The Herald (Harare)

26 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Academic Failure a Security Threat

opinion

The dominant power of the 21st century largely depends on human capital and the recent revelations of a continuum of educational and academic failings in Zimbabwe certainly threatens the nation's stability and cohesion in the face of growing global asymmetrical threats. Education is a national value and this value represents the philosophical and moral premises for the continuation of a nation's systems and ways of life.

If mishandled and treated without an in-depth understanding of its indispensable value, it has a potential of becoming a security threat.

Hence the recent ordinary level results and their low pass rates should send shivers to Government, academia, civic society and the national security organs as this constitutes a primary concern for national development. Education constitutes the means or is the raw material for the attainment of national objectives, synergies and goals. The development of any state or nation fundamentally depends on its ability to create, produce, sustain and embed an environment that promotes the provision and sustenance of basic fundamental needs, of which education is one, which in turn, secures and improves the quality of life in its society.

As an element of national power, education is contextual in that it can be evaluated only in terms of all the power elements and in relation to other players, and the situation in which the power is being exercised.

The measurable state of the capacity of a nation to overcome the multi-dimensional threats to the apparent well-being of its people and its survival at any given time can be indexed by computation, empirically or otherwise, of the variables of its educational systems and policy frameworks. Hence those among our decision-makers, opinion leaders, legislators and educationists who underplay the role of education in our country should be made to rethink and refocus.

The academic strength of our nation is historically the gauge for our national power. Hence there are four basic key areas in which our education substantially enhances the security of this country.

Firstly, education transforms the nature of our country's economy and secondly, it contributes to the level of discourse and public debate about the nation's economic and political future.

The level and standard of vitality and vibrancy of our curriculum and of the underlying logic of the exercise and practice of statehood is measured and determined by the country's educational competencies. This attests to the organic strength of our nation's educational system as an instrument of development and state power.

The state power inherent in education and academic processes affords our nation to achieve and assume national consensus and cohesion on key fundamentals. These fundamentals transcend political boundaries.

The state power inherent in education affords our nation to be united in its diverse but common desire to overcome all challenges and obstacles that impede and stumble over our progress. That is why Zimbabwe could not be instigated into copying the Arab revolutions regardless of concerted efforts by the global media in recent years.

The third key area in which education in Zimbabwe substantially enhances the security of a nation is through its ability to help and discover lasting values. It is these values which define who we are, what we do and why we do things the way we do. They form the basis of our security, our well-being and our prosperity.

We, therefore, must protect these values at home and promote them consistently in the global economy.

The national value created by education allows and consists of the discipline, restraint and the ideal to stimulate the consciousness of all citizens and eradicate inner restrictions, imbue a warm fondness for society and concern for the collective good and build sufficient inner strength and character in the individual, family and society as a whole. This national value also represents the paramount value upheld by a nation throughout its common cultural experience.

The national security matrix, as derived from an assessment of our national values interface the global environment, confluence through an interrogation of the tangible assets that our country needs and require to defend and protect from imminent threats in the global village. One of the greatest threats to our national security today, itself coming as a result of poor academic results in recent years, is social cohesion. Social cohesion is the capacity of a society to ensure the well-being of its members, minimising disparities and avoiding marginalisation.

It is a bond that brings people together in a given society and has recently come to be associated with sociological theories of structural functionalism and broader fields of political science.

The concept of social cohesion, as a key result area of education, explores the paradigm and aspect of mechanical and organic solidarity as important ingredients of peace, stability and social tranquillity.

In "The Division of Labour in Society", Durkheim argues that a society exhibiting solidarity is characterised by its cohesion and integration that arises from education and specialisation of work and the complementarities between people. The idea of security comes and fits in the national educational scheme through what philosopher Jurgen Habermas called 'the nation state's ability to create a political and economic area of allegiance' through education, which in turn, provide every nation with the necessary scope to introduce practices based on collective solidarity.

Special Matarirano is a social and political commentator.

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