The state of Champongo Primary School in Lusulu area in Binga is distressing but surprising it is not. Matabeleland has known for years now of the deteriorating infrastructure and dwindling school attendances coupled with equally deteriorating academic performances. It is a scenario that we can no longer wish away.
If you task the education of your children to others, you will surely lose them. Decades of ignoring infrastructure of our schools are catching up; we have school buildings collapsing on themselves, and still we wait. What has also been happening is that regions are being depleted of talent as gifted children from financially stable parents are lost to other regions with better infrastructure where they are sent out by their parents.
The Matabeleland of our time is confronted by two major choices: (i) being content with the prevailing conditions or (ii) accepting the responsibility for changing them. Now is the right time to stop pointing the finger of blame and start taking action.
What is happening to Matabeleland’s education is the result of years of self-neglect and ignorance that has seen us ignore Zimbabwean incompetence. Arguably, the first responsibility of Matabeleland nationals right now is to take greater responsibility for the future of our nation. Formal education must, as a matter of principle, be at the heart of that future or we are doomed as a nation. The vast possibilities, and not the obstacles, in front of us should guide our strategies. We need a leadership that will define our reality, face and not attempt to evade challenges.
The biggest leap towards empowerment and true freedom begins with a good education and the understanding of the responsibilities that come with that freedom. There is however, no greater responsibility than owning your problems; we need to accept that we have not done as much as we possibly could when it comes to the ownership and protection of the education of our children. Justifiable as it may be, blaming the Harare regime cannot account for all of our problems around both participation in education and the educational attainment in the region.
For now, let us concern ourselves not with apportioning blame on other nations but with accepting we have let ourselves and our children down and thereby accept the responsibility for influencing the education system. Proper education requires investment in infrastructure; we need to do all humanely possible to financially and politically support all the programmes targeted towards the genuine education of our children. Where we have stayed away, the Harare regime has conveniently stayed away too if not promptly stepping in to expand political doctrine by way of education.
As Matabeleland nationals we need to start taking greater responsibility for the education of our children. Suffice to say as a society, we have to claim ownership of what forms our children’s education; we cannot continue to place blind faith in an education system that is quite frankly an amalgam of prejudices and the choices of Shona socio-political and cultural systems. It is a microcosm of extant Zimbabwean political attitudes towards Matabeleland.
The history learned in schools and colleges is a prime example of how disconnected the system is with our children; it does not make them competent citizens of Matabeleland but deliberately curves them into subsidiaries of Harare customs and values.
I appreciate the importance of owning our problems yet I would love to point out too that the perceived and indeed real lack of interest and poor academic attainment within the region is not of itself the reason for young people leaving the region but the inevitability of their circumstances within an incompetent tribalist Zimbabwean State running an economy that long stopped creating jobs is the reason.
I am by no means condoning low school turnout, rather I am questioning the broader value of the current schooling system to Matabeleland children. By all means, our children need education but that cannot be delivered by the Zimbabwean schooling system as is right now. How does one begin to justify a history syllabus that omits Gukurahundi atrocities and the impact of the ‘land grab’, also called ‘Land Reform Programme’ in Matabeleland? How can anyone expect Matabeles and their children to place confidence in such a criminally deficient system?
A people competent at making excuses is hardly good for anything else. Matabeleland must take greater responsibility for the education of her children; we cannot keep making excuses for not being what we are capable of being. Local educational infrastructure needs investment not good excuses from Matabeles; we have the resources but not always the right focus.