Coltart defends Mugabe

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HARARE – David Coltart, the former Education minister, has praised President Robert Mugabe for prioritising practical subjects in the education curriculum, saying it was long overdue.

This comes as Mugabe has been forced to explain that  his new controversial minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education was tasked with reviving practical subjects in schools to equip pupils with “life skills.”

Coltart told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe was spot-on in giving primacy to vocational training, as this was a missing link in the educational sector.

“I am very pleased that the president is prioritising practical subjects. I tried reviewing the education curriculum when I was still a minister but there was no political will to support my efforts,” Coltart said.

“I am now happy that Mugabe is providing this political will. His position on practical subjects is very correct and important because the issue was one which faced the Education sector.”

He said although the ministry of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education has an important mandate, he felt that mandate could have been housed under the ministry of Education.

“If you look closely, my ministry was split into three and this drains resources. As a nation we could have done with one ministry,” Coltart said.

The appointment of Josiah Hungwe, a longtime Mugabe loyalist, as the Psychomotor minister in an already bloated Cabinet had Zimbabweans reaching for their dictionaries to learn a term for coordination between the mind and body.

Even Hungwe was unable to describe his job and asked for more time to reply in a Parliament question and answer session after he had been in the post for three weeks. He could not tell lawmakers what he had been doing at work in that time, records of the session show.

In an interview with a local daily, Mugabe described the need to promote what he called psychomotor skills that would help procure jobs for less academically-gifted students.

Hungwe would work alongside the main ministries of Education and Science and Technology, he said.

“We will have to co-opt quite a number of educational experts working under the minister of State without disorganising the smooth running of schools,” Mugabe said.

Coltart said the government should continue prioritising vocational training because it contributes to economic success.

“The long-term sustainable development and stability of Zimbabwe is dependent on us restoring excellence to education and, importantly, in making it relevant to the future needs of our nation,” Coltart said.

“Whilst we will always need doctors, lawyers, teachers and accountants we also desperately need good mechanics, farmers, electricians and computer technicians — that will only happen when our education system is geared to train children with those practical skills and talents — and that in turn will only happen when there is a better balance in the curriculum between academic and vocational subjects.”
— Additional reporting by AP

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