'Education policies suppress arts'

HARARE - Weak education policies at secondary school level are suppressing the pursuit of performance arts as a career option by talented children, a senior education official has said.

Isaiah Mhembere, Manicaland provincial education officer in charge of arts and culture, made the remarks during the inaugural edition of Manicaland Secondary Schools Folk Dance and Music Festival won by hosts Sakubva 1 High School in Mutare on Monday.

“The creation of the ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture separate from the Education ministry was an acknowledgement that not enough was being done and there was not enough time being given to arts and culture activities as academic activities took precedence over everything else,” Mhembere said.

He added that the Manicaland Secondary Schools Folk Dance and Music Festival involving 10 secondary schools provided an opportunity for talented children to pursue their talents in secondary schools.

“Children who were so talented and whose skills would have been honed in primary school would just collapse in Form 1,” said the provincial education official who revealed that the event had almost failed to take place due to the confinement of such activities to the third term.

“The restriction is talent-suppressing. Gifted children need to be allowed to continue practising throughout the year. We had a tough time getting clearance for the hosting of this event since music and dance competitions are supposed to be done in the third term,” said the provincial education official.

Mhembere said he wished to see our education system putting more value on performance arts.

“If we promote arts in children they will be able to live off it. Not all children will end up as doctors or engineers so we need to support and nurture talent in the arts as this can offer some children a lucrative career option,” he added.

The inaugural edition of Manicaland Secondary Schools Folk Dance and Music Festival was won by Sakubva 1 High School with another Mutare urban educational institution Nyamauru High School coming second. Mweya Museveni High School from Marange took position three.

Most schools did jerusarema — mbende, mbakumba dances with mbira and marimba being performed by each school.

Provincial National Arts Council director Jonathan Muchayi described the event as a dream that has come true.

“This is a dream project for us. All along we have been witnessing primary schools in the jikinya schools project and there has been a gap between performance arts between primary schools and secondary schools,” Muchayi said.

Culture Fund executive director Farai Mpfunya said his organisation was supportive of the initiative as it allowed for the preservation of Zimbabwean cultural heritage.

“We want to promote our cultural identity and tell our story of how we lived, how we live now, how we want to live and how we do not want to live. We are supportive of Bembera’s idea to venture into schools and help children to develop love for their own culture,” Mpfunya said.

The festival director and Bembera Arts Ensemble founder Taurai Moyo said his organisation had so far trained 300 secondary school children in 10 schools to do 10 tribal dances.

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