Why Revisiting Our Zim Mis-Education Matters

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

zimbab

AS Zimbabweans, we carry the tag that we are amongst some of the world’s most educated and literate with pomp and pride. It is something that most of us always like to brag about.

But fact of the matter is that our highly regarded educational status is much like a gong in the wind. We have very little to show for all the long rolls of degrees and certificates that we have accumulated over the years.

It appears that our education is good for a showcase. Certainly, it has helped many of us speak well polished English but outside that there is zilch: it’s like shells and corpses. Much ado about nothing. We have become individuals of “distorted tastes, confused perception and resultless energy.”

The education that we are so proud of has largely resulted in the inhibition and domestication of the intentionality of our consciousness – in the process – deterring us from becoming fully human.

If anything, our so-called education has reduced most of us to become alienated functionaries with little originality and innovativeness to address the most significant social, political and economic problems in our communities.

For all our long educational degrees, we have no knowledge of our own customs and traditions. We know zilch about our culinary arts and folks or achievements that our people have made in the past. All these things contain coded messages that if properly decoded can help to reshape our philosophical worldview providing us with confidence to deal with our conditions in our own unique way.

Put simply, our education has only served us to fit neatly into some proletariat structure without equipping us with the tools, knowledge and skills required to reshape our historical circumstances. Instead, it instils within most of us a profound sense of alienation from our communities nurturing a split personality.

Essentially, our educational system has alienated us from our ontology or sense of being a human being. What has been planted has given birth to a duality of some sort where the so-called educated’s essential sense of being is often suppressed by the acquired education. Yet that acquired education is not sufficient enough to held the individual to influence the reality round them.

For progress’s sake, we need to rediscover our consciousness apart from the education that has been implanted in us. We need an educational system that takes into account our own view of the world and equips us with tools to shape those viewpoints. We need to undergo an educational rehabilitation process of some sort that repositions us as the centre of our being and instils confidence within us to influence the conditions of our lives.

Of course, one cannot talk of Zimbabwe’s education without referring to colonialism which sought to superimpose its systems upon us. But this realisation should even make it more urgent to engage in authentic re-acculturation.

Why I Voted “Yes” for A New Zimbabwe Constitution

Flag-map_of_ZimbabweUNTIL an hour before casting my vote in the just concluded referendum on Zimbabwe’s draft constitution held on March 16, I was in a serious quandary whether to cast my vote at all, to vote “NO” or to vote “Yes”. At the end of the day, I decided to exercise my right to vote and participated in the referendum with an affirmative vote. And here is the reason why.

First of all, I strongly felt that the process of drafting the constitution itself had been exclusionary, designed to serve political interests at best. I also felt that the draft constitution left quite a lot of things hanging and did little to capture the ideal of being that we are seeking as a people. Like many other people, I felt the document was not representative enough. But, at the same time, it introduced some seriously progressive things among others, better recognition of local languages and women.

As I wrangled with myself, I came to the conclusion that nothing in life ever comes neatly packaged. If it were like that there would be no need for constitution writing in the first place. The constitution is only the beginning of a long journey. And besides a constitution is not set in stone.

It’s an ever living document that will change with time and season. Even the so-called progressive constitutions of the world have been a product of political compromise. The key however is respect of the constitution. Having a clean cut and well polished constitution is not the be and end all of everything. The leaders’ and the people have to have it within themselves to respect the constitution.

The constitution alone can never resolve the fundamental problems and ills that we are facing as a nation. As a friend of mine put it, ” … we the people make the constitution relevant or irrelevant, useful or useless … we must therefore vigilantly, relentlessly and strictly obey, enforce, uphold and defend our new national constitution if it’s to be relevant and useful.”

And so I voted “Yes” because of the glimmer that the new constitution encompassed which I felt can push Zimbabwe forward and make it become a part of the community of nations. For the past decade – ominously since another failed attempt to draft a new constitution – Zimbabwe has been stuck in a limbo. We have lost a decade to political bickering, violence and name-calling. Any opportunity that promises changed must be grabbed with both hands as they say in Zimbabwe.

