Head-To-Head with MM has been a forum of discussion and debate engaging educationists and officials in the education sector on matters of critical importance to teaching, learning and general educational planning in the country.
Many educationists and officers who included the Provincial Director of Education-Manicaland, scholars like Dr Hardson Kwandayi, leaders of teachers’ unions and associations, debaters and public speakers, the list is long, have graced the radio programme.
Recently a paradigm shift took the programme closer to classroom practice. This caught the attention of many teachers and students who now inundate me with critical questions and comments all eager to participate. Occasionally a parent, or two, calls in during the radio presentations to give a thumbs-up.
The Diamond FM radio teacher must have suddenly reminded those who used to listen in to the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation’s radio lessons. These you will recall were a strong attraction of teachers and pupils who were tired of the boring routine classroom practices of teachers well before independence. Those radio lessons, you will remember, gave pupils a prophetic opportunity to have a feel of future techniques of teaching and learning. Anyone above 50 now knows and remembers these radio lessons and how they used to spark concentrated learning and made it a lot more fun or interesting.
I recently interviewed my own boss on radio, Mr Leander Kandiyero, and I could not be more elated when he said the following to my question, “Yes education is going to remain high on our broadcasting agenda into the third year of existence.”
Indeed if teachers continue to be traditional and stick to old boring methods of teaching without bringing in 21st century teaching and learning skills as found in modern connectivity on electronic gadgets, learners become stressed out and do not perform. Learning today cannot ignore films, CDs, laptops, i-phones, YouTube, radio and television.
With the proliferation of Information Communication Technologies (ICT), in a few years to come perhaps even the above may be outdated and education shall be driven by the latest developments in ICT. But for now, the chalk-board- text-book-alone teaching and learning process is stressful, burdensome, boring and out of fashion. Ask the learners.
It is my submission not only as a former classroom practitioner of vast experience but also as a keen advocate of educational reforms, that if done properly as we want to do it on DiamondFM Radio, radio lessons can go a long way in complementing the efforts of mainstream classroom practice. We are seriously looking for serious business enterprises and relevant donor agencies to sponsor our education programmes on radio.
You will not be surprised English and Literature in English have kick-started the show, The Radio Teacher on Head-To-Head With MM. First, admittedly because that is my own areas of specialisation, but also more importantly because English is a pole subject…a service subject that feeds into all other learning areas except indigenous and foreign languages now essentially part of the updated curriculum. And of course English Language and Literature in English or English Literature are not separable.
The radio teacher will for quite a while now be dealing with upholstering the English language of the learner. It is a battle and a tough one at that. Teachers have a tough task to assert their competence in the teaching of English and stop only teaching or drilling students for examination but empower learners with critical speaking and writing skills and socialisation habits needed to claim international space and relevance on the job market and social platform. Tune in to The Radio Teacher every Thursday night between 8 and 9 pm on the Head-To-Head With MM programme.
I am of course obsessed with common errors in English keeping our children in school down at the bottom of the pass rate index. Most of these errors are caused by sheer transliteration, what I call mother-tongue interference, but a lot of them too by Pleonasm (using more than necessary words seemingly for emphasis but not making anything clearer at all, and Malapropism which is getting a word wrong because there is another or several that sound the same (eg. temper and tamper, loose and lose, still, steal, steel, prosecute, persecute, execute).
There are a lot of other skills that must be mastered. It is not only common errors that keep our children in schools at the lower end of performance. The subject–verb agreement is an interesting nuisance for many learners…and teachers too. Composition organisation involving preliminary thinking and planning remains a problem for many learners.
How to begin a particular composition type, sustain it or develop it to a climax and how to end skilfully without losing the grip, the interest or captivation, choosing the appropriate word or expression, simile, idiom or figure of speech, all remain a serious problem in both contexts of learning and teaching.
Knowing these skills well or even ability to write skilfully does not automatically translate to teaching the skills effectively and efficaciously. We will deal with all of this on The Radio Teacher. It takes much more than a degree or degrees in English to become a competent English Language and Literature teacher. A lot of it has to do with experience which an old adage bluntly describes as ‘the best teacher.’
It is my hope, wish and aspiration to make The Radio Teacher another critical side of the Head-To-Head With MM coin. It was encouraging and assuring to speak to the radio station manager and captain of the Diamond FM ship recently on Head-to-Head with MM, recently. He said that education remained high on the radio’s agenda above general information dissemination and entertainment.
I want to assure the zealous followers of the radio teacher programme and Head-to-Head with MM that I will not rest until only the best is gained and God has done the rest. Remember a good education does not only teach for examinations, but essentially for life. Behaviour and individual discipline, Ubuthu/Hunhu (moral behaviour) are all part of a sound education. We will discuss all these issues on radio because they matter. An education that speeds teaching and learning to the finishing line without minding the behavioural damage happening to the learners is both useless and harmful.
Zimbabwe has been concentrating its focus on academic achievement, namely passing examinations alone, for too long. The bubble has burst now. The products that come from its schools, most of them, do not only evidently lack critical thinking potential, integrity and intellectual wisdom but also badly lack and need moral rearmament. This tragedy must be addressed urgently. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. Even if there were five stitches remaining to be saved out of ten, they are a lot of stitches under the circumstances. The best news in the air is that His Excellency the president of Zimbabwe, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa, is now aware of this epidemic in schools, especially institutions of higher learning. He has openly said he is ready and prepared to deal with it head on and carefully, once he is informed enough of the magnitude of the behavioural Ebola destroying the image and reputation of the institutions of higher learning. Those who doubt him may be don’t know or have forgotten what other national obstacles he has confronted head on and solved, including impossible ones almost overnight.
With complementary assurances from Minister of Women and Youth Affairs Sithembiso Nyoni and the first lady, Ms Auxillia Munangagwa, the war against female student sexual harassment and sheer prostitution in colleges and universities . . . of course even high schools, may be long, is certain to be won. What we need now is organised dialogue and distillation of wisdom around the problem and how we can be in it together.