'New schools curriculum must include arts'

HARARE - With Zimbabwe set to introduce a new education curriculum, artists and arts administrators are hopeful that government will also include arts education which had been neglected over the years.

The Daily News sought comments from a number of people with most of them concerned that while this was a good idea, the teachers and teaching materials like books, music instruments and tools would be a challenge.

Social commentator Takura Zhangazha said arts education is intrinsic to any decent education system. “It helps build creativity and helps expand key democratic values such as freedom of expression and access to information.

“Reading material can always be put together because Zimbabwe has a very diverse and rich cultural lexicon from which a curriculum can be developed. As long as that curriculum is not subjected to ‘patriotic history’ and repressive political correctness.”

Arts administrator Mandla Ncube said: “Personally, I believe it’s very important to include arts education from Early Childhood Development (ECD) level. The challenge is lack of personnel to teach or train teachers.

“As a country, we don’t have that human resource and continue to shun it. Government should start to invest in training teachers, work closely with arts organisations and institutions that have been in this business for a while.”

Music producer Mono Gwenyagitare Mukundu believes arts education is very important in schools because the arts sector provides employment in a modern society.

“But I prefer the arts education to be more practical rather than be too theoretical and bookish. I like what Prince Edward School does with its music department because by the time the pupil finishes school he will be 100 percent ready for the industry in practical terms.

“Former group B schools also need to be upgraded in terms of their arts side especially in music because most of them just teach choral and marimba music. It’s good but they must up their game and introduce electric instruments, guitars, keyboards and even music production, after all major talent comes from the ghetto and rural areas.

“In terms of literature it’s there but we need more books by Zimbabweans who understand the Zimbabwean context.”

Musician Filbert Marova said should the new education curriculum include the arts, that would be most welcome but a few questions need to be addressed first.

“In regards to music, do we have enough resources like music instruments, music books, access to internet, music material?

“Do we have enough qualified teachers to effectively impart knowledge without ruining one’s future?

“Do we have enough teachers to cover the whole country? Do we have books that are relevant to us as Zimbabweans and globally?

“The way forward in regards to music education should be to train enough teachers to cover the whole country before the project rolls out. Schools should invest in musical instruments and buy music text books that are relevant to Zimbabwe but with a global impact. 

“We need to collect and preserve all recorded Zimbabwean music and include it in the curriculum together with other world music styles.

“However, we are not very far from achieving the above because we can learn from a South African music book Listen & Learn Music Made Easy by Bodina McConnachie which was specifically made for beginners and any teacher or pupil can use it.

“We either buy the book for our pupils or make our own. Otherwise I’m very excited about this new development.”

Guitarist Master Pablo Nakappa said it would be a very noble idea on the part of the government to include arts education in the curriculum. “If you look at it most arts people are self-taught and they usually take arts as a second priority probably after they would have failed in academics.

“Now that there are indications that arts education can be included, everyone would take it seriously hence polished arts will be realised.

“As for arts book materials government needs to work hand in hand with well-respected people like professor Fred Zindi for music, in coming up with the required materials.

“I am sure it will also help a lot of students who are not good in some subjects to take up arts. They must set up a committee just to oversee the arts education and come up with required material.

“They must also work hand in hand with established institutions like the Zimbabwe college of Music, Amakhosi Arts Centre in Bulawayo and other institutions that have already been dealing with arts education to see how best it can fit into the already, running education curriculum.”

Filmmaker Elton Mjanana was of the opinion that it is very important to include arts education in the new curriculum.

“Children with artistic training and schooling have a better chance at grasping concepts and generally have an improved IQ.

“Now on the material side of things, I am not sure if there is enough personnel qualified for the jobs, never mind the teaching material.

“However, all this will have to start from somewhere and we better start now and improve as we go rather than wait until the cows come home.”

Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said the arts sector is a multi-billion dollar industry throughout the world and “I am sure there are ways to make academic sense of the sector through a curriculum and practical training.

“The way forward is to make diverse opportunities available to youths so that as many opportunities are availed through a multi-pronged curricula that looks at the academia as well as practical skills.”

Singer Tina Nomsa Watyoka said while this idea was noble, subjects like music are practical but there seem not to be not enough materials to use like the instruments and the required rooms with good spaces.

“There are also not enough music teachers as well. Government will have to invest in training teachers and building proper facilities to support practical subjects.”

Watyoka said while some children are born with artistic talents they still need to work hard and realise their full potential by getting music education. “Some may not be talented musically but have the passion to work with musicians because of their background of music education —so it will help them understand the artists and the industry as a whole.”

Poet Mbizo Chirasha said the idea of arts education is good. “The biggest problem is the whole set up of content because the government has neglected publishing houses and writers for a longtime leaving them without funding. There is no proper policing of the book industry as it is in shambles and the content for the arts sector is scarce, if there is any at all.

“It is now the duty of the ministry to work extra hard with both writers and publishers for good content though much space is given to political squabbling than proper space and time for the economic, social, cultural and educational sectors.

“We all need to know that such change in curriculum is not an event but a process that requires working together with a focused agenda for the development and innovation of our future generation.

“The whole discourse should have been implemented long back. It is only that most of our political systems are reactive than proactive.”

Arts administrator Daniel Maposa said the inclusion of the arts in the curriculum is a move in the right direction. “The arts contribute a lot to the socio-economic and political development of Zimbabwe and it is important that they be part of the education system if their potential is to be effectively harnessed. This will enable an increase in the appreciation of the arts by the populace thereby facilitating growth of the sector.

“The inclusion of the arts in the curriculum is the first step and materials will have to be developed. The teachers also have to be trained on different aspects of the arts. It also calls for many artists with requisite qualifications will get jobs.”

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