Why I cast my vote in the after therefore is because I believe in Zimbabwe and in my fellow citizens’ ability to negotiate for a better future. I believe what we needed was a way to just get out of the current rut so that we can begin to see thing a little clearly. Perhaps only then can we build the Zimbabwe we want and make it great again.

UNESCO Urges Zimbabweans to find Homegrown Solutions

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabweans need to find homegrown solutions to their challenges and problems, said UNESCO Director and Representative Harare Cluster Office, Professor Luc Rukingama, during a public discussion in Harare on Thursday.

Image

“Zimbabwe needs to find its own solution – friends can come to help but the core task is in the hands of Zimbabweans themselves,” he said.

Rukingama said that in spite of the challenges facing the country, Zimbabweans need to learn to be patient.

“Unfortunately, when you look through our historical background, humanity has gone through wars and catastrophe. Countries evolve the same way as human lives,” he said.

“You get a disease say after 10 years or break a leg or something, and not yield the same harvest that you used to have.”

He said that it terms of achieving peace and development, there is no one size fits all and each country had to negotiate it own way.

“There are periods of stability and other periods of lack of stability, it is part of global life,” he said. “There’s no magic lesson – naturally after some difficulties – countries emerge,” he said.

Rukingama said that every Zimbabweans need to take responsibility to address the country’s challenges.

“We need everyone to bring a brick to build the country – it takes time – there is a need for patience because time is a big healer,” Rukingama said.

Harare City Council Requires US$18 million to Fix Sewerage Treatment Plant

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Harare City Council requires a total of US$18 million dollars to fix the Firle Sewerage, the country’s largest sewer treatment plant located at the outskirts of Glen View suburb in Harare. The plant is experiencing serious breakdowns which is affecting its capacity to treat the waste received.

“The situation here is like pulling a catapult to breaking point. We really need to get money to turn the problem around,” said Simon Muserere, Harare City Council’s Waste Water Manager.

“There’s need for more funds for units such as biological filters, ponds, effluent pumping plants among others.”

Muserere said that frequent power cuts were also making the situation worse at the city’s sewer treatment works. He said that lack of knowledge among residents is also compounding the problem of treating water. He said that residents should desist from using grit when they wash their dishes as most sewerage chocks are because of accumulation of grit in the sewer line.

“We’ve clothes, rugs, spoons and plates among other things coming through the sewerage system. The issue of grit coming from upstream is a big problem,” said Muserere, adding that the plant is facing problems of serious toxidity caused by the waste water or acidic water coming from industrial areas.

He said that sand is also a major problem with five tonnes being retrieved at the Firle Sewerage Treatment Plant on a daily basis.  Firle sewage treatment plant, located 12 kilometres upstream of Lake Chivero, receives 144 mega litres of sewerage per day while it has a capacity to treat only 90.

Harare’s Water: A Ticking Time Bomb

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Harare City Council’s Waste Water Manager, Engineer Simon Muserere, on Monday revealed that contaminated water is being released into Lake Chivero, the city’s biggest source of drinking water, putting the health of more than half a million people at risk.

Likening Harare’s situation to an overstretched catapult, Muserere said a total of US$18 million is required to avert a disaster. He said that a total of 90 out of 144 mega litres were being treated on a daily basis, with 54 mega litres going untreated.

Muserere said that breakdowns at the city’s largest eight-hectare sewerage, Firle Sewerage Treatment Works, and constant power cuts combined with high amounts of grit, phosphates, ammonia and nitrogen were contributing to failure by the city to treat water. He said local industry was also culpable due to their failure to reduce pollution activities.

“Our main challenge has to do with social engineering, there is lack of knowledge in addition to infrastructure problems. Some industrialists are offloading their responsibilities to the man on the street. They are just pouring everything into the waters and that’s why the city is failing to treat the water. Until industry changes their behaviour, we’ll continue to have problems,” said Muserere, adding that failure to engage in hygienic practices is leading to high costs of water in the city.

Muserere said that the Harare currently services approximately half a million people as well as two and a half million people in the satellite towns of Chitungwiza, Epworth, Norton and Ruwa.

