Happy Thursday beautiful people! I hope this has been a positive and fulfilling week for you all. I am here again to talk about something that has been on my mind for the past two years. Yeah, a very long time, I know.
As I have mentioned many times, I have lived in Zimbabwe for about 90% of my life. I went to one of the best private schools in the country (Chisipite Senior School). Putting my school aside, no one can dispute the fact that the level of education in Zimbabwe in general is incredibly high. I genuinely did not have a hard time adjusting to university because my high school had worked me to the bone and taught me more than I needed to know for tertiary education and I will forever be grateful for that. So, I want to make it clear that I am not speaking ill of Zimbabwean schools but simply pointing out how flawed the education system is in general, as are most of our institutions.
It first dawned on me that there was something wrong with the way I was educated when I realised that I could recite American presidents one after the other, I know all dates of most of the big European wars, I know most of politicians that were involved in European history, I know when they died and what they did… I know European and American authors and great literary works, I know the historical icons that hail from these places and I know about the successes and failures of Western institutions. I know more French than I do Shona (for those who do not know, Shona is the native language in Zimbabwe) and I even know about Middle Eastern conflicts and international diplomacy. All of this I knew before I even started my tertiary education. But if someone had to ask me about Zimbabwe’s fight for independence, the real details, like the ones I know about World War II, I would be blank. I don’t know what my country was like before colonisation, I don’t know where all my customs come from and I definitely do not know any of the leaders that existed before colonialism (if there was such a thing as leaders that is, as I definitely think hierarchical organisation is an extremely Western concept). I think I know one Zimbabwean author (I read the book and it was brilliant but for some unknown reason, I did not look for more). The Zimbabwean music I know, is the music they play in clubs and I do not have a single inkling as to how my culture has developed over time.
I do not blame any of my schools for not teaching me these things. After all, they were trying to do what was best for us; teach us about the West so we could someday go there and make a better life for ourselves. For me, it worked didn’t it, I am currently getting my degree and spewing my Western facts in all my classes and essays. After I graduate, I will probably get a job in a country that is not Zimbabwe and begin to build my life there. This path is seen as a huge success. From about ten years old, I was told by everyone, that the goal was to do well in school so that I could leave the country and make a better life for myself somewhere else. To enable this, our teachers had to teach us about all the things that would make us pass Western exams and have recognition that would get us out of the county.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Zig Ziglar
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that knowing about different cultures and countries is wrong but not knowing about my own is a huge disadvantage for your own growth as an individual. The worst thing is that most people never think about it, not only Zimbabweans but I know so many countries which teach the same way Zimbabwe does and the products of this system never stop to consider how little they know about their own country. And why should they? No one will every ask them about the history of their country. The ‘intellectual’ conversations that will always be had will be about the West so we will never be faced with the realisation that we are ignorant about our own countries. So it stands that if you want to be part of the intelligent conversations, to be considered educated, you have to know as much as you can about the major powers in the world and if you want to know about your own country it should be treated more like a hobby or general interest.
I said, two years ago, that I would make it a point to start learning about my country outside of school, but have I? No, because I am treating it as general interest…there is always something more important to know before I try and acquaint myself with where I come from. I know why this is; it is partly because I honestly don’t know where to begin and partly because I am embarrassed to ask questions about my own country because surely, by calling myself an educated twenty-two year old woman, I should already know the answers to these questions. But I don’t and in the grand scheme of things, in the goal of ‘getting out,’ it doesn’t matter that I don’t know these things.
To me, it seems that this kind of is education has caused conflict in the hearts of my generation. Our countries tell us we are liberated and we mean something in the world but in the same breathe, they do everything in their power to push us to understanding Western ways of life and suppressing our own. So where does that leave us? Having to choose between two different identities of who we are and who we want to be?
Honestly, I do not know the answers and I do not know how to fix the problem and that is why this has been on my mind for two years. I think this is something we all need to start thinking long and hard about. I believe asking these questions could lead us to learning wonderful and amazing things about ourselves, where we are going and the point of it all. In my first year of university, all my independent essays were all on topics I thought would make me sound more clever, none to do with Zimbabwe because I thought that it would be silly and no one would be interested. Now, in my second year, every chance I get to talk about Zimbabwe, I do… even though I never learn about it in classes, I teach myself and apply what I learn, to my country. My final dissertation is about Zimbabwe and it has been the most exciting and mind opening project I have ever undertaken. I have been beaming with pride with the relationship I have been growing with my country but when I really look at it, it is still within the constructs of what is considered important in the West. So, I still have a long way to go in trying to decipher where I have come from but I have began the journey.