Why Revisiting Our Zim Mis-Education Matters

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large

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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.

Using ICTs in Education in Fragile Contexts: A Working Paper

1.1 Mapping A Fragile Context

Only by securing development can we put down roots deep enough to break down the cycle of fragility and violence – Robert B. Zoellick, President

According to the World Bank, a billion people live in countries affected by fragility and conflict. Poverty rates average 54 percent compared with 22 percent for low-income countries as a whole. These countries which are defined by weak institutions and the impact of warfare constitute a protracted development challenge where results are hard to achieve. While the risk of failure in these countries is high, the risk of non- action is even higher: the annual global cost of conflict is estimated to be around $100 billion. Aside from the lives lost and damaged due to conflict and the scale of human suffering it creates, conflict also destroys assets and institutions. Against this background, ICTs can provide innovative solutions to the provision of knowledge in fragile situations where communities and governments are faced with the challenges of limited resources and capacities. Continue reading

How Menstruation Curses Young Girls to the Margins

The natural process of menstruation comes as a big problem to women and girls in many parts of Africa, contributing to both disempowerment and health risks. For young girls, menstruation is an addition to the heap of gender disparities they have to face in life.

In order to stem the flow of monthly periods, the women and girls use anything from rags, tree leaves, old clothes, toilet paper, newspapers, cotton wool, cloths or literally anything that can do the job. Most girls from poor, rural communities do not use anything at all.

Menstruation is perhaps one of the most regular individual female experiences, but in sub-Saharan Africa, the experience impacts general society negatively due to the absence of products required by women and girls to cope with menstrual flow.

To state it bluntly, menstruation has become like a curse not only to the women and girls but to society in general on the continent. Because menstruation is largely a private act, the social damage is hidden and never makes the news headlines. Also, there are cultural and social attitudes that render discussion of menstruation almost impossible.

Affordable and hygienic sanitary protection is not available to many women and girls in Africa, and governments have done very little to address this reproductive health issue which has serious public health consequences.

In sub-Saharan Africa, millions of girls, in particular, that reach the age of puberty are highly disempowered due to the lack of access to sanitary wear. Many of the girls from poor families cannot afford to buy sanitary pads.

Hence they resort to the use of unhygienic rags and cloths which puts them at the risk of infections. Some of the girls engage in transactional sex so that they can raise the money required to buy sanitary pads, putting themselves at the risk of HIV and STI infection.

Alternatively, young girls are forced to skip school during the time they experience monthly periods to avoid both the cost of pads or use of cloths.

UNICEF estimates that one in 10 school-age African girls either skips school during menstruation or drops out entirely because of lack of sanitation.

“Less-privileged girls and women who represent substantial percentage in our contemporary Africa will continue to suffer resulting to school absenteeism and also compromising their right to health care,” says Fredrick W. Njuguna, Program Director of Familia Human Care Trust in Kenya.

A girl absent from school due to menstruation for 4 days in 28 days (a month) loses 13 learning days equivalent to 2 weeks of learning in every school term.

It is estimated that within the 4 years of high school the same girl loses 156 learning days equivalent to almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning in high school.

Consequently, a girl child potentially becomes a “school drop out” while she is still attending school. In addition, the girl child has to deal with emotional and psychological tension associated with the menstrual process.

To make matters worse, according to Familia Human Care Trust, many schools in underprivileged areas lack sufficient sanitation facilities which are vital not only during a girl’s period but at all times generally such as water, adequate toilet facilities and appropriate dumping facilities for sanitary wear.

As a result, menstruating girls opt to stay at home due to lack of facilities to help them manage their periods than go to school.

For orphaned girls, the prospect of coping with bodily changes can be a significant challenge because they have no-one to turn to for information or advice. In addition, due to the use of improper methods to contain their menstrual flow, young girls may develop bodily odors that will lead to social exclusion within peer groups thereby impacting negatively on the young girl’s confidence.

The need for affordable sanitary wear for women and girls in Africa is indeed a major public health issue that governments need to prioritize in their planning.

On the other hand, there is need for social innovation around this issue because the need for sanitary wear among girls and women will forever be there, at least in the long term future.

The bottom line is that no girl child must be disadvantaged by the natural process of menstruation, and governments, civil society organizations and other players need to work together to ensure that the appropriate services are made available.

As it is, menstruation has becomes the undeclared basis for the social exclusion of young girls. Sanitary protection is an urgent need among women and girls and needs to be made affordable so that poor and marginalized groups can have access.

Global alliances between women in the rich and poor worlds can be a key solution to the problem of access to sanitary wear. But governments also need to recognize that ensuring women and girl’s access to sanitary wear has positive public health implications.

Access to affordable, sanitary is human right but one that is never discussed in our male dominated world. Whatever the case, the fact remains: every woman should be able to have access to the right products which can enable them to happily experience menstruation.

No woman should be cursed to disempowerment by the natural act of monthly periods.