Letter from America: Crisis in Zim education: Reply to Fay Chung

Our perspectives about the trajectory of Zimbabwe’s future are different, and this starts with the view on African education.

Let me say that Fay Chung belongs to the rank of “apostles” in Zanu, while I served merely as a low-level messenger and door-keeper in Zapu.

Our perspectives about the trajectory of Zimbabwe’s future are different, and this starts with the view on African education.

Zanu stalwarts regarded African education as inferior to that provided for white pupils. They are using the wrong measurements.

I disagree with love.

Zanu ideologues want to have their cake and eat it. While confessing that the products of Zimbabwean education were welcome everywhere in the English-speaking world, the origin of that superiority was the Rhodesian colonial education system.

It is true that the colonial government provided 20 times as much funding for European schools than it did for African education. Chung says that white students were prepared for a British style education while black students were prepared for a Bantu style education copied from South Africa.

No madam, that may have been the wish of the devil, but that was not the case in Rhodesia.

The matter was discussed and rejected at the International Missionary Conference at Cape Town in 1935.

Until 1960 almost all African education was under the authority of missionaries. These missionaries provided a unique approach to African education, which whites did not have. They came from the English-speaking world, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and the European countries.

The missionaries were generally Negrophiles, offering a unique quality of education, based on sacrificial love and care for their mentees.  I did not realise, until late in life that indeed, I had sat at the feet of the saints. What parent, in his right mind, would forego a place at Dadaya Mission where his child would sit at the feet of Sir Garfield Todd and his wife? What about the great missionaries like Majorie Baker at Waddilove Institute, and Ken Mew at Ranche House College? Among their products were the great school masters, JMD Manyika of Globe and Phoenix in Kwekwe and Joseph Mushuku at Mucheke High in Masvingo. Then there was the great mathematician, Alfred Knottenbelt at Fletcher High School.

We cannot measure their efforts in money.

The International Missionary Conference mentioned above was the brainchild of the Americans, Jesse Jones and the Carnegie Foundation. They were trying to sneak in a syllabus entirely devoted to creating a “low level skilled labour for white industries”. This was rejected outright as missionaries, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, realised that it was an attempt to make blacks “hewers of wood and carriers of water for the white men.” Even in South Africa, the Scottish missionaries at Lovedale and Adams College rejected it. Bantu education came into being late in the 1960s when missionary schools in South Africa were nationalised for that purpose.

In any case, Sir Garfield Todd, prime minister, 1955-1959, rejected the Bantustan approach outright.

No sister Chung, there was no Bantu education in Rhodesia. Sir Garfield’s stated his aim. “I do not have 100 years to raise the level of African education to that of the white man, at best, I have 20 years.” By the stroke of a pen, he doubled teacher salaries to GBP20 per month. The stupid colonial whites did not see his vision, they mocked him, put the racist Ian Smith in his place. We all know the results of the failure of the whites to embrace his vision.

Sister Chung asks: “Which ministry was better?” In her opinion, the European system was better.

She has fallen into a mindset common among secularists. She has judged the European education by the amount of money provided by the Rhodesia government. When I went to Lander University in the US, I found the buildings by far more modern and comfortable than my “chorale” at St Andrews University in Scotland. The president of Lander University and the dean of faculty, a Harvard product, stood in awe as they perused my repertoire.

Sister Chung, you have been bamboozled by your much learning. Any educator of note will tell you that education without a moral foundation, especially at the formative ages between pre-school and Grade 7, is more than a waste of time.

There is no price that can be placed on the services of the saints. I cannot believe that I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of these great minds, dreamers who loved humanity and shared their wisdom with us. I was invited by Ken Mew, director of Ranche House College to welcome that great son of the church from South Africa, the Reverend Dr Beyers Naude, DD moderator of the Dutch Reformed Kirk in South Africa.

No, my sister, money is not the measure of greatness.

The greatness of a school lies, not in the buildings, but in the moral atmosphere of the school. The great Socrates taught in the street. The unmeasurable quality of great teaching starts with loving and caring teachers.


While nationalists allege that European education was superior to black education, at the same time, they confess that African students performed better than any other country in the Commonwealth at examinations. A 44% pass with five subjects per student was the highest ever achieved in the Commonwealth.

Even when it came to London Guilds examinations, my friend Ken Mew once told me that Ranche House produced the best results in the country.

There was a report from Bulawayo Technical College that the first group of African students had done so well in their examinations that admission was suspended for a few years in 1966.

This applied to nursing schools as well. Since blacks were admitted after Form IV and whites were admitted after Junior Certificate, it does not surprise me that black students performed better than their white colleagues.

So where is this European education superiority they talk about?

Either black students performed better than white students because their training and background was superior to that of their white colleagues, or they did not. Logic, logic, my sister.

As we speak, the South African government is planning to bar Zimbabwean students from admission into their universities. An official at the ministry told me that: “Zimbabweans can eat your lunch in broad daylight.”

Girls were left behind because it was believed that educated girls were troublesome as wives.

Going overseas

The outflow of Africans to greener pastures was due to their superior education. Paradoxically, whites who migrated fell on very bad times because their education was poor.

  • Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwean patriot and writes from the US. His books are available from Innov Bookshops in Zimbabwe and from kenmufukabooks.com in the wider world.

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