Felex Share, Harare Bureau
President Mugabe has expressed reservations on one aspect of the new curriculum being spear-headed by Primary and Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora, but said on the whole the syllabus needed to be embraced because it provides solutions to the country’s challenges on innovation.
He said he was not sure if Dr Dokora would be successfull in introducing the teaching of Science and Mathematics in vernacular in lower grades.
President Mugabe was responding to a question on the controversies surrounding the new curriculum being implemented by Government during his birthday interview with ZBCtv on Tuesday night.
The Head of State and Government turned 93 on Tuesday.
Said President Mugabe: “But if it is as has been reported in the press that we are starting from Grade One upwards, the lower part, they will do Science and
Mathematics in vernacular, I am not sure what the old curriculum said, and can there be a syllabus of Mathematics in vernacular, can it be done?”
President Mugabe said he hoped Dr Dokora was not trying to introduce outlandish exercises into the country’s education system.
He said while Tanzania had succeeded in conducting all its learning in Swahili, the exercise had come at “a great expense of their English ability”.
“I am sure he (Dr Dokora) is not trying to do a Swahili exercise on part of our system,” said President Mugabe. “They (Tanzanians) were very proud of their language, Swahili, and they were saying why not develop our Swahili and make it the language in which the learning is done.
“The French don’t have to do, you know, their study in English, they do it in their own language French, the Germans the same, so we the Tanzanians we should do the same. That was the thinking Nyerere’s not knowing that, ah France and Germany are the originators of the learning and they had developed their systems over a long, longer period.
“They succeeded anyway in Tanzania, but at expense, great expense of their English ability. They had managed what others had not managed, what they had not done and I don’t think Dokora wanted to start that.”
President said holistically, the new education curriculum should be embraced, with teachers being at the forefront of advancing it, saying he was yet to establish the reasons why most teachers were opposed to it.
“I suppose Cde Dokora wants some innovation,” said Predsident Mugabe. “I don’t know, I would want to know why almost all the teachers elsewhere or most of them are opposed to what they conceive to be the new system, but to us his explanations were quite simple.
“He wanted first, don’t forget, he is the first one to want that children with four years move crèches and be absorbed into the formal system and that meant, of course, working out a curriculum for them.”
President Mugabe said the country’s school curriculum should be able to absorb developments taking place in information and communication technology.
He said pupils should not over rely on gadgets being brought by technological changes.
President Mugabe, who is a former teacher, said: “I think our education should be open. It should be open, so that we have an ability to absorb, you know, especially developments taking place in the ICT world and our curriculum, it should not remain backward.
“If you went to ask my boys to recite three times table or four times table, five times table, 12 times table they just use the computer, you see, whereas we did it by head up to 12 times table, sometimes to 13 times table knowing that 12×12 it’s 144.
“Now today’s children, it’s just the computer. I don’t know which is better, but I think there is damage being done to the intellect by the gadgets.”
Government is introducing a new curriculum to align education with psychomotor training and life skills that are lacking in the present highly academic system.
The curriculum focuses on orientation such as financial literacy, entrepreneurship and information communication technology literacy, and will lean more towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
President Mugabe said Dr Dokora had disputed claims that he was introducing Islam in the country’s education system through the new curriculum.
“He said he is not Ayatollah, he said no, I have always had this beard from long back,” President Mugabe said. “I cannot shave it off. Some were saying, ah it is said when you went to Iran that’s when you came back Muslim, and he said no I am not a Muslim at all. I remain a Catholic.
“Ah, we had heard that he was Moslem. So he is bringing in Islam, that he wants some Moslem prayer, and he said no, he is not introducing anything like that.”
Dr Dokora has also been criticised for failing to communicate effectively the new aspects of the curriculum, an aspect he acknowledged recently before a parliamentary committee.
The High Court recently dismissed an urgent chamber application by the Dadaya High School Development Committee challenging the newly established education curriculum.