Morris Mtisi Education Correpondent
The new Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavima, has sneezed. Everyone down the line has caught the flu. For Manicaland the Provincial Director of Education, Mr Edward Shumba [the lion], has roared. The common language around the updated curriculum is loud and clear. The curriculum train took off and no one is jumping off. This is time to work, work and work.
With the new minister’s assurance, we are now certain that of course the driving is going to be slower, more cautious and calculated. The grey or sticky areas will be carefully attended to. Everyone who matters has spoken and spoken clearly. The updated curriculum did not and does not belong to an individual. It is, as indeed it was, and will always be a Government plan recommended by a Zimbabwean team of education experts, by Zimbabwe therefore, and for Zimbabwe.
The apparent overzealousness of the former Minister of Primary and Secondary education, whose implementation supersonic speed made everyone dizzy and whose leadership style left every teacher and student confused and stupid, does not make the curriculum an evil spirit. It is a premature baby that needs expert and careful incubating. You do not stop going home because the road is potholed, do you?
The language, attitude and spirit of the new Minister Prof Mavima cannot and must not be misunderstood. In an exclusive end-of year interview with DiamondFM’s Morris Mtisi on an educational programme HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH MM, Manicaland PED, Edward Shumba echoed his master’s voice: “Our new minister has spoken. And once the boss has spoken, ours is to obey. Those who were celebrating the departure of the previous minister have to think again. His departure did not mean the departure of the curriculum.”
Mr Shumba admitted there were challenges and grey areas in the new curriculum and implementation was not going to be a walk in the park, but quoting his new boss, Minister Mavima, added, “. . . but we are not diverting from the journey.”
The PED has been in two emergency consultative meetings with the new Minister, he told DiamondFM Radio. Everything said, done and understood, one serious threat remains: how to excel in the implementation of a curriculum bedeviled by inner-resentment and general despondence.
The teachers don’t like this curriculum. For whatever reasons, some caused by personal misunderstanding; others by Dokoraphobia created by the former minister’s intellectual arrogance and dictatorial instinct, the teachers’ own laziness not ruled out, the new curriculum will continue to be an elephant in the educational room. Whatever the reason, the curriculum was heavily adulterated in its implementation. The former minister’s “rape case” of the beautiful curriculum is never going to be easy for anyone to turn into a blissful romantic affair; not least the good Professor, Paul Mavima.
It will take Mavima’s diplomacy and intellectual charm, perhaps a bit of magic, and of course quite some time, to convince all the teachers who celebrated hysterically when Dokora was shown the red card, to begin to see that he and the curriculum were not one and the same. Many teachers, for some funny or interesting reason continue to see the new curriculum as synonymous with Dokora.
May be it is human nature. Many spouses in their second marriages live in the danger of living in the faults and weaknesses of their previous husband or wife. Instead of focusing on ‘what-we-have- now and-what-we are now!’
Instead of commanding the education foot-soldiers towards a new battle commanded by a new commander called “General” Paul Mavima, many will continue to see Dokora in their dreams and imaginations dogged by psychological unpreparedness. In this sinner-silhouetting-the-righteous scenario, will Mavima be able to remove this Dokoraphobia soon enough to cleanly drive the curriculum, efficiently, effectively and efficaciously?
Will the good Prof be able to quickly introduce a new hymn replacing the hellish song every teacher and student had come to forcibly and discordantly sing believing wrongly or rightly, it was supernaturally written and composed by an educational god; a superman whom no one was neither foolish enough nor brave enough to say no to?
There is no doubt Prof Mavima is standing on the correct pedestal. He is certainly very clear on the way forward, the amendments and adjustments needed. He may have, as we know he does, the right intelligence and calmness, the right attitude, spirit and leadership skills needed in such a delicate and near-catch 22 situation.
But the threat is there waiting. It is there mischievously and clandestinely lurking in the air, quietly dangerous. And we too are waiting to see. What is the threat? A teaching population not ready to continue with a curriculum it neither particularly loves nor understands! In simple philosophical food-for-thought, teachers quietly assert, ‘God does not endorse or continue with the devil’s plan. Or does God do in His wisdom and divine intricacy?’
We will not forget, Zimbabwean teachers are very good at pretending to be compliant and towing the line when in fact they are resistant and rebellious inside. I desperately wish I were wrong. It is going to take quite some effort to win the hearts and minds of resentful and angry teachers almost permanently injured by previous bullies posing as torch bearers in the irony of leadership.