Government upholds religious freedom in schools

Professor Paul Mavima

THE Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has affirmed that religious clubs have the freedom to be functional in schools as part of the extra-curricular activities in line with the freedoms provided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Addressing stakeholders in the education sector who attended a two-day seminar to review the new curriculum at Prince Edward School last week, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavhima said there was never an attempt to propel one religion over another.

“. . . And also for the avoidance of doubt there was never any attempt on the part of the ministry to promote any specific religion at the expense of other religions.

‘‘There was nothing like that. So I thought I would have to lay that misconception of information to rest,” Prof Mavhima said.

“The 2013 Constitution obligates us as a nation not to promote a single religion. In fact, it acknowledges the multiplicity of religions in our society.

‘‘So I am saying there was never going to be a situation where even going back to basing the development of our curriculum on the Constitution that we were going to single out a religion for the promotion of that particular religion,” added Prof Mavhima said.

This comes against a background of the implementation of the new curriculum as recommended by the Nziramasanga Commission of Inquiry set up in 1998 which focused on preparing graduates of the education system to have skills that include critical thinking, problem solving abilities, leadership, good communication, team building and technological skills.

Concerns had been raised as Religious and Moral Education put emphasis on exposing children to various religions in an environment where Christianity had been dominant.

Christian groups raised concern over reports that these changes would affect operations of religious clubs like the Scripture Union.

Prof Mavhima carried the baton from his predecessor, Dr Lazarus Dokora, who oversaw the first stages of the implementation of the new curriculum.

Prof Mavhima said, “… There has never been an effect from the new curriculum on clubs like the Scripture Union. There was never any attempt by the ministry to say we are banning Scripture Union.

“So when it is raised in fora like this I get really concerned because there was never any directive from my predecessor or myself or permanent secretary or any of our principal directors or directors to say there should be any restriction in our schools.

“There was also never any directive to say our learners in their different groups cannot organise themselves in denominational ways in order to practise their faith in schools,” he said.

Section 58 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that:

“Every person has the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of association, and the right not to assemble or associate with others,” while part (2) also highlights that: “No person may be compelled to belong to an association or to attend a meeting or gathering.”

With a Christian-dominated population, Christian activities have dominated various institutions including schools while the minority denominations have remained subdued.

It also follows that many mission and boarding schools were built by Christian missionaries hence retaining influence through the religious values and principles followed in their administration and conduct.

However, some groups have lobbied for a separation of the State and religion.

Prof Mavhima said minority religious groups in the country should be acknowledged as equal to others.

“Also as a country we have to recognise the fact that amongst our population, I do not know what percent it is whether one percent or two percent, we have Hindus, we have Muslim populations among many.

“Their existence is manifest through the mosques that you see in various parts of the country.

‘‘I would like to acknowledge that very little as it may look but we have a population that goes to synagogues in this country, those who believe in Judaism.

“So despite the numbers the fact of the multiplicity of faith in this country is a reality,” he said. – Sunday Mail



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