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Why the Constitutional Outreach Programme performed dismally in data collection

22 Jul 2011 at 18:06hrs | Views
Law experts from warring parties concur on their observation

Folks, I would like to share my reflections on media comments that were recently attributed to Ministers Welshman Ncube and Patrick Chinamasa disclosing that the Constitutional Outreach programme failed dismally to achieve its targets. We do not doubt this information because it comes from people with expertise in the field of constitutional law. As a result, we are glad that for the first time experts from across the political divide have agreed on an issue.
 I decided to make some contributions because I strongly believe that constitutional outreach outcomes were influenced by the absence of a subject that has a civic, social and political content, in both our mainstream and adult education.

The thing is in life 'you reap what you sow'. The quality of contributions to the outreach teams reflect that we are reaping the social, civic and political seeds that we sowed over the years. The majority of Zimbabweans, particularly in rural areas, know very little about civic affairs or active citizenship. They were brain-washed at independence and in the subsequent elections that followed, and have continued voting without making informed decisions or reasons why they choose a particular politician ahead of others. To exacerbate the situation, dominant political forces have made it difficult if not impossible, for an independent body to facilitate awareness on civic, social and political matters and operate freely. On the other hand, leaders of the envisaged independent bodies have been a let down unto themselves. They have sometimes found themselves caught in a web of partisanship and institutional tribalism.

Will the remaining 80% of the targeted outcomes join the queue as "outstanding issues"?

It is embarrassing to tell the world that after mobilising resources and getting assistance from the donor community we only achieved 20% (1/5) of the targeted outcomes and that the remaining 80% (4/5) of the outcomes might have to join the queue as "Outstanding Issues". For this reason, one may assume that the larger chunk of the money that was used as payment for subsistence and travelling (S & T) allowances to outreach teams was not put to good use.
Possible first solution to lack of active citizenship

To avoid a repeat of the scenario, I would like to recommend two possible solutions. I believe it would be a good idea to introduce a subject with political, civic and social education elements. Firstly, it could be studied during the first four years of secondary education. An opportunity was lost when it was agreed to have History as a compulsory subject ahead of Civics. I still remember not long ago reading an article in the media about a proposal from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) for Civics to be included in the secondary school curriculum. If we are gentle man enough and responsive to love with love, we will be swallowing our pride and admitting that we ignored the feminine gender when they had raised an important issue. But alas, we respond to those who bring happiness and love to us by cracking a whip on them.

Possible second solution

Secondly, the civics, political and social module can be offered to adults through non-formal classes in community education and development programmes. Review of academic literature revealed that in the European Union (EU) they have a project known as Teaching European Active Citizenship (TEACH) and 'the main objectives of the programme are to further train people teaching active citizenship in non-formal adult education, and to provide participants with an analysis of skills related to active citizenship' (European Communities, 2008, 11). European Communities use the programme to foster multiculturalism through integration and inclusion of communities from diverse cultural and traditional backgrounds.

Role of the Education Ministries in democracy and active citizenship

Adult education falls under the remits of the two Ministries of Education. Therefore, it is up to the two ministries to lobby the GPA-sponsored government to open up space so that citizens can be taught issues of political, social and civic nature. That might undoubtedly help them to become 'active citizens'. This can be done by a politically neutral and independent body established possibly through a fair and impartial parliamentary legal instrument. The body may use Training for Transformation approaches based on the teachings of Freire. Freire's approaches have been widely used in facilitating democratic and political awareness to the marginalised in South America.

The problem may be that it seems as if there is little visibility or activity of Education Officers who are supposed to coordinate activities in non-formal education. I believe the non-formal education sector includes literacy and numeracy classes, study groups, and adult education, and community education and development. Furthermore, it appears as if there are no distinct structures at local, district, regional and national level for the non-formal education sector. The fact that the sector exists as a 'gray area' or a no-man's land has in the past resulted in it being prone to manipulation by political parties.

