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Zimbabwe - Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceZimbabwe - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


In 1953, under the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, African education re-emerged as a sensitive issue. Godfrey Huggins' successor, Garfield Todd, was a strong supporter of African education and implemented several progressive policies for blacks before being ousted in 1958. However, the settler government that followed Todd did not abandon his progressive policies, using them as part of its political strategy so as not to alienate the British Colonial Office, which would have jeopardized independence negotiations. The federation even lied to further its cause by offering educational statistics that showed that 86 percent of school-age children were in primary school, when in fact the accurate figure was 60 percent.

In 1956, another Five-Year Plan was implemented. It called for five years of education for children up to age 14 in rural areas, an annual rural elementary school increase of 60 pupils, and eight years of schooling for urban children, not over 14 years old when reaching standard four. These restrictions forced many parents to forge birth certificates by altering their children's ages and birthplaces so that their children could gain admission into a school. In 1980, the Zimbabwean government acknowledged that many young people's education had been interrupted by the liberation war and by racist policies and thus refused to implement any such barriers to education.

Government education planning emphasized separate education rather than the provision of equal education between Africans and white settlers, as shown in the Native Education Act of 1959. In 1964 and 1965, Ian Smith's government was at the center of the country's unilateral declaration of independence, which changed the education administrative structure by creating a unified Ministry of Education. The ministry retained the separate divisions for blacks and Europeans, coloureds (interracial persons), and Asians. A new plan calling for compulsory education for all Africans was unsuccessful, as the government's ambitious plan was doomed to failure by a budget allocation of only 2 percent of the GNP for education. It was expected that any needed additional funds would come from private sources and voluntary organizations, but that did not happen.

White settlers launched many efforts to become independent, which lead to the development of a constitution in 1961. Four years later, the settlers' government issued a unilateral declaration of independence. The protracted Chimurenga II War followed the declaration and lasted from 1966 to 1979. Britain and the international community levied sanctions against Rhodesia, which set in motion a chain of sweeping sociopolitical events, such as the Lancaster House Conference Agreement. That agreement culminated in a new constitution on December 21, 1979, and full independence for the newly named Zimbabwe in 1980. In the first decade following independence, Zimbabwe experienced a period of economic development. Since the early 1990s, however, it has suffered through a time of major economic deterioration that was worsened by the adoption of economic structural adjustment programs.

Education and workforce policies that existed during the colonial era were essentially designed to ensure the existence of cheap and unskilled African labor. This was accomplished in two ways. First, colonial governments left education essentially in the hands of Christian missions, and second, the educational system that was offered was not technically or vocationally oriented. These two characteristics contributed to the present social, economic, and political problems in Zimbabwe. The colonial educational system has been criticized for being too literary and too classical to be useful. In 1978 the Ministry of Education and Culture combined its former divisions of European, African, Coloured, and Asian education into one structure and endorsed that structure in the Education Act of 1979, thus establishing a nonracial educational policy a year before independence.

Despite attaining independence and two decades of development efforts, Zimbabwe has retained and expanded educational and sociopolitical infrastructures that were inherited from the colonial era. Once independent, Zimbabwe's education philosophy entailed a humanistic approach that emphasized promoting national development; a wider participatory process; sociopolitical, economic, and technology changes; and the overall culture of the nation. This was necessary for the moral, educational and material advancement of the majority of its population, as well as for the citizens to obtain equality, dignity, justice and liberty.

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