The reluctance to change: will it cost us anything or everything?

I know you might already think I’m all about what’s wrong with the tech scene in Zimbabwe, but I choose to view myself as a watchman; my job is to tell you the Zimbabwean tech flaws and you will choose whether to complain with me, or do something about it… So maybe all you entrepreneurs and innovators should keep tabs on these articles.

It is a well-known fact that in Zimbabwe, technology is being adopted at a depressingly slow rate. In this fast digitising world, we definitely cannot afford to do this. We might blame industries and companies for these setbacks, but I believe it starts off at an earlier stage than this – our educational curriculum. You would be shocked to find out how old some syllabi at tertiary institutions are, this could be because adopting new technologies is expensive or just the reluctance to change. If it’s the latter then we really need to learn from nature because in the natural environment, you only have two options; to adapt or die!

I for one was frustrated by having to learn stereoscopy in a GIS course yet there are computer programs in place e.g. ArcGIS that can trim down on both effort and time while producing even better results compared to the former. Apart from that, no company or organisation (that I know of) still uses stereoscopy for remote sensing, so instead of gaining this experience prior i.e. at school, you get to learn it on the job which becomes a waste of time and as we know time is money! This is just one example off the top of my head, now imagine this phenomenon recurring (of which it is) and its impact on businesses, not to mention how irrelevant schools then becomes.

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But then again, I noticed that generally, Zimbabwe has a phobia for change; another random example: the Highway Code. If you go through it, you’ll discover that some questions are no longer relevant to our context but we still get examined using these very same irrelevant questions. Nevertheless, I say it’s high time we get out of our comfort zones. Syllabi in Zimbabwe should be flexible enough for change.

We don’t need to learn things that we don’t need to know or better still, things that we will not even apply. Often the general justification for this backwardness if I may call it, is that we understand better if we grasp concepts from the foundation, but really? What we should realise is; while we spend time focusing on the archaic, some are spending time advancing and mastering the new and relevant. Then we have the audacity to ask ourselves why we are always ten steps behind??? Rhetoric I say!

So maybe the minister of primary and secondary education, Dr. Dokora is onto something with his new curriculum or the idea thereof? Or indeed it does not make sense? Or maybe the changes are just too dramatic for a fellow Zimbabwean who naturally has developed inertia?

Yes, this is yet another call to sober up and ponder on these things…

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11 Comments

  1. nqobile madziba says:

    hie my name is nqobile madziba a cofounder of a tech startup in zim and was wondering if you guys at tech zim could help us by analysing our site and help us by giving us pointers on where we could improve our site this could help us produce a site that the public can love .

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha says:

      Nqobile please drop us an email

    2. Tinashe Nyahasha says:

      Trycolyn, this is really true. I think as Zimbabweans we have such an attachment to ‘our education’ and ‘how educated we are’ that we are not willing to entertain any analysis that may question the system. I also remember being taught by my University Lecturer about a technology that had become obsolete three decades prior, literally!

      Should the system even be heavy on ‘teaching information’ as opposed to ‘teaching the acquisition of information and other soft skills’ seeing how information has been rendered ubiquitous by the internet and other technologies…

  2. Garikai Dzoma says:

    The author is onto something here especially when it comes to tertiary institutions. I have come realize I wasted four years of my life going to the University of Zimbabwe to be taught outdated accounting techniques such as the use of bin cards (a whole semester under a useless course called Public Sector Accounting). Not a single concept learnt in most of the courses has real world application. Their cutting edge course was ABC costing which was developed in the 70s!

    I would disagree with Dokora’s methods though. You cannot ask someone to chop down a Baobab tree using a stone axe. While his curriculum sounds good in theory the simple truth is that it takes money to implement the changes he is proposing. A boatload of money (10 billion at least in my estimation) to retrain the teachers who are just, if not more confused than the teachers they are supposed to be tutoring, train the ministry officials who are supposed to oversee the implementation, buy equipment for use with the new curriculum such as computers for all those remote isolated schools, put those schools on the ZESA or buy really large generators and lots of fuel, install VSAT …

    The other issue is that Dokora is trying to turn High schools into Technikons with courses like Business entrepreneurship. He is taking a wrecking ball on a rampage with decoupling of subjects like Shona and splitting them into Indigenous Languages and Indigenous Literature. The prescriptive nature of his curriculum actually hampers innovation and ignores the unique nature of each student as they are shackled to whims of slow learners. His curriculum rubbishes the effective culture of schools like my Alma Mater where I actually learnt the basic skills on which I have come to depend on.

    In other words Dokora is a butcher playing a neuro surgeon and the end result is bound to be a lot of blood, chaos, screaming, recriminations and a lot of acrimonious tussling between varios stakeholders. Like the movie title: I give it a year. But then again as the movie outcome defies the title in the end, I could be wrong.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha says:

      I agree on the methods being to risky without the resources to support the process. I wonder though, what is more disastrous, waiting till we have resources and keep teaching useless material or to go butcher?

      The new curriculum though is only new in that it is replacing the ‘old’ but it is outdated itself isn’t it? What we want is a modern curriculum that teaches kids and all to be adaptive in a fast paced rapidly evolving world not ‘mass displays’ of a world of 37 years ago…

  3. Macd Chip says:

    The mountain can only be as big as its surrounding environment!

    Yes, we can claim that we are so educated, bt that applies to our environment. You cannt claim to be the fastest runner among the diasled.

    How do we measure among the best of the best! Do we have parents all over the world queing to get their children into Zimbabwean Universities.

    How much IT knowledge do we export through consultations and companies around the world outsourcing their IT Support to us.

    If we have non of the above, what we might be calling biggest mountain(education) can turn out to be a ant-hill when compared to other regions or world mountains

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha says:

      Hahaha, yes I think it’s about time we see ourselves through the perspective of the globe as whole. We have this pride that blinds us to the fact that the only reason we are standing out is the mere fact that everyone else has moved way ahead of us and we are still STANDING where we were decades ago

  4. Charles Muzonzini says:

    I very much agree. I too can testify o how our universities are teaching irrelevant things. In the era of responsive design I took a web development course that was teaching design layouts using HTML tables. One wonders what these so called lecturers do when they sit to approve these archaic course outlines?

  5. More free option says:

    Having been outside for my alevels and then coming back to university of Zim…I can personally attest to the backward thinking…. Even the testing at the end of the course just memorisation and papers… Secondly they don’t promote new thinking… They assume it’s an attack on their knowledge…And it’s right through from the students as well…. Any new idea is laughed at…. Think about it how many times have you sniggered at something different. Also there now mixing of vital courses… For example even a doctor need some accounting skills or entrepreneurship…. Then no faculty for this at all

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha says:

      Yes exactly. The way faculties and departments are structured is a huge problem: knowledge is put in boxes! HIT is heading the right way though, I have interacted with students from most local universities. Those from HIT seem more rounded and big picture thinkers. Their curriculum supports multidisciplinary problem solving particularly through a course they call Technopreneurship or something like that which everybody does

  6. Revolver says:

    Although i concur with the article to a certain level, there is another side also. Since the economy is not performing well and formal jobs limited, everyone is now bastardizing tertiary institutions and their graduates. Is it about the reluctance to change or there are other external impediments? Its an oversimplification to say that the lack of keeping up with global technological trends is a result of reluctance to change. There is no current incentive or financial capacity in some of these institutions.

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