ZIMBABWEANS must seriously think of the 'dead' generation of pupils who were 'killed' in the past 4 to 5 years of the near total collapse of the education sector.
Some regard the disaster as a pardonable mishap, others as an unforgivable intellectual genocide. What do you think?
Recently I developed an acute desire to want to find out more about the Rwandan genocide where history has it that nearly a million minority Tutsis suffered near annihilation at the hands of the majority Hutus. I don't understand where this strange curiosity came from.
What I am sure of is that I suddenly developed an acute drive to want to know something about the depth of human wickedness; and it was quite strong and irresistible. I frantically looked for the BBC recorded films on the Rwandan genocide and found them. Quietly and meticulously I watched them more than enough times. It was impossible to believe what my eyes were witnessing.
You look at the incidents of unparalleled inhumanity and heinous wickedness in the gun-and-machete massacres and want to wish it was fiction. That is what I wanted to believe…FICTION. "These people are acting." But I knew they were not. The more I thought it was drama, the more I knew it was not. There was no difference in mortality… no discretion in brutality.
Children killed and they were killed en masse. It was blood and death all over Rwanda…brother against brother, sister against sister, tribe against tribe. The devil which in the first place looked for hearts of stone and literally planted them in the bosoms of these heinous murderers and bloody infidels I am sure looked aside when his will was being done.
Well, yes, I learnt unforgettable lessons about the lowest possible ebb or rot of mankind's primitiveness and brutality in this Rwandan genocide. You need to be a perfect grammarian of the finest pedigree of English Language to be able to accurately rewrite the story of these Africans killing Africans in Rwanda without stupid overtones or undertones…without foolishly exaggerating or understating the truth. I am not that kind of grammarian. I will never be able, no matter how much I try. But my eyes saw, my heart felt, and my mind understood.
There was nothing vague in the acts of genocide revealed in the films, but as often characteristic with my mind, I learnt more than a few lessons from this single graphic exhibition of sheer human heartlessness and immeasurable barbarism.
My mind wandered, from the machetes of the possessed Hutu killers to the gory blood of every Tutsi baby, child and adult being wiped out of Rwandan existence. It wandered farther from the wicked insensitivity of every child soldier instructed to kill ( if he did not want to die) to the victims of sexual abuse and indiscriminate rape and said to myself, "But God no, I know the difference between war and madness. This is daylight witchcraft."
Then I deeply let all my brain cells try to understand the excuses of the U.N. peace keeping forces for not stopping this madness taking place right under their noses. "We are here to keep the peace, not to bring the peace. We monitor peace, not establish it. Our mandate is clear." Rubbish, I thought to myself.
Sheer arrogance and typical James Bond snobbery, racism and sadistic fascism! Nonsense!
There is no better word to describe such snobbish military fundamentalism. Perhaps that is what they call securocratic politics in modern-day political grammar.
I searched my heart. I looked around. I did not see a shred of willingness on the part of the so-called peace-keeping forces to save the Tutsi people from the bloody machetes and indiscriminate bayonets and gunshots of their rabid brothers and sisters.
It was simply not there. Not one bit of it! They could have done something about it. They did nothing. They chose not to do anything about it. So much for the gory memories of the unspeakable Rwandan genocide!
Today when I look back and think of what happened in Zimbabwean schools, colleges and the entire education sector in the past 4 or 5 years, I see the same trend of totally blind callousness where people do things whose consequences they cannot imagine. I see educational murderers, intellectual rapists and grave hopelessness on school children who were being massacred by their own system of education.
I see poor African children hacked down with 'machetes' of total crucifixion and misdirected reprisals on innocent children in the historical abandonment of schools by everyone.
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of pupils in Zimbabwe for close to five years went without meaningful learning in the schools and colleges. Some schools especially in the rural areas became total ruins with classrooms turning into cattle kraals and goat pens. They were haunted by ghosts of unimaginable anger and defeat. Everyone turned away. The situation shouted 'Help!'. No one heard. Perhaps no one listened.
The teachers fled the country into neighbouring states in hundreds or thousands. No one filled in forms that suggested why they were absent from schools and colleges. They simply walked away.
Those who remained forgot the way to the schools and the headmasters broke their own commandments. They either joined their fugitive teacher in Chiadzwa or Pretoria or suddenly became informal businessmen and women.
It was painful and difficult to imagine. School children and students were hopeless and disillusioned. The country was in a state of educational impotence and defeat. We all remembered CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY but continued not to know what to do. Typical U.N. peace-keepers in Rwanda, mandated to KEEP and not MAKE the peace!
My cry of foul is not in defiance of common sense or what noble cause there was in justifying the unilateral action of teachers and school heads who were absconding from the schools countrywide. The teachers peacefully demanded survival salaries…nothing more. Not even an extra dime to put in the back pocket of their threadbare trousers or skirt!
Just enough to buy the nothing there was in the shops and supermarkets; perhaps only to buy the baccossi package that came once in a United Nations lorry at the nearest abandoned school or shopping centre. It was understood. Teachers are not just civil servants or simple servants. They are professionals who deserved and still deserve a decent salary and a decent lifestyle.
But what happened to the school children? That is the question. Not because something could have been done by the teachers or the government. Perhaps none of them could have done anything. Perhaps no one had a mandate to save the children from not learning no matter by what means or divine plan.
The famous words of Martin Luther King loudly but appropriately come back to haunt our consciences and remind us of the truth that will not set us free: "In the end we will not remember our enemies but those who stood aside and did nothing." Everybody watched as the children lost time, opportunity and hope to prepare themselves for a sound future. Everybody watched like the U.N. peace keepers … like the peace keepers only watched but worried and concerned more about their mandate in Rwanda, than their conscience and dignity…their UBUNTHU. No one asked them why?
One only needs to see the casualties of this past disaster to appreciate the degree of damage done to the children in our schools and colleges. One needs to see their work and assess their levels of education or learnedness. Those of us who interact with them daily in one way or more, either to understand them and try to help them, know the gravity of the matter of under-performance and the notorious song of zero pass rates.
A whole generation of school children 'died'. This is the truth of the matter and there are still loud echoes of the funeral songs hanging above the schools and colleges. There is still a strong stench of the rotting wounds of the victims of this disaster of the past four to five year hanging in the air. Youths are struggling to understand material or stuff they did not learn in order to sit examinations that they are not ready for. Many of the teachers coming in the sector are victims of the same Tsunami. They are struggling to save the struggling students.
How long are we going to be like the UN peace-keepers in Rwanda? Watching generations of youths 'perishing'! Can incentives and extra-lessons alone really address the tragedy of Form 4 students sitting examinations equipped with Form One knowledge? Can business as usual help this mammoth nightmare of a new crop of degreed 'academics' who know not much more than Form 4's. Grade 3 pupils who are seated in Grade 7 classrooms ready to write Grade 7 examinations!
This is a crisis that needs answers now. It is not a situation that is prevalent and true to a few schools in Honde Valley, Muzarabani or Chipinge alone. It is a tragedy that struck all schools in Zimbabwe…all colleges… all universities. The Tsunami hit all facets of the education sector from Gokwe to Mahenye; from Hwange to Murambinda 'killing' millions of students each year, a few thousands per annum. Terrible but true! If that proportion of massive educational death does not amount to genocide, I do not know what will.
Well, it's only FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
The writer is the president of CROSSROADS AFRICA TRUST and can be contacted on 0773 883 293 or E-mail email@example.com.