THE updated curriculum does not focus on passing examinations alone. It has come to interrogate and replace the remote, dead, abstract and bookish nature of the old colonially inherited approach.
It has come to drive education into converting talents, gifts, intelligence and knowledge into useful ends. It has come to expose learners in schools to 21st century education skills. And among a plethora of these skills, though not for examinations, is Public Speaking and Debating.
How many times a day, in school, at home, at work, do we engage in some discussion most of it culminating into illuminating debates? Within and beyond examinations, Public speaking and Debating skills are vital. Often-times you are asked to give a vote of thanks at a public gathering; present a speech on a particular issue or topic, preach at your church, for politicians during campaigning for votes for one to become this or that politician; at a funeral, graduation ceremony-the list is too long. Skills no doubt matter here if the purpose of speaking must be accomplished.
Realising the value of training pupils in Public Speaking and Debating, primary school teachers in Mutasa District have taken the bull by the horns. Supported by the National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) and teachers organisationally chaired by Mrs Getrude Saruwaka(Samaringa Primary School-Honde Valley) also the head-in-charge at District level, 80 primary schools in Mutasa District sought an expert in Public Speaking and Debating to facilitate a workshop to train trainers. This was done at Hartzell Primary school on 21 June 2017.
Speaking on Diamond FM Radio educational programme HEAD-TO-HEAD –WITH MM yesterday night, Mrs Saruwaka said after the Hartzell workshop, the Primary Schools are ready to take the bull by the horns.
“Those of us who attended the Hartzell workshop learnt a lot of skills, do’s and don’ts, and shared wisdom on a number of issues to make sure Public Speaking clubs take off energetically in the schools,” said the Samaringa Primary school senior teacher.
“We all agree with the observation made and brought up by our facilitator at Hartzell, that what we call public speaking today is not public speaking, but recitations of speeches written for individual pupils by their teachers. This must stop. We must train pupils to speak on their own accord using their own language and ability—not replaying recorded mental tapes…of course we must guide them and train them,” she added quoting the facilitator.
All three members on the Diamond-FM panel, also members of the Mutasa District Primary Schools Public Speaking and Debating steering committee, agreed with Mrs Saruwaka.
Mrs Blessings Ganyekanye of Little St. Augustine’s — Penhalonga said her school head and teachers are supportive and as excited as she is about the initiative.
“Little St Augustine’s is already fired up to begin serious public speaking. My school head and other teachers have registered enormous excitement and pledged support to make sure public speaking becomes serious skills development at Little Tsambe,” said Mrs Ganyekanye,
She revealed that at the Hartzell workshop they also learnt that Public speaking as a skill is developed concurrently with listening skill. Speakers must know that they are speaking or debating as a group. It is important to listen to what another speaker says, so that you can use what you have heard to your advantage to sound convincing and persuasive.”
Ms Alice Matsenyengwa of Jombe Primary school said it was enlightening to learn from the facilitator that we must not encourage competing and winning at the expense of skills mastery and the sheer joy of participation.
“We agreed with our facilitator,” Ms Matsenyengwa said. “The competition element forces teachers to write speeches for their speakers to memorize.
‘‘This is not public speaking, we learnt. Speaker s must use little cards where they jot a few words-not more than 8 to remind them of what to say or the next point. And a speaker who does not criticize or comment on another speaker’s points shows that he or she was not listening. These public speakers we have seen before say what they have to say and sit down. That shows they were not listening but worried about their chance to speak,” said Ms Matsenyengwa.
“I learnt many things at Hartzell but perhaps most inspiring was that Public Speaking skills are life skills because in life we always engage in everyday discussions and debates. At my school (Bethania Primary School) we still need to report back on the Hartzell workshop and mobilize support from other teachers. I am confident that we will not stop here. We are determined to see this project accomplished and Mutasa Primary schools becoming a haven of skillful pupil public speakers, said Mr Maringa Marshwell.
Mutasa District Primary Schools must be congratulated. They want to take public speaking to new heights, seriously show-casing real standards, as opposed to the prevailing Public Speaking cheating or Drama where pupils recite teachers’ speeches and minds in public.
The teachers in the District must also be congratulated for complying with the up-dated curriculum which offers a lot of learning areas that are not necessarily examinable…but seriously encouraging and developing life skills like Public Speaking and Debate.
This writer, being an educationist and former school teacher himself, pledges to do what he can do in his limited time, to help Mutasa District Public Speaking and Debating reach desired heights following homegrown 21st century skills, not tired, old fashioned traditions.
The full Mutasa Public Speaking and Debating steering committee comprises the following members:
Ms Katsidzira Beauty (chair) — Hartzell Primary School; Mr Maringa Marshwell — Bethania Pry School; Kaerezi Langton — Samanga Primary school; Ms Matsenyengwa — Jombe St Peter’s Pry School; Marwei Polite — St David’s Bonda Pry School and Mrs Blessings Ganyekanye — Little St Augustine’s- Penhalonga and of course Mrs Getrude Saruwaka (Samaringa Pry School.)