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Zimbabwe@35: Celebrating our educational achievements

17 Apr 2015 at 09:26hrs | Views

As the nation rejoices 35 years of self-determination, it is also time to reflect on and celebrate the achievements made by President Robert Mugabe in various facets of human activities.

President Mugabe, like the Biblical Moses, commanded a gallant armed struggle that brought the heroic freedom that the nation is enjoying today. It was under his able stewardship that the children of Zimbabwe were delivered from the most undignified colonial bondage of the British.

After setting free Zimbabweans from the degrading slavery and most foul tyranny of the British, President Mugabe's government went on to craft socio-economic policies that, hitherto, empower the black majority. He changed the structure of participants in the economy through the indigenisation and economic empowerment policies. He also created a stable political environment through his reconciliatory policies.

Among other achievements on the social front, President Mugabe is credited for revolutionalising the education sector of Zimbabwe. Although the illegal sanctions have been blighting developments in the education system, Zimbabwe still prides itself on her exceptional literacy, for it shines with the highest rate in Africa.

At independence in 1980, the majority of the Zimbabwean people did not have access to quality education. The ZANU PF Government's objective was to provide quality education to many, hence, the rolling out of the ‘Education For All' policy which saw masses receiving education at Government's expense. President Mugabe regarded education as a potent tool for economic and social transformation.

That policy profited many prominent personalities in business, academics and politics including the likes of Tendai Biti. Unfortunately, some of the beneficiaries of these empowering and affirmative policies have not ploughed back to the nation.

For instance, during his time as Finance minister, Biti's behaviour was at cross-purpose with the national vision on education. He frustrated teachers and not even a single year did he give the ministry of education half of its budgetary allocation. That was a deliberate move to reverse the great achievements that President Mugabe scored in the education sector.

President Mugabe also introduced a deliberate skills based initiative to complement the quantitative changes to education provision. Policies such as the ‘Education With Production' that came with the introduction of more Vocational Training Colleges increased the country's skills base. Consequently, Zimbabwe is now not only ranked as the literate country but has graduates that have accounted themselves well across the globe.

The post independence Zimbabwe demanded high skilled manpower. To address this need, a Five-Year National Development Plan (1990-1995) was crafted.

The Plan stipulated, "Investment in human resources development is investment in human capital and complements investment in physical and technological innovation. The natural environment can support higher population levels only through technological progress, which requires continued investment in human resources development."

In view of that, great strides have been made in tertiary education where the number of state universities has increased from one in 1980 to nine state universities to date. The University of Zimbabwe, which was the sole university in the country in 1980, could no longer cope with the demand for university education. As a result, eight more state universities were established in different provinces.

The national objective is to have at least one state university in each province. There are six private universities in the country which are complementing state universitie, especially in provinces where the state universities have not yet been established.

The Zimbabwe Open University, which was established in 1999 and whose programmes are flexible, has further enhanced access to tertiary education and was tailor made to suit those pursuing adult and continuing education. It is the biggest university in terms of enrolment.

Zimbabwe inherited an educational system based on inequality of opportunity for women, among other groups. In view of that, President Mugabe introduced affirmative policies that sought to redress the gender disparity in educational provision. As of today, sex differences in enrolment in the universities are negligible. To eradicate further gender inequity in educational provision, the Women's University in Africa was dedicated for women.

As a mitigatory measure to increased failure by parents to meet educational fees for their children, President Mugabe introduced the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), a facility that targets to offset costs for disadvantaged pupils.

In 1998, President Mugabe set up the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training to investigate how education provision can be improved in Zimbabwe. More importantly, President Mugabe started the Presidential Scholarship Scheme (PSS) that has benefitted many disadvantaged young Zimbabweans, yours truly included, to go and learn at South African Universities.

While the PSS is an exhibition of President Mugabe's quest to educate Zimbabweans, some unscrupulous individuals who use political muscles to send their undeserving relatives, have become albatross for the scheme. A prime example is that of Simbaneuta Mudarikwa whose daughters benefitted when he could afford to host a two-day gala to celebrate the graduation of these daughters.

The noble scheme was also blighted by the twin evils of sanctions and the inclusive government that ushered in a rogue finance minister who refused to release money for fees. Even some of the beneficiaries of this scheme are at the forefront of mounting onslaught on their educational benefactor.

During the launch of the National e-Learning Programme at Chogugudza School in Domboshava, former MDC-T Minister of Information Communication Technology, Nelson Chamisa, said the inauguration of the e-learning programme was a celebration of Zimbabwe's advancement in the digital world, thanks to President Mugabe, who had pioneered the policy through his schools computerisation programme.

True to Chamisa's observation, President Mugabe indeed transformed the education sector through internet learning at primary and secondary schools. In his own words President Mugabe said, "We want to build an educated nation and build legacy throughout the world. Every Zimbabwean child should be computer literate."

Being an educator himself, President Mugabe has indeed revolutionized the education system in Zimbabwe. His vast contributions in the education sector are proportional to the thirty-five years of his leadership. He has fought a good fight. We must cherish his legacy. It is these positive gains that inspire the progressive people of Zimbabwe to continue passing a vote of confidence in President Mugabe in every election since 1980.

Tafara Shumba is a Zimbabwean educator

Source - Tafara Shumba
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