The Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe has accused the former ruling ZANU-PF party of hijacking and abusing the history syllabus taught in primary schools. The union says Zimbabwean history is being distorted and some teachers are too frightened to teach material with a slant contrary to the preferred ZANU-PF version.
Progressive Teachers Union President Takavafira Zhou said district-level officials have summoned history teachers to reorientation meetings and are ordering them to invite liberation war veterans to teach history classes in their schools.
Zhou told VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that what is happening in schools is similar to the instruction once offered in the national youth service Border Gezi training schools, where the curriculum was based on ZANU-PF campaign materials and speeches, and that such pressures are destabilizing the education system.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association General Secretary Richard Gundane confirmed that what he called history curriculum reform is going on in schools – but he said it is driven by consensus within the government and not the views of one political party.
He said most of the history books being used in Zimbabwe's schools were written by foreigners, who have not emphasized key aspects of the country's history.
Meanwhile, this week the MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube is launching its own school of politics for party youth members – some critics saying that it is taking a leaf from the government-funded but ZANU-PF leaning Border Gezi youth training camps whose operations have been suspended for lack of funding.
The MDC wing said it will roll out its schools in all provinces, sparking fresh debate on the role of youth in Zimbabwean politics.
Youth training by Zimbabwean political parties has gotten a bad name largely because of the indoctrination process seen in the Border Gezi schools, whose graduates filled the ranks of the youth militia which was heavily implicated in the deadly violence that gripped the country during the 2008 elections aftermath, leaving hundreds dead.
The Ncube MDC said its mission is to teach MDC youth about the true history of the country and the development of the former opposition party.
For a closer look at the pros and cons of political education reporter Sandra Nyaira spoke with Nhlanhla Dube, spokesman for the Ncube MDC wing, and ZANU-PF lawmaker and youth training proponent Cairo Mhandu, a retired army major.
Ncube said his party sees the need for a fresh approach to history and politics as both have been dominated by ZANU-PF for three decades.
Mhandu said youth training schools are necessary in the country to encourage discipline and self-reliance. He denied that ZANU-PF uses the camps to indoctrinate youths or to coach them in political violence, arguing most of the graduates from the schools are disciplined individuals who now fully understand the history of their country.
Spokesman Douglas Mwonzora of the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said his party has no plans to launch a youth training program, as it believes such education programs merely perpetuate the scourge of political violence.