Western education alone not good enough for our desired outcomes

Generation Zero ... The advent of the internet and smartphones has been blamed for the general disobedience and deviance of this demographic.

GENERALLY speaking, Zimbabweans’ propensity to have inflated egos is higher than their propensity for developing higher sensibilities informed by discernment, insight, discipline, understanding, responsibility, accountability and humility.

This is because they lack the foundational tooling and skill sets to be what they ought to be as a truly African people.

I have spent most of my adult life in South Africa and have observed that their political culture of consultation at community level, permeated into government governance structures, where there is widespread consultation before major issues that impact the nation, are made into law.

The opposite is true in Zimbabwe. Government officials believe they have the monopoly on great ideas and, therefore, are not used to consulting citizens in matters that affect them.

Having informalised the economy over the years, through haphazard and uncoordinated policies, essentially eroding their tax base, the Finance ministry’s recent “leaving no person behind” budget, enshrined with all sorts of punitive taxes, was a desperate attempt to raise money, akin to continuing to drill for water in an obviously dry hole.

This kind of thinking has permeated virtually all organs of government at national and municipal levels. The churches have not been spared either.

The church (not all churches, but a significant number), as we used to know it in the past, in now incapable of leading its congregations. We have churches literally demanding a pound of flesh from people like Shylock, one of the main characters in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Further down, at school level, many teachers across the country are not teaching in scheduled classes, preferring to teach the school curriculums in “extra lessons” after school, where parents are having to pay up to US$30 per lesson depending on the subject.

At familial level, dysfunctionality not visible to the naked eye has reached alarming levels, where most parents are physically present in their homes, but emotionally unavailable.

You hear parents complaining about “ama2000”, referring to the Generation Zero or Gen Z, which refers to anyone born between 1996 and the early-mid 2000s.

They are perceived to be an unruly lot. Those born in the earlier years of the cohort of Generation Alpha (often shortened to Gen Alpha) succeeding Gen Z, are also included in this “ama2000” labelling. Gen Alpha is the demographic cohort succeeding Gen Z.

Gen Alpha ranges from the mid-2000s to the mid-to-late 2020s. Parents and the generality of society, essentially absconding from raising, upright and productive adults, tend to blame environmental reasons, such as the advent of the internet, wi-fi, smartphones, social media, et cetera, for the general disobedience and deviance of this demographic.

These are children, many of which do not have disposable income, yet we blame them for abusing social media, whilst glued on their smart phones.

Who is equipping this cohort with access to mobile phones and data? There are children from privileged families, who have threatened not to go to school if they are not given an SUV to drive to school.

Driving to school for a child, who is within the licence acquiring age of 16 and above is not abnormal. The children will not drive a Honda Fit or a Nissan Mach preferring SUVs because other kids in the same class are driving the same size of cars.

This is fact evidenced in car parks of most private schools in the country. The point here is, who is calling the shots? Is it the parents or the children?

The narrative above appears facile, but it is meant throw light on a whole host of seemingly unrelated, but related dynamics playing out within five major social institutions namely, the state or government, the economy, education, religion and the family.

In addition, within the different social strata, there are further complexities too numerous to unpack in this restricted paper. What is apparent however is, when there is indiscipline, greed and corruption in these five major social systems, things fall apart.

Self-regulating cultural practices

In this paper, I am keen in exploring the lack of discipline in preserving a key aspect of one of our cultural practices at familial level. When there is abandonment of that which held families and communities together, the people perish.

Ignorance and a lack of foundational knowledge of who we are gives rise to ego-driven personalities, masking their insecurities, at the expense of discernment, insight, discipline, understanding, responsibility, accountability and humility.

I am saying that some of our cultural practices that we abandoned, were self-regulating.

But first let me state that Zimbabwe is home to over 70 different ethnic groups with strong regional clan structures classified into six main groups: the Zezurus, Manyika, Ndau, Karanga, Korekore and the Rozvi.

This makes the regional clan structures not homogenous groups. Be that as it may, each clan group practiced five main rites namely, rite of birth, adulthood, marriage, eldership, and rite of ancestorship.

Professor Manu Ampim, writing in Africana Studies on the Five Major Initiation Rites, describes that, “… A rite is a fundamental act (or set of rituals) performed according to prescribed social rules and customs. Each of these rites are a key component that are a part of traditional African cultures ...”

Amongst the five main rites named above, it is the second rite, the rite from adolescence to adulthood, that I believe is the reason largely responsible for the woes we face as a nation, because many clan groups have abandoned this practice, particularly for the boy child.

Heads of households

Our men in Zimbabwe are remaining boys, without not having culturally transitioned from adolescent boys to adult males because this rite has been neglected in our communities.

This has far reaching implications on how they conduct themselves as men when they marry, for example, how they treat women before marriage, how they treat women after marriage at household level, how they lead as the head of the household (HOH) and how they raise the children born in those marriages.

