Nigel James has been living in South Africa since 2014, living on his own and working in Johannesburg. An independent and hardworking soul, Nigel relishes in the fast-paced life there, but he still follows events going on in Zimbabwe, with a particular investment in the resurgence of citizen movements. Despite this desire to contribute, Nigel hasn’t been back to Zimbabwe in three years. And there’s two very good reasons why. Continue reading →
The recent Court ruling that banned child marriages and raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 years has been applauded and welcomed by Zimbabweans in the country and abroad. For years many women and men have fought tirelessly to protect children (specifically girls) from child marriages, and the ruling was a breath of fresh air in the long struggle. The ruling coincides with increased discussion and talk on introducing contraceptives into high schools. This debate, unlike the court’s decision, has not gone as smoothly nor has it been well received by many. Nevertheless, it’s important to look at the state of gender and sex education in Zimbabwe, and whether it is doing any good.
Reviewing the Current System
There have been several papers written on gender and sex education. They all reach the same conclusion: Zimbabwe’s education system doesn’t do enough to cover this important conversation. In her 2012 dissertation, Miriam Banda examined the educational materials used in high schools, as well as the structure of gender and sex education curriculum. Her findings highlight the problem areas. Guidance and Counselling (G & C) lessons, or Life Orientation, or Life Skills, is where teachers are supposed to cover topics such as sexual health, contraception, and gendered roles. However, the reality is different. The content covered in these classes isn’t examinable, so it’s not given as much attention as other ‘more important’ subjects. Furthermore, according to Banda’s research, if teachers feel uncomfortable with the subject matter, they can simply skip a topic or cancel the lesson. The same mentality for History or Geography is unthinkable, so why is it so easy for them to opt out of G & C?
The inadequacies don’t stop there. When teachers do engage with students, the main message they preach is abstinence. Whilst teaching abstinence is not bad, it is bad when it’s the only message they convey to teenagers at the expense of other information. It’s impractical to believe that teenagers will abstain from sex just because they are told to – they are teenagers after all. The logic behind abstinence-only education is a fear that talking about sex will lead to teenagers wanting to have sex. There is a major flaw in this reasoning: teenagers are already having sex. Furthermore, as Crispen Bhukuvhani notes in his 2012 paper, the abstinence that teachers and parents advocate contradicts HIV/AIDS literature, which preaches safe sex. Getting conflicting messages about sexual health leads to even more confusion.
It’s not just about sex
There is another fundamental flaw in the argument against comprehensive sex and gender education is that it will only be about sex itself, which is incorrect. Sex and gender education is about teaching teenagers about contraceptives and reproductive health, but it’s so much more than that. It’s teaching them about consent. It’s teaching them their legal and reproductive rights. It’s teaching them about rape and sexual assault. It’s informing them about the avenues and options available to them if or when they are raped. It’s teaching victims not to blame themselves and teaching perpetrators not to rape. Ultimately it’s teaching teenagers that sex is not just a physical act: there are psychological, legal and societal aspects to it that are swept under the rug simply because people don’t want to compromise their comfort.
Former Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart agrees that Zimbabwe’s education system can do better. Although he is unsure what the current curriculum covers, he believes it’s time for a review:
“The current curriculum needs a drastic overhaul generally.” Zimbabwe’s curriculum hasn’t transformed alongside the socio-cultural changes in the country. “Many children get involved in sexual relations because they have no hope that they can go on to get a qualification and a decent job. We have to give children more and better education on these issues, but we need to give children hope”, emphasizes Coltart.
Sian Maseko, a feminist and women’s rights activist, agrees that more needs to be done:
It takes teachers, parents and guardians, and religious leaders to give Zimbabwean teenagers a comprehensive sex and gender education. Of course it can be argued that our country has bigger things to worry about at this point, but it’s easy to forget that teenagers won’t stay teenagers forever. The older they get, the harder it is to correct the harmful thinking and mentalities that they could one day pass on to their children. We’ve shown that our country is capable of The question now is, are Zimbabweans ready to bite the bullet and have an honest talk about sex?
Photo sourced from http://quib.ly/
Chaka Zinyemba’s family has long had connections with Canada. His parents lived in the famously-cold North American country in the 80s, and his four sisters live, work, and study there. So moving to Canada after his A Levels was almost a given for the young Zimbabwean. Now an artist and musician currently living in Edminton, Chaka draws on his Zimbabwean roots and family as, for inspiration for his work.
“IT WAS A NATURAL PROGRESSION”
Life in Zimbabwe was good for Chaka. The only boy in a family of five children, he was the Headboy at St.George’s College in 2007. “I’m a Georgian through and through”, he says, having donned the red blazer since his primary school days at St. Michael’s. It was at high school that Chaka first got interested in art. He took it up as a subject at O Level, and although he didn’t take it further than this, his love for art continued, even after he left school. As grateful as he was for all that St. George’s, and Zimbabwe, had taught him, Chaka wanted a change of scenery. “I was looking for something new, a new environment to start afresh.” So it was off to the University of Alberta, where he graduated with a BA in Human Geography and Music.
“I SAW AN OPPORTUNITY, AND I GRABBED IT”
Chaka learnt how to play the mbira during the gap between the end of his A Levels, and the move to Canada. However, it was only when he went to Canada that he started taking mbira seriously. He has his new city to thank. Thanks to an oil boom, Edmonton is becoming an economic and cultural hub, and Chaka wanted in on the action. “If you have an idea, chances are you are the only one having that idea.” With his art and his mbira skills, Chaka fit right into the Canadian city’s art life, but he does also work with Zimbabwean artists. He’s just produced a CD with the help of two people: his cousin Free (“zvese zvese anobata!”), and Peter Muparutsa (“he’s a mdara”). Recorded at Shed Studios, the production was really a cross-Atlantic effort: Muparutsa worked together with a Canadian producer to produce the album. Recorded in Zimbabwe, and sold in Edmonton, Chaka was able to successfully the two communities he knows and loves to create his own distinctive sound.
Even though he studied human geography and music at university, Chaka never forgot about his art. Eight years after he dropped Art, he picked it up again, with his fiancée’s (now wife) encouragement. “From the time I was born, I’ve been surrounded by women.” This female presence extends to his artwork. Dominated by strong, colourful portraits of different women, Chaka’s learnt to find his own style of painting, choosing not to get any formal training. “As much as I respect institutions,” Chaka explains, “the fact that I’m not formally trained gives me more freedom.” Having produced and sold several paintings, Chaka’s making a name for himself, and he hopes one day to come back home and show Zimbabwe how far he’s come. “It’s always great to go back home and show ‘hey, this is what I’ve learnt and developed’.”
“I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT EVERYTHING I DO”
Hardworking and resolute, Chaka’s drive and creativity mirrors the efforts of many Zimbabweans living abroad. “MaZimbo, takawanda!” He says, laughing at how even in Edmonton, there is a small but growing Zimbabwean community. He’s glad that he can contribute to his country in any way he can, whether it be his with music, a paintbrush, or his geographic skills. “We can tell our own story. We have the tools and technology at our fingertips to create our own narrative.” So Chaka sits, thinks, and he creates.
Facebook Page: Chaka ne Mbira
Twitter: Chaka Zinyemba @Chakanembira