throats,” she said.

“The curriculum should go back to what it used to be since 1980, then they emphasise more on practical subjects which give learners skills to survive even before they get employed in the offices,” a disgruntled Tshuma suggested.

Tshuma, a woman with laugh lines etched deep around her kind eyes, has been teaching at Mdubiwa Secondary School for 20 years. She knows every screech of the floorboards, every child's shy smile and every family's struggle. But this Heritage-Based Curriculum feels like a foreign language.

Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro told NewsDay that the government has embarked on a training spree to capacitate teachers across the country to fully understand the concept of the new curriculum.

“We are carrying out training programmes for our teachers nationwide,” Ndoro said.

But Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe’s Obert  Masaraure described the new curriculum as “a disaster, it's a mess, it's a manifesto for the ruling Zanu PF party, which is really unnecessary, it's very retrogressive.”

Masaraure highlighted that the government should not revert to the old curriculum as some teachers requested, stating that it should introduce a curriculum which is connected to present-day challenges.

He added: “We don't have to really think of going back to the curriculum of 1980. What we need urgently is a curriculum which is tailor-made to answer the challenges of the day, to speak to the solutions that really can address our multiverses and national crisis. Zanu PF intends to produce citizens who are not able to challenge the system because they do not have the capacity to engage in critical thinking.

The subjects that are said to be compulsory do not enhance the capacity of an individual learner with critical thinking skills. But that is what we need if we are going to be holding leaders accountable. What we simply need is a functional curriculum which builds the skills but also further enhances the capacity of our learners to be progressive citizens who can critically analyse context and understand duties and obligations. We do not need a curriculum that produces people who are indoctrinated by the ideology of one party.”

Progressive Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe dismissed the new curriculum as an empty shell stating that the government has failed dismally to craft a curricular which is useful for the future generation.

“The new curriculum is much excitement about nothing,” Majongwe said.

He added: “The new curriculum has thrust us back where we were with Circular 2/2017 — back in a morass of mindless confusion borne by the failure of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to accomplish the simple task of crafting something useful for the future of our children. Like its infamous 2017 cousin which it replaces, the latest circular dabbles in abstract concepts that the ministry most likely never hopes to achieve. What is Heritage-based curriculum and how does it fit into the globalised world in which our learners are thrust after going through bizarre curriculum questions.”

He also believes that consultation is very important in coming up with documents informing implementation of new curricula to avoid the current system where ministry bureaucrats believe in self-pollination which will inevitably lead to failure.

According to the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council, the pass rate for the November 2023 Ordinary Level examinations went up by 4,35% to 29,41%. A total of 54 420 of the 185 021 candidates managed to pass at least five subjects. The examination board recorded an 88% pass rate in 2022 Advanced Level results and a 94,60% increase for 2023 results.

Promise Tembo, a Harare teacher at Lord Malvern High School, told NewsDay: “Honestly, this curriculum is imposed like what they did with Cala and many teachers are struggling to understand. However, we can't go back to the 1980 settings but the government must obviously do the right thing, not this hurried thing that is meant for propaganda.

“The Heritage-Based Education Curriculum is just but nothing. No changes realised yet, no training of teachers, old syllabi are still in use, curriculum change must start from the preliminary stages till completion of a certain level. Imagine the current Forms one, two, three and five are continuing using old syllabi right now, yet the government is saying the HBC is starting this term and the syllabi will be changed next year).

There is no funding to support the changes, teachers are not motivated. Only motivating teachers through reasonable remuneration can make things work in schools, and all stakeholders must be involved when it comes to national issues like these ones. This is not like preparing one's family rules and guidelines. This is a national issue,” Tembo said.