Zimbabwe is a highly patriarchal society. When men are weakened through ignorance, unaware of who they should be at household level and clueless on how to be HOHs, because their fathers before them were not adequate role models, families decay and disintegrate.

When HOHs never went through a dedicated ritual where they went through the pain and coaching of transitioning from boy to manhood, they grow old, thinking they are adult men, when they have remained little boys groping in the dark, falling over objects, knocking things down, essentially wreaking havoc, because they do not know who they are!

Professor Ampim suggests that “… adulthood rites are usually done at the onset puberty age (around 12-13 years of age in many cultures) and they are to ensure the shaping of productive, community-oriented responsible adults”.

But it would appear that young girls in Zimbabwe are coached formally and informally at this early age, for womanhood, whilst ending up with men who have remained boys, in their general orientation.

For starters, men who have normalised seeding and making several women become single mothers, whilst not being responsible emotionally and financially for their children are boys not men.

Prof Ampim, continues: “… there is nothing automatic about youth being productive members of society, nor is there anything particularly difficult about transitioning from a child to an adult.”

Yet this practice has largely been ignored in Zimbabwe. 

Xhosa practices instructive

About 13 years ago, I had the opportunity of attending a post “ulwaluko” event in Mt Frere, in the Eastern Cape, where we were welcoming a friend’s son who was coming back from the mountains.

The Xhosas of South Africa have a rite where boys transition from adolescence to manhood through a rite known as ulwaluko, also referred to as traditional male initiation.

Mavundla et al, writing in 2016 articulated that the act of circumcision is only one of several activities included in the process of initiation. Boys generally undergo this ritual between the ages of 16 and 26. The ritual is meant to instil good moral and social values.

When we visited Mt Frere, my friend’s son was arriving from the mountain that day, where the initiation had taken place.

My friend’s husband was a surgeon by profession and he allowed the elders to initiate his son and circumcise him in the mountain the traditional way, on condition that he was allowed to be present to watch the proceedings just in case something went wrong.

He was not going to interfere, because he had gone through it himself and understood all too well the importance of going under the knife in the bush, away from home, for a week, the cultural way. Xhosa society is groomed to shun men who have not gone through this rite of passage.

In fact, those who refuse are perceived by society to be boys until they go through this ritual. Otherwise they die as boys. These rituals are perceived to contribute to the health and wellbeing of participants they are meant to socially integrate people into society as fully grown responsible adults. The rituals are what makes them truly whole as a people.

Ulwaluko consists of three phases, the separation phase, transition phase and the incorporation phase. Young girls also go through “intonjane” (female rites) ritual, with the same three phases as the boys where they enter the separation phase as girls and leave the incorporation phase as young women ready for adulthood and marriage.

What is important here is that these Xhosa cultural practices are symptomatic of order, intention to preserve people through cultural values and norms, systematically done for both girls and boys and expectations in adulthood for everyone are aligned.

In Zimbabwe that is not necessarily the case and that has led to lives characterised by unhappy marriages, divorce, single parenthood and in some cases, troubled and traumatised children. When the Zimbabwean African family system is under threat, Zimbabwe society loses.

Western education an insufficient

What I am saying is, as Zimbabwe Africans, wherever we are in the world, western education is an insufficient condition to serve our needs.

We have absconded in upholding cultural practices relevant to us and understood by us so that we have better outcomes in our communities.

Why this has happened is a conversation for another day. This conversation is important because abandoning our cultural practices and adopting other peoples’ cultures makes us inadequate and incomplete.

In fact, there is empirical evidence emerging, to show that, the continued plying the wilderness of other people’s cultures, increases the incidence of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety in our communities.

Not knowing who we are and what we stand for as a people has the same adverse effect on our wellbeing. As a result, we continue to be the laughing stock from other communities, because we are remaining at the bottom of all ladders, most of all the financial ladder.

Remember the anti-people national budget I alluded to in the first paragraph – it confirms the wrongness of our direction. And when the emperor is naked, we are all naked.

You cannot transfer wisdom

It is my belief that all Zimbabwean parents want the best outcomes for themselves and their offspring. But are parents themselves even on terra firma, when they let Gen Z and Gen Apha ride roughshod over them, in the name of upholding human rights?

Spare the rod and spoil the child. Do parent even know, what they do not know and what they ought to be knowing so that they can instil it in their children.

Are Zimbabwe parents raising a generation of people who delinquents, at varying degrees? During this lifetime parents are definitely slogging away, so that they could leave a stepping stone in the form of generational wealth to their offspring.

On the demise of the parents, without knowing and appreciating the foundations of what makes them special as a people, the offspring will most likely squander all and retrograde to the bottom of the food chains of life.

  • Ndoro-Mukombachoto is a former academic and banker. She has consulted widely in strategy, entrepreneurship, and private sector development for organisations in Zimbabwe, the sub-region and overseas. As a writer and entrepreneur with interests in property, hospitality and manufacturing, she continues in strategy consulting, also sharing through her podcast @HeartfeltwithGloria. — +263 772 236 341.

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