Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora last week went to extra-ordinary lengths in the National Assembly to prove that he is not a Muslim as he defended his ill-thought and rushed changes to the school curriculum.
Comment: The Standard Editor
The minister’s religion, an issue that would ordinarily not matter much in Zimbabwe, has become a subject of endless rumours on social media following a battery of mostly bizarre reforms he has introduced in the last three years.
He had to produce a Catholic church rosary after Binga legislator Prince Madubeko Sibanda asked if it was true that he was trying to Islamise Zimbabwe’s education system through his reforms.
The suspicion and ignorance that surrounds the reforms that include forcing primary school children to do as many as 10 subjects and a controversial module known as mass displays goes that deep.
Dokora, under the guise of implementing recommendations in the decades old Nziramasanga Commission report, is spearheading the introduction of a new curriculum that will surely change Zimbabwe’s education system in a very fundamental way.
Feedback from teachers, school development committees and legislators paint a gloomy picture about the government’s intentions.
In the last three years that Dokora has been at the helm of the ministry, the changes have been coming so thick and fast that parents are now confused about his real intentions.
The rumours that the minister wants to replace Christianity with Islam in the school curriculum stem from the fact that Zimbabweans remain in the dark when it comes to the reforms.
Questions by the legislators — the policy makers — also reflected the reality that Dokora and his ministry did not do enough to educate the nation about the changes in the curriculum.
The changes, without a doubt, have been so rapid and detached from the local context where funding for the education sector has been dwindling and when morale in the education sector has plummeted to its lowest after the temporary lift by Dokora’s predecessor, David Coltart.
It has not come as a surprise that Dokora is facing resistance from parents and even teachers.
The minister clearly needs lessons in change management because his performance in the last three years has been nothing short of a disaster.
His response to questions in the National Assembly showed that he was oblivious to the chaos that his so-called reforms have caused in the education sector.
Some of the changes that have caused apprehension among parents is the directive that Maths and English should be taught in vernacular in the foundation grades.
However, the reality on the ground is that some regions do not have adequate teachers that speak local languages and this means that children would be disadvantaged.
The new curriculum has also seen the widening of subjects being taught at schools at a time when the government is struggling to provide teaching materials, including textbooks.
There are new subjects that require specialised equipment such as computers that rural schools can only dream of.
What makes the changes in the education sector even more disconcerting is that they are not only confined to the introduction of a new curriculum.
Dokora has also been introducing documented and undocumented reforms that affect the running of schools, some of which are now a subject of lawsuits by parents.
He is trying to change the way teachers dress, mourn their loved ones and conduct themselves outside working hours as we reported elsewhere in this publication.
It is high time the government started taking seriously the concerns raised by parents and teachers concerning these issues. Teachers’ unions also have to raise their voices before it is too late.
Dokora is clearly hell bent on destroying what is left of Zimbabwe’s once respected education sector and he has to be stopped.