Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
AFTER Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, veteran educationist and retired diplomat, Dr Aaron Maboyi together with the country’s first Education Minster Dr Dzingai Mutumbuka, the late educationist Fananidzo Pesanai and Dr Nicholas Makura, an academic now based in the United States, were tasked with reforming the education system.
This saw them working to abolish the pre-independence education system that created inequalities which disadvantaged black children.
While the racist colonial regime had built good schools equipped with the best educational facilities for all white children, a few learning institutions satisfied the education demands of black children.
Dr Maboyi said they worked to reform the country’s education system starting with a new curriculum.
“We had a serious dilemma of destroying the segregatory and divisive education system between white and black and coming up with a unitary system. I was one of the key figures who spearheaded the dismantling of that segregatory colonial education system and introducing a new transformed system,” he said.
“We were appointed by then President Canaan Banana to work on the new school curriculum together with the white education officers and I was the one in charge. There was a lot of disgruntlement among the white officers as they resisted the reforms in the education sector.”
Dr Maboyi said the curriculum for the white community was totally different from that of blacks in the sense that the emphasis in the black curriculum was to make them competent in the understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“We were supposed to be taught arithmetic while the Europeans went for mathematics and sciences. Africans were never taught science and what we were taught was hygiene while our white counterparts did physiology and hygiene and general science and this was the case until 1980,” he said.
As a result of Government’s transformation of the education system, today Zimbabwe has one of the best education systems in Africa which has produced professionals in almost every discipline.
The literacy rate stands at 85,50 percent.
“From 1890 to 1923 there was no education to talk about. In 1923, the Europeans introduced an education system and the missionaries being the vanguards of education for the blacks, were at the forefront. However, the real purpose of educating blacks was to make them understand the Bible so that they could be converted into Christianity hence most schools were run by churches,” he said.
“The Rhodesian government only came up with a meaningful education system around 1948 with the establishment of Goromonzi High School, which became the only high school in this country. The whites had their own education system, which was purely European and they were taught in their own schools without mixing with us.”
Dr Maboyi said he was later appointed the director of the Zimbabwe Integrated Teacher Education Course (Zintec) soon after Independence.
He said the purpose of the programme was to change the way of thinking and mentality of an African teacher in Zimbabwe to understand what independence and liberation meant.
The Zintec programme, which was implemented between 1981 to 1988 was hailed by researchers as one of the most successful in-service teacher training courses that have been mounted in Southern Africa and Africa as a whole.
It was through the expansion of the education system at primary school level that enabled the country to produce skilled professionals in several fields, the surplus of whom have migrated to other countries.
Dr Maboyi, worked alongside the likes of Great Zimbabwe University Vice-Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo, Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education (Zimche) chief executive Prof Kuzvinetsa Peter Dzvimbo and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Boniface Chivore in the establishment of the Zintec programme.
Four colleges in Mutare, Masvingo, Harare and Gwanda were part of the Zintec programme, which was in response to a shortage of qualified teacher soon after independence.
The programme has been lauded as one of the historic education reforms aimed at coping with the ever-expanding education demands and the need for qualified teachers in the country.
“As we were changing the curriculum, we realised that it was useless to change it without changing the mental set up of the teacher. We introduced what was known as the Zintec and I was appointed director of that programme Significant strides have been made in the capitalisation of both the supervision and the examination of education system which is a marvel across Africa,” said Dr Maboyi.
He said the increase in qualified teaching personnel and materials through Government partnerships with bodies such as Unicef through the Education Transition Fund has greatly enhanced the quality of education and performance at Grade 7, ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level, examinations in schools around the country.
Former education Minister Fay Chung said before independence, blacks did not receive a fair deal in the segregatory education system, but that changed after independence.
She said whites had one teacher for as few as nine pupils just before independence, compared to Africans one teacher for 40 at primary school and one teacher for 30 at secondary school.
The former minister said the European school curriculum was a copy of the British one, whereas the African curriculum was very much below standard, particularly for English and Mathematics.
She also said European primary schools had internationally qualified teachers with “O” levels plus three years of teacher training, whereas African primary schools had teachers with Grade 7 and one year of training.
“We only had 35 percent of primary children in school before Independence. Today we have 96 percent. We only had 4 percent of Grade 7s going to secondary school before Independence, now we have 49 percent. We constructed more than 4 000 primary schools and more than 1 500 secondary schools during my tenure but these were mainly constructed by parents and communities themselves, with the help of Government.
“We modernised subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. These are now of international standard. In some ways we retained some aspects, such as the Grade 7 examinations. However, in the 1980s and 1990s we had 72 percent passes in five subjects, but in 2020 we only had 37 percent passes, due to Covid, lockdown and lack of textbooks.”
Renowned academic Professor Lovemore Madhuku said Government played a key role in the development of a robust education system in the country, which also catered for the less privileged.
He said his generation benefitted from Government’s Free Education for All programme.
“My parents are poor peasants in Chipinge. They could not have afforded to pay for my university education. My generation benefitted from compulsory and free education policy enunciated by the Government in 1980. The colonial regime wanted a secondary or high school to look like something so spectacular and that accessing them was a privilege of only a few,” he said.
“When the late President Mugabe who was then Prime Minister, came in 1980, he said we wanted every child to go past primary school and secondary schools were then established near primary schools.
“There was massive and expansive development of primary and secondary schools throughout the country.”
Prof Madhuku said there was also an expansive development of teacher training colleges with the country now rated as one of the most literate societies in the world.
“Zimbabweans are regarded as highly educated and you can talk of a highly educated society because of the transformation of the education system by the government,” he said.
Director of communications and advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Mr Taungana Ndoro said nearly 10 000 schools were built after independence.
“153 have been built since the advent of the second Republic. Plans are underway to build a further 16 schools this year,” he said.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Cain Mathema said government expanded access to education.
He said government also introduced BEAM programme so that every vulnerable child can go to school.
Minister Mathema said local languages are now being taught in schools.
He said there are now universities in every province and more private institutions of higher learning were registered.
Minister Mathema said with the new curriculum, children are being taught that when they finish school, they can start businesses and not only look for jobs.
The Minister said as a result of being innovative, schools are producing sanitisers and masks to help in the fight against Covid-19.
“Even in rural areas, children can go to secondary school. Education is now available to more people than before independence. Every child goes to secondary school now,” he said. “We want our children to land on the moon tomorrow.”