“All the satellite towns are upstream in the water catchment areas which means that they are also offloading waste into Harare’s water source,” he said. “The satellite towns are not honouring their dues to the city by not attending to their waste water systems.”

However, the capital cannot disconnect the four satellite towns because this could trigger outbreaks of cholera and typhoid.

Young Zimbabweans Face Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Challenges

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

Harare, Zimbabwe – Young people in Zimbabwe face unprecedented challenges related to their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). They lack comprehensive knowledge of reproductive health issues, including their reproductive health rights.

This is despite the fact that young people are engaging in sexual intercourse at an early age, have limited use of contraceptives, have unintended pregnancies and are exposed to sexually transmitted infections and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, at an early age.

With more than 90 percent unemployment rate due to more than a decade of economic decline and a high cost of living, most young people are being forced to engage in high risk behaviour to raise income.

Young women, in particular, are more vulnerable to SRH problems due to gender inequality, low access to education, early marriage, adolescent pregnancy and low access to SRH services.

Adolescents have little to no information of legal and policy provisions in place to protect their sexual and reproductive health rights. Rural adolescent are particularly affected by this lack of information.

According to the Zimbabwe National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy (2010-2015), young people also lack comprehensive knowledge on SRH issues and services, with little knowledge more skewed towards child abuse and HIV and AIDS.

In the Zimbabwe culture, traditionally, it was the role of aunts and uncles to educate adolescents as they grew into puberty. However, this practice has been eroded by modern practices such as formal schooling, urbanisation, wage employment and access to television, radio and print media.

While adolescents are expected to obtain information and support from their parents, it is often not easy for all parents and guardians to respond to these needs. Parents and guardians are more likely to communicate with girls about sex than with boys, and when they do, the discussions are largely about avoiding pregnancy.

However, some parents or guardians not have information to impart to their children, while others still regard as taboo to discuss sexual issues with their own children, even when they might have the information required. An assessment by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW) in 2008 revealed that the involvement of parents or guardians in the provision of SRH information to young people was very low and only noted in the management of sexual abuse cases.

Further, an Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) assessment commissioned by the MOHCW in 2008 in five of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces revealed that there is generally a limited appreciation of ASRH issues, especially at lower levels of care. Health institutions are faced with a number of challenges, which include limited appreciation and competence in dealing with ASRH issues among service providers.

Health workers and other service provider need to be sensitive and have appropriate skills to competently deal with adolescent SRH issues. They need skills to be able to treat young people with respect and gender equality.

“There are barriers that need to be unlocked to ensure young people access services without challenges,” said Ngoni Chibukire, adding that policies need to be constantly updated in line with new developments.

“We’ve so many policies in Zimbabwe but these policies are not linked. We need to move away from silo programming.”

Providing young people with SRH information and services is key to enable them to make well informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.

According to the ASRH strategy (2010-2015), young people in Zimbabwe need to be empowered with correct, updated and age appropriate life skills to adopt and maintain safe, healthy and responsible sexual attitudes and behaviours. This includes equipping young people with skills that encourage abstinence, delayed first sex, faithfulness in relationships and contraceptive use among unmarried young people.

In addition, providing livelihood skills is an integral component of adolescents’ development and poverty reduction. Livelihood skills will also reduce vulnerability to risks such as abuse, poverty and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.

MOHCW AIDS and TB Unit Director, Dr Owen Mugurungi said male circumcision among young men is key to addressing some of the SRH challenges facing young people, especially HIV. However, uptake of male circumcision is still very low in Zimbabwe with only 8 percent of men having been circumcised.

“We need to do something to make sure young people have access to male circumcision. We need to reach eighty per cent of young people within the next five years to reduce HIV infection by 42 per cent,” he said.

Mugurungi said that with male circumcision reduction of risk at personal level is 60 percent but translates to 70 percent at community level. He added that US$100 million is required to conduct approximately 1,2 million male circumcision among young men aged 15-30 by 2015 with an expected US$3 billion savings in public health savings.