The three fundamental human activities

In her essay, 'Vita Activa and the Human Condition', Hanna Arendt proposed 'to designate three fundamental human activities: labor, work, and action' (Arendt, p. 7). I shall briefly discuss the first two, but it is the last one that I will dwell on more. Labour corresponds to 'biological metabolic processes' resulting in growth, metabolism, and eventual death and decay. The 'human condition' of labour is 'life', which translates to the fact that we labour in order to sustain life. Work corresponds to 'unnaturalness of human existence'. We work in order to acquire things that we do not necessarily need as basics. In addition to basics, work provides us with the artificial worldly things, for example, a Rolex watch or an Aston Martin car. I chose a Rolex watch and an Aston Martin as a way of emphasising that in the 21st century, buying an ordinary watch and a simple car is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Action as a human condition of plurality

We therefore have labour at the bottom of the pyramid, work in middle, and action at the tip or apex. Action helps us to be complete humans or to 'become fully human'. 'Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things of matter, corresponds to the human condition of plurarity, to the fact that men, not Man, live on earth and inhabit the world' (p.7). This can be interpreted to mean that while all other fundamental activities are somehow related to politics, the highest and complete form of humanness is when we are 'free' to 'fully' participate in politics. Plurality refers to the human condition of interacting with other men, not Man. If we were to use a politically correct language, the term 'men' would be replaced with the term 'people'. Human beings are political in nature, and that is a 'prestigious characteristic' that distinguishes us from other social animals.

The analogy of the slaves/serfs, apprentices/artisans and landlords/masters

The origins of three fundamental human activities can be traced back to the medieval ages. I will try here to simplify them using an analogy of slaves/serfs, apprentices/artisans and landlords/masters. Slaves or serfs laboured and that ensured that they got food and other basic necessities that helped them to survive. Labour also ensures the continuity of a species or being able to reproduce. Apprentices and artisans worked and accumulated some luxuries that the serfs could not afford. However, the apprentices and artisans worked hard and for long hours such that they had no time left for political activity. At the top of the hierarchy there were landlords who owned the slaves or masters who had artisans that worked under their supervision. The landlords or masters had the time to fulfil their political life aspirations. I thought of sharing this analogy with you folks in order to put an emphasis on the historical origins of political life. Moreover, I wanted to clarify and assist you to draw conclusions as to why a certain class of people is sometimes disenfranchised or not taken seriously, insofar as political activity is concerned.

Relationship of action to natality or birth

Action or our political being is closely associated with natality or birth. The new beginning of birth to this world is welcomed by expressions such as 'Amhlophe', 'Makorokoto' 'because the newcomer possesses the capacity of beginning something anew, that is, of acting' (p. 9). As individuals we are born as free social agents. Furthermore, each one of us is unique, and 'acts' differently. As babies, we are curious to study the world around us, and we show that attribute by, for example, bouncing around the room, and feeling and touching objects. We are sometimes discouraged to engage in that natural gift of action by external forces. These could be parents, friends, relatives, teachers, bosses at work, et cetera, doing it deliberately or unknowingly. Most importantly, it is repressive and oppressive regimes that deliberately deny us that natural gift and use unwarranted force to kill that spirit almost permanently.

Romans, the most political people known to us, 'used the words "to live" and to "to be among men" (inter homines esse) or "to die" and "to cease to be among men" (inter hominess esse desinere) as synonyms' (p.8). In my interpretation, the pair of term and expression 'death' and 'not to be among men', are used metaphorically and do 'not necessarily mean' the cessation of metabolic processes or loss of life. They seem to imply being denied to freely (without being coerced) engage in activity, plurality; interaction with other humans, which in essence is at the core of political life.

Paulo Friere (1921-1997) on freedom

In the 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed', Freire reaffirms Arendt's thinking by stating that 'humanization' is a man's vocation, which is paradoxically emphasised by its negation, that is, 'dehumanization'. Dehumanization marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but those who have stolen it. In other words, Freire believed that when the oppressed free themselves, they also free the oppressor. Dehumanization 'is a distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human' (pp. 21-22). Similarly, he defines freedom as an 'indispensable condition for the quest for human completion' (p. 24).

If I may ask, what has happened to the Training for Transformation (TFT) community education and development courses that are based on the teachings of Freire? There is a high likelihood that the teachings would have helped the constitutional outreach programme to gather quality data in the rural areas. After all, the teachings are not "capitalist", but reflect Marxist-Leninist approaches. It appears as if we need the TFT courses back in communities if we are to get things right.

