SASSAF, CASSAF, DASSAF, PASSAF, NASSAF. . .The alliterative echoes of the words reflect the ripple effect of the new curriculum through the Annual Science, Sport and Arts Festival series. It is a segment of the educational dispensation that celebrates the amazing potential ingrained in our school learners.
The journey of the festival series follows closely the country’ s structured organisational route with a gradually expanding horizontal and vertical sphere of influence. . . school, cluster, district, provincial , national and perhaps beyond the horizon to the international! The thrust is to unlock, nurture and actualize latent talent through the broad learning areas offered in the new curriculum.
The NASSAF ( National Annual Sport, Science and Arts Festival) held at designated centres in Harare from the 23rd to the 27th of September 2017 marked the climax of the talent showcase and what a revelation! I love watching a good encounter in any of the traditional sporting disciplines. . . soccer, netball, basketball, volleyball, handball, rugby – the power, passion, pace and sheer skill in some encounters can be absolutely sensational and exhilarating. You can stand and stare, spellbound by the dazzling wizardly and raw talent often displayed by the learners in such sport.
A good number of sport fanatics instinctively felt the magnetic pull to these familiar attractions. The school fans enthused excitedly through their intermittent but persistent yells, cheers and chants.
I wanted a change of scene though, something off the beaten track. The traditional sport codes were not for me. So I entered uncharted territory. . .ART, DRAMA, MUSIC, AND STORY-TELLING. At St Faith’s two weeks before the NASSAF series, two of my students, Kaseke and Makokowe, had shown me a pencil drawing depicting an old woman at an advanced age, with beautiful wrinkles. I said, “This is a lovely piece.” I marvelled at their skill and expertise. They were novices using natural talent and interest without the assurance of professional tuition in art. Yet the finished product was a masterpiece of creative artistry.
Alone, being no art connoisseur, I reflected rather quizzically on the basis and accuracy of my assessment. A visit to the art section was an eye-opener. I listened intently to the evaluative comments by assessors on the presented works of art. Then I moved on to the Drama section, then Music, then Story telling.
I was increasingly fascinated by the shared content and cross pollination or cross cutting of ideas amongst these disciplines. . . ART, DRAMA, MUSIC, STORY TELLING and even some learning areas with superficially disparate content. Imaginative literature that has been my forte over decades of teaching transcends the division of knowledge into blocs or so called specialisations.
I pondered over the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary interconnectedness of subject disciplines. There is music in the rustling or swish of savannah grass, there is mathematical and scientific shape, proportion, balance, movement, shades of colour, contrast and focus in any work of art be it imaginative literature, a two-dimensional painting or a three-dimensional creation such as a sculpture in wood or stone.
Then the story-telling renditions that were almost a fixation for Honourable Minister Dokora captured in a dramatic way a sense of history, geography, heritage and culture amongst the numerous links and undercurrents. The narrator can transport the listener to the imaginary world of make belief on the one hand and on the other, to the stark truth of empirical reality laid bare.
I humbly submit I am an literature enthusiast so I followed avidly the components of literature in all those uniquely related disciplines: the general form and content, the elements such as mood, suspense, plot and story line, character, language, themes. . . all there in Music, Art, Story-telling, Drama and even Dance! The symmetry of formation and the mathematical precision of movement, blending with the voice modulation of the drum majorettes and cheer-leading acts presented a repertory of incredible artistic creativity, something akin to magic! And then the singing, not recitation, of The National Pledge, as creative and original variants of the set piece, demonstrating how versatile learners can get.
Such exposure of our learners to these cross cutting themes is well worth the effort.
They will be more rounded through a holistic approach to learning across subject disciplines and be the better for it. After all, life, and its varied experiences is never one-dimensional!
The greatest gift we can give as educators to our learners is to inculcate competences such as critical analysis and judgment, creativity and innovation and the power of discernment, discrimination and appreciation. In that process, successfully applying acquired knowledge to real life challenges and problem solving is very much dependent on appreciating THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF THINGS! This is a life skill that engages heart, mind and soul. Acquisition of such skills cannot be taken for granted.
The best products of the new curriculum are therefore imbued with a discernment that is informed by a well considered, truthful and objective appreciation of life situations. I am reminded of this aphorism from one of my mentors:
“FORTUNE FAVOURS THE OPEN MIND.”
Morris Mtisi comments:
If all school heads understood the new curriculum the way this man understands it, attitudes would change tomorrow and the curriculum’s goals would be realized sooner rather than later.
In one of Moses Mukoyi’s contributions to The Manica Post titled SMART EDUCATION, he wrote, “The updated curriculum is still the talk of town, generating much debate, heat and light. It remains fertile material for those adept at exaggeration and the sensational. I guess when the novelty subsides; its salient and poignant features will become more familiar and customized.”
Now the novelty has subsided. The salient and poignant features of the revised curriculum are familiar and customized.
And St Faith’s is there again…ahead leading by example, that a good education is planned to fit purpose, engages heart, body, mind and soul-THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF THINGS. A good education emphasizes application of knowledge to real life challenges and problem solving.