|School-based Understanding of Human Rights in Four Countries - A Commonwealth Study - Education Research Paper No. 22 (DFID, 1997, 62 p.)|
|5 Significant country variables|
Zimbabwe embarked on a drastic reorientation and expansion of its education system after independence in 1980. The structure now includes a primary cycle of seven years from around 6 to 13, followed by three phases of two years each in secondary education.
Through education the government is seeking to build a firm unitary state, aiming to produce citizens who are able to realise their civic responsibilities and legal obligations. Consequently all school curricula should reflect the multi-ethnic character and diversities of the nation, and should be relevant to the requirements of the country's development. Civic education is taught through a number of subjects, including social studies, religious and moral education, education for living, languages and history.
The Commonwealth Values research team carried out an inquiry in the five schools selected for the project and focused on five compulsory subjects in the first two years of the secondary curriculum which seemed to be in line with the seven dimensions of the Conceptual Map. These were Shona and Ndebele (the major local languages), English, religious and moral education, and Education for Living.
This survey showed that, although opportunities to teach human rights abound in the language subjects, teachers were more concerned with improving language skills and the ability to communicate. Religious and moral education is not seen as relevant to human rights in the schools. While history shows the struggle for political, economic and social rights, the teachers do not always give it a human rights interpretation. Syllabus options also do not necessarily lend themselves to a human rights interpretation.
Education for Living, introduced after independence, was supposed to be compulsory but had been pushed to the back seat in most of the schools visited. Although of obvious significance in understanding political, economic and social rights it was the least valued secondary school subject in terms of time allocation, textbook provision and the preparation and support of teachers.
In the interviews, all 20 students thought human rights important. Among dimensions in the Conceptual Map they expressed greatest concern over a lack of coverage of law and the administration of justice, and equality of opportunity. A majority of pupils in three of the five schools thought the teachers and authorities were taking human rights seriously, and all pupils thought their parents were interested (though some said that fathers were less interested in gender issues).
Interviews with heads and subject heads revealed strong agreement that the training and support of teachers should be a key priority, since human rights are not yet included in initial training. They wanted a start on human rights at the primary stage, and thought that teachers' associations and NGOs had a role. They felt that the first task was to revive Education for Living and raise its status, since they thought it should be the greatest carrier of human rights concepts.