 

Treatment Gaps Threaten Zimbabwe’s AIDS Success Story

Washington DC, US – Zimbabwe’s AIDS success is under threat due to funding gaps for anterotroviral (ARV) drugs which threatens to affect almost 70,000, according to a report issued by Medicens Sans Frontieres.

The report stated that national ARV buffer stocks are currently being depleted to cover some of the shortages. The country is already eating into its allotted Global Fund money to cater for the current treatment gaps, a scenario that will result in an estimated 428,068 people eligible for treatment unable to access ARVs by 2014.

While the country has recorded major success with ARV coverage growing from five per cent in 2006, to 77 per cent among adults and 39 per cent among children, there is a danger that the lives of 435,000 adults and 41,000 under treatment could be put in jeopardy.

According to the MSF report, Zimbabwe’s AIDS levy currently pays for over 25 percent of its ARVs, it has not yet been possible to close the treatment gap.

“The immediate funding gaps in Zimbabwe are due to the transitioning out of a pooled donor fund (the Expanded Support Programme) by the end of 2011. Funding for ARVs was not part of the new basket fund initiative (Health Transition Fund), as the assumption was that providing ARVs for the supproeted ARV cohort would be done with domestic and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) support,” stated the report.

The report added that donors such as US President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Department of International Development (DfID) are now trying to help close the HIV treatment gap. But most of these efforts will not be felt until later this year or early next year putting many people’s lives at risk.

“The GFATM will need to address a significant part of this shortfall, while additional funds to continue initiating new patients on ARV treatment also need to be ensured,” read part of the report.

“Zimbabwe has played a key role in changing the face of the epidemic in the region and globally. Right now, all of Zimbabwe’s success are under serious threat due to the treatment gaps, and that’s why PEPFAR must channel the bulk of its funds towards this urgent priority,”said Chamunorwa Mashoko, an community activist and one of AVAC’s 2012 HIV Prevention Research Advocacy Fellow.

HIV/TB Advisor for MSF in Southern Africa, Dr Eric Goemaere, said that increased global funding is still required in the fight against the epidemic.

“Globally we’re finally past the halfway mark with HIV treatment. Health ministries are working hard to implement latest treatment recommendations and policies to get ahead of the wave of new infections, but they can’t do it alone. We need to see a dramatic increase in global support to fight this plague,” he said.

E-Learning Expands AIDS NGOs’ Documentation Skills

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

Washington DC, US – Electronic learning (e-Learning) a key role to play in enhancing the capacity of AIDS organisations to improve their skills in documenting and communicating their stories, according to a study by the Southern African HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service ( SAfAIDS).

According to the study, poor documentation is commonly cited by organisations as the main reason for not capturing information on successes and learning from their work.

The study revealed that failure to properly document implementation of AIDS programmes often results in the loss of tremendous amounts of evidence and good practices that could be shared to improve overall HIV programming.

“We designed and implemented a training programme that aims to enhance the skills and capacity of HIV programmers in best practice documentation. This course has over the years proved to be very successful, and as a result of high demand and uptake,” saidLois Chingandu, SAfAIDS Executive Director and one of the principal authors of the study which was selected as a poster presentation at the ongoing International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012).

Chingandu said that following the success of the training programmes, SAfAIDS developed an eLearning version of the course to increase access by more organizations.

The documentation of best practice training course, which is available online at www.safaids.net, teaches participants to collect and analyse data and produce case study reports.

“The eLearning course is available through the SAfAIDS website and allows users from across the globe to take the course at their own pace. The eLearning course is accessible in low bandwidth settings; free of charge and compatible with mobile phone technology,” read part of the poster presentation.

A certificate of completion is awarded to participants after successful completion of the course with a pass mark. In addition, a team of eLearning administrators monitor and evaluate uptake of the course and participants’ progress in completing the course, assisting them where necessary.

Young Zimbo, Primrose Nyawai, Aims High

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Primrose Nyawai, 19, one of the 22 Zimbabwean students recently awarded scholarships to go and study at top US colleges, said big, scary dreams give her a kick out of life. Confident and collected, Nyawai said she wants to play her part in the future development of Zimbabwe.

