Here’s a lesson for Mugabe acolytes: His Zim education reforms are a myth
The best that can be said about the strongman's contribution to school education was that he did not destroy it
When Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe died in a Singapore hospital last week, reaction was split. The black political class in SA hailed him as the unadulterated liberation hero who returned white farmlands to the black poor; “he made some mistakes along the way,” wrote an otherwise level-headed leader from a black opposition party right here at home. Many black Zimbabweans celebrated the demise of a political villain who oversaw the death of 20,000 people in the horrific Matabeleland massacre and single-handedly destroyed a country once called “the breadbasket of Africa”. The only people who got any land, our neighbours reminded us, were the political elites in the ruling Zanu-PF party.
South Africans struggle with holding two thoughts in our heads at the same time – that a liberation hero could also be a murderous tyrant. Our moral compass is so compromised that many of us think only in Manichean binaries – good or evil. But he gave Zimbabweans healthcare and education, insisted some. The healthcare claim can be swiftly dealt with. Ask yourself the simple question: Why did the leader of this African country for years on end receive his healthcare in Singapore and not Harare? Now let’s talk about education.
As a doctoral student in California, I informed my supervisor that I would do my fieldwork in Zimbabwe. To young people of my generation, Zimbabwe had done something remarkable with its education system in the first decade (1980-1990) of independence; a liberated SA could learn vital lessons from radical reforms of schools north of the border...