Non-economic objectives of adult education

Despite the fact that economic and social benefits of adult education are intimately intertwined, 'social objectives of adult education are also emphasised in their own right' (Powell et al. 2003, p. 12). In a paper that was presented to a UNESCO conference in 1997, the European Commission defined the value of adult education as 'an essential factor for achieving personal fulfilment and development, and for attaining optimal levels of social and political participation. It is rightly seen as being a major instrument against exclusion and marginalisation....' (Stoney et al, 1999, p. 1, cited in Powell et al, 2003, pp. 12 – 13).

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2003) concurs by pointing out that: learning can affect every facet of a person's life from citizenship and democracy, in the sense of full participation in society, to individual welfare. It is suggested that participation in adult education can facilitate social returns such as improved health and reduced crime levels and personal and cultural development encouraging social integration.

Similarly, the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) (2001) asserts that 'lifelong learning is about combating social exclusion through helping all to participate in shaping their own futures, improving quality of life and become active citizens.'

Individual and social construction of knowledge

I strongly believe the fundamental idea of establishing an online forum of this nature is to create opportunities to interact and share information that reflects international best practice. In a postmodern era, the best practice does not necessarily have to originate from the North, South, East or West. Some of it exists indigenously and in regions where we live. Social constructivists believe in that knowledge is socially constructed, and 'can in fact be communicated, and shared, compared and evaluated' (Fox, 2001, p. 29). It is therefore up to us as adults to make informed decisions on the type of knowledge that we wish to use or discard. 'Individual knowing subjects are themselves considered to be constructed out of social interaction and social discourse and the individual is thus him- or herself, a social product' (p.29). I think we have realised how difficult or incoherent it is to talk to ourselves (soliloquy) when trying to solve a problem.
Link of critical theory to Marxist scholarship

Critical theory has a Marxist background. We interpret, predict, explain, and try to make meaning or sense why things happen the way they do, or more importantly "we have dreams". 'Theorizing - generating provisional explanations that help us understand and act in the world – helps us to breathe clearly when we feel stifled by the smog of confusion. We theorize so we can understand what's happening to us and so that we can take informed decisions' (Brookfield, 2005, p. 2). The marginalised are the most vulnerable and sometimes seem to be forced to allow other people to do the thinking for them.

Theorizing not a preserve of the intelligentsia

As people, educated or uneducated, we all theorize. Brookfield (2005, pp 2 – 3) warns us 'against the unjustified valorization or reification of theory, against the idea that theorizing is a high-status intellectual process restricted to a talented few. Theorizing should not be thought of as a process restricted to the academy and the preserve of the intelligentsia, but rather as an inevitability of sentient existence.' Although theorizing is not a preserve of the natural and social science university professors, the difference is that theorizing of every day action is not richly elaborate and sophisticated and does not need development of specialised terminology. Therefore, the difference is one of degree, and not of kind. However, studies seem to reveal that we should not be bulldozed into submission by those who claim to be the sole custodians of knowledge. After all, 'knowledge gurus' socially construct knowledge using public funds in the form of grants, and sometimes use the less knowledgeable as research participants. For that reason, we all have a stake in the knowledge that exists out there!

Link between theorizing and thinking of others

As social animals, we get a lot of boost or "kick" if something that we have been individually theorizing happens to agree with the thinking of other people. It could be a friend, relative, workmate, or classmate. It is more so if our thinking gets approval from people who are generally believed to be custodians of legitimate knowledge, for instance, a priest/pastor, doctor, a teacher or a lecturer. 'When someone else's words illuminate or confirm a privately realized insight, we feel affirmed and recognized. Seeing a personal insight stated as a theoretical proposition makes us more likely to take seriously our own reasoning and judgements' (Brookfield, 2005, p. 5 – 6). Accordingly, we need some kind of everyday stroking to our egos, and not discouragement.

Author's Disclaimer: The articles that I write express my personal opinions based on my interest in education, lived experiences, observations and literature reviews (in order to avoid generalising from the particular), however, cannot be necessarily taken as expert opinion. They are also not meant to be personal attacks or to prejudice individuals, groups and organisations. 

Source - Akim Zwelibanzi
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