She said that she is inspired to make a difference for less privileged people by the pain she has experienced and what she has overcome in her own life. Nyawai revealed that she lost her father to AIDS in 2001, and her mother is currently living with HIV. Despite the problems that visited her family in the aftermath of her father’s death, Nyawai said she never lost sight of the dreams that brewed silently in her spirit.

“I am inspired by my own life. I know how painful life is so I am going to study hard and after my studies when I come back, I’ll do all that I can to help orphaned children,” said Nyawai who will study at Keuka College in New York as part of the US Achievers Program (USAP).

“I believe that if you don’t have a dream that is big and scary, you’ll not go far in life. I am determined to make the most of myself. In fact, even though I’m going to pursue studies in accounting, I also want to venture into entrepreneurship so that I can contribute to the development of Zimbabwe through the creation of new jobs,” she said.

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, urged the students to commit to the best that they can be so that they effectively contribute to the development of Zimbabwe.

“You are part of the 65 percent of the Zimbabwean population under age 35 who must take a more active role in the development of your country, and that must start with yourselves. The key to where you are going, to having a better future – regardless of where you are coming from – begins with each individual making a commitment to being the best that you can be,” said Ray.

“You can start by defining what kind of society you want to live in, what kind of country that you want to leave to your children and grandchildren. And you can take steps all along the way to define yourself and the person you can be.”

Education and Culture Minister, David Coltart told the students to remember the disparities in their communities during their studies in the US.

“So many Zimbabweans get a secondary school education which is of enormous value to them but does not translate to much for their community. Some go on to study at esteemed institutions like Harvard. They end up living in the US sending remittances which is important but the real value of what they can contribute to their community and nation is lost,” he said.

“You’ve been given a great opportunity but ultimately you’ll be judged at the end of your lives. The ultimate question to ask yourselves is: how am I going to come back to Zimbabwe and add value to your family, community, nation and region with your knowledge.”

A Spirit of American Jazz and Tap Dance in Harare

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – RARELY do I get invited to dance events so you can imagine my excitement when I received an open invite to one. On a mid-morning in May with the sun’s rays liberally cast across the sky, I found myself in an old school hall in Harare among a group of people – some, professional dancers – that responded to a call for a free tap to live jazz music workshop delivered by the Jazz Tap Ensemble (JTE), a pre-eminent American tap dance company.

I was not sure what to expect from the Los Angeles-based dance company which has been hailed for the renaissance of tap in the US through blending original choreography in rhythm tap with live jazz music. Not much of a dancer myself, I came to the workshop out of mere curiosity.

At the beginning of the workshop, we exchanged the shoes we came wearing for special shoes equipped with metal taps that were provided by the dance company. Like the rest of the workshop participants, I clipped clopped on the wooden floors of the hall trying in the tap shoes with childlike fascination, eager to try them out for the first time ever in my life.

We were prepped up for the workshop by viewing of a short film on the battle between traditional and new tap in the US, titled, “Stormy Weather.” The film, featuring legendary American tap dancer, Gregory Hines, was like bubble gum to my eyes through its exposition of the wide creativity in rhythm generated by tapping of the feet.

After the viewing, we lined up into several rows and were given a dose of how to do the traditional Shim Sham tap dance style – something like, step forwards and back outs, foot in and out – and repeat the routine. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m not so much of a dancer but I swear I gave it my all. One absolutely positive take is that I quickly learned that tap dancers use their feet like drums to create rhythmic patterns and timely beats.

Two JTE dancers, Kenji Ingus and Sandy Vazquez led by Lynn Dally, JTE’s artistic director demonstrated the foundational steps of tap dancing to the group which consisted of approximately forty mostly young people. Dally roamed the hall during the class, listening for extra taps. The goal in tap dancing is to produce clear, clean sounds, with various levels of tone. Body weight should be held slightly forward, allowing most of the dancing to be done on the balls of the feet. The knees and ankles should be relaxed at all times.

