The new and first ever Minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education Josiah Hungwe has begun consultations on transforming the country’s education system, four months after his appointment.The need to impart vocational skills training simultaneously with academics to school children was born out of the recommendations of a 1999 government inquiry into education led by former University of Zimbabwe professor, Caiaphas Nziramasanga.
The Nziramasanga Commission which sought to evaluate the educational requirements of the country observed that the national core-curriculum was inclined towards academics and recommended the introduction of vocational skills training in secondary schools.
However, over a decade since the commission’s findings and recommendations, not much has been done to make the country’s education system move away from theory to practice.
The appointment by President Robert Mugabe of Hungwe in September last year to spearhead the programme could have been necessitated by that.
While other ministers whose ministries have been in existence during the inclusive government era hit the ground running, the same cannot be said of Hungwe who by last week still did not have staff.
Despite the challenges, the Psychomotor Minister says he has begun consultations on the programme.
Hungwe told the Financial Gazette after his tour of Mzilikazi Art and Craft Centre in Bulawayo that he was in consultations with stakeholders especially from vocational training centres, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education on how to introduce vocational skills to school children as early as possible.
He noted with regret that even graduates churned by the country’s colleges and universities lacked requisite skills and were unemployable.
“Education must be seen to be practical and be able to help the holder; we want to correct that,” said Hungwe.
The unemployment rate in the country, he argued, could be reduced if people had been taught vocational skills. By extension, the massive de-industrialisation Zimbabwe is battling with could also have been long mitigated.
The Psychomotor Ministry is also expected to incorporate the sports and arts field to ensure the country becomes skills-sufficient in these fields.
Once consultations were complete, Hungwe would be in a position to spell out how he intends to implement the long overdue programme. Hungwe also claimed this week that adding the International Labour Organisation and the World Bank have shown interes in funding upcoming projects.
National University of Science and Technology (NUST) academic, Lawton Hikwa, said government has taken too long to implement the Nziramasanga recommendations, adding the students were either academically or vocationally dispositioned hence the need for the promotion of both by the education system.
He, however, said universities by nature save for a few faculties such as engineering and architecture were academically and not necessarily skills oriented.
College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president, David Dzatsunga, said the introduction of vocational skills across the education sector was critical.
“That is a critical matter which is the best for Zimbabwe because we need hands on people who are able to deliver,” said Dzatsunga, who also reinforced the need for wider consultations since the programme requires a lot of resources to equip the institutions with.
Analysts said that the country’s literacy rate of over 90 percent, rated as one of the highest in Africa, has not helped the country that much because of the disconnect between training and the application of skills.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer, Sifiso Ndlovu, said the country’s education system has for a long time focused on the creation of knowledge as opposed to skills development adding the implementation of the long overdue Nziramasanga Commission recommendations was more than welcome.
He said in other developed country pupils get oriented on industrial machinery as early as primary level.