Politicians the world over and in Zimbabwe in particular rarely apologise if they make mistakes or make wrong decisions. More often than not they find a scapegoat to justify their actions despite that the fib they are selling may be wafer thin.
Zimbabweans have never had a proper, unambiguous, apology from President Robert Mugabe’s government for the last 33years. Mugabe personally has his scapegoats ready – the British, Americans (United States) and the Rhodesian colonial government for all the ills that has befallen Zimbabwe since he assumed power in 1980.
Mugabe and his comrades since the liberation struggle days were very clear in their actions that they admired the settlers’ lifestyles. They wanted the majority blacks to be big landowners, big shot lawyers, accountants, doctors, traders and industrialists.
To achieve the aforementioned, Mugabe and his comrades strongly believed that academic qualifications were the primary tool to attain the white-men’s lifestyle. And for 33 years Mugabe’s governments have pursued that goal single-mindedly – to make every Zimbabwean an academic through providing them free education or highly subsidised tuition.
The education system and curriculum was immediately after independence overhauled to allow students to progress without bottlenecks. The strict rules that demanded one to pass exams at each stage before going to a higher class was dispensed with. Practical subjects like woodwork, building, agriculture and metal work were looked at with disdain.
Mugabe met his Damascene moment 33 years later after the crushing July 31 victory. He waited a cool five weeks without announcing his swansong cabinet, a cabinet that will be remembered more for one ministry – Minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education and Vocational Training. It had everyone gaping.
While the country was busy second guessing Mugabe why he after 33 years in power had decided to create this ministry, it was easier for most to lose the reason in the dust it raised. Josiah Hungwe the new minister became a butt of jokes.
I think Mugabe was simply saying Ian Douglas Smith – the last white Rhodesian Prime-minister was correct.
Smith had perfected the much detested two path educational system F1 and the F2 system, covering both academic and practical subjects. Unfortunately the system despite its many benefits was mainly seen as segregatory against Africans. Mugabe and company argued the system was designed to confine Africans to the non-academic field (psychomotor) to create a pool of labour for farms and industry.
The unspoken words from Mugabe could be: “Smith was right. We are not gifted the same. I am sorry I turned millions of our finest youths into academic zombies, pseudo academics – ‘O’ and ‘A’ level and university graduates who cannot help their economy. Ladies and gentleman, I cannot rig the economy we need skilled labourers and artisans, we need well educated farmers who are productive not these cellphone farmers we resettled.”
“To achieve this ladies and gentlemen, comrades,” Mugabe would be saying, “I now realise that had we not scrapped the F2 system it could have helped spur the real development in our SME’s in the last three decades when we unwittingly pursued vanity. I now realize academics theorise and let other put into practice. I am really sorry for producing the broncleer drinking and dagga smoking generation of ghetto youths.”
However, the reality of our education crisis is deeper than this. It needs Mugabe and his government to overhaul the whole educational system and readjust the people’s perception on education. Mugabe’s acknowledgement falls short on what to do to the millions of half-baked academics he churned out before he met his Damascene moment 33 years later in power. Will he introduce Further Education Training (FET) for them or retraining of the lost generation?
In his disguised apology Mugabe said, “Those practical subjects must come back into our school system and they need not necessarily count towards qualifying for ‘A’ level or for university, but for his own life. It is revising the curriculum such that it becomes a curriculum for living.”
He further accepted that his government had spurned scientifically proven advice when it did not accept the 1999 Nziramasanga Report.
“The Nziramasanga Report was done, but it has not been happily accepted and yet it is a scientifically grounded inquiry,” he said.
Mugabe in his old age has shown that it is possible to copy from other Smith and MDC-T JUICE document that emphasised on the need to return to F1 and F2 educational system. For now, Mugabe has copied without making it obvious to the opposition that he has taken aboard some of their policies.