I think because tap mimics a lot of Zimbabwean traditional dances, most of the participants caught quickly onto it, shaking and twisting themselves, feet stamping backwards and forwards and sideways. Tap resounded throughout the hall and even attracted onlookers to the doorways.

Once most of the dancers had a feel for the first part of the Shim Sham tap, Dally introduced jazz music into the picture. The band, fronted by bassist, David Dunaway and saxophone/pianist, Doug Walter, belted out some jazz tunes.

The liveliness of the tap rhythms supplemented by the easy jazzy sound plunged everyone into a dancing mood. Ingus, Vazquez and Dally demonstrated the mechanics of the tap shoe and how not only the toe and heel could make sound but also the sides and soles.

I must confess, I simply twisted through some of the steps but making sure to keep the tap. Overall, I felt thoroughly exhilarated and energized by the dance routine, as well as the magic and beauty with which our instructors brought it all out.

“I feel so good even though I really don’t know how to dance this way. I’m going to incorporate this way of dancing into my hip hop moves. This has been a beautiful experience,” said Kuda Machete, an upcoming break dancer in an interview after the workshop.

During the workshop, most of the dancers relentlessly followed instructions, and danced with energy and passion. As the participants caught onto the wave of a dance motion, Ingus and Vazquez put more spunk into the moves. They danced with more spontaneity and creativity all the while encouraging us to follow in step.

“This is my first time to tap dance but I have enjoyed every minute of it. It was so much fun, its even like exercising. This type of dancing reminds me of some of the local traditional dances so it was not difficult to catch on,” said Timothy Matena, another workshop participant.

Another participant, Alex Madziwa could not hide his happiness as he stepped into his tapping dancing shoes and thanked his lucky stars for bringing him to the workshop which was free to the public.

“It was a new and exciting experience, I could not have expected anything better for a day like this – the moves made me stretch and exercise muscles I didn’t know I had,” he said, a smile on his face.

Dally said that tap dancing had a transformative power especially on young people.

“Tap dancing is good because it’s about improvisation and each dancer must find their own voice. That’s why we are promoting it. The response that we’ve been given has given us courage and hope,” Dally said.

The JTE, which also toured the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Mozambique prior to Zimbabwe, is part of the DanceMotion USA, the US State Department dancing diplomacy project aimed at engaging people across the world and creating opportunities for greater human understanding.

“It’s been a great trip; I have had a good time. The response that we got was overwhelming and it made my heart bigger,” said Ingus adding that he would like to return to Zimbabwe to do some more work, especially in rural schools.

The dance company also gave two sterling performances at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), an annual arts festival held early May in Harare. They also performed and participated in educational outreach activities as well as staged arts management sessions in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

“It’s a big deal – our State Department is encouraging cultural diplomacy and what that means for us is to work with young people in communities. It’s a cultural exchange, the idea is to bring American style dance to southern Africa,” said Dally.

US Embassy Assistant Public Affairs Officer, Jillian Bonnardeaux, said that the overall aim of the exchange program is to bring American culture around the world. She said jazz and tap dancing are two American traditions that can be merged with traditional forms of Zimbabwe dance.

The US also seeks to strengthen the arts industry in Zimbabwe, in this case to make the young dancers aware that they could turn their art into a means of survival, she added.

“The idea is to professionalize the arts – to make the dancers more experienced and confident that their art can become a contributing factor to Zimbabwe’s – and their own personal – economic development,” said Bonnardeaux.

At the end of the dance workshop, Francis Mukuzunga who participated in the workshop with his eleven year old son donated a pair of his late father’s tap dancing shoes to Dally.

“These shoes belong to my late father who was an exceptional tap dancer himself. When Dally told me that they were a rare type of tap dance shoes from the 1930s, I felt like I should give them to her. So on behalf of the all the Zimbabwean dancers here, I’m donating these shoes,” he said.

Dally promised to display the shoes prominently among her collection of tap dancing mementos. We all clapped to mark an end to a spirited show of jazz and tap in Harare that thoroughly inspired me and lightened my imagination. The whole experience was like opening a doorway to a magical wonder that I had never experienced before.