‘My current challenge is to put justice at the heart of Zimbabwean education’
– Fr Joe Arimoso SJ, Education Delegate for Zimbabwe and Africa.
The Jesuits run 18 Schools in Zimbabwe (9 Primary Schools, 8 High Schools and a Technical Skills Training College), employing about 250 teachers and reaching a total of 14,500 learners.
Zimbabwe once used to be the bread basket of Africa, mainly thanks to a fertile soil and abundant agricultural production. Unfortunately, in 2000 the economy started to collapse, with significant damage to the national education system. In recent years over 3 million people have left the country, including over 20,000 teachers. Education standards throughout the country have dropped, and Jesuit schools have not been immune to this problem. ‘The future of many children was locked’ said Fr Joe on a recent visit to the UK, ‘too many were simply dropping out from school and not getting the education that they needed to reach their potential.’
Poor schools in poor communities
Fr Joe was named Education Delegate for the Jesuit Province of Zimbabwe in 2007, just before the total economic collapse of 2008, when inflation rose to 231 Million per cent and state sponsored violence became systematic, especially against teachers. He admits, ‘After the collapse, the Jesuits were simply running poor schools in poor communities, but anyone can do that. Now we are working to run good quality schools in poor communities. Many of our schools were, and are, in poor structural conditions, but these problems are just part of a much greater need. We need to focus not just on the ‘hardware’ (i.e. construction projects) but also on the ‘software’ (educational needs). We are determined to make education worthwhile for children. Too many pupils drop out of school each year because they do not see the value in the current education system.’
A better future: Education for Justice
In order to improve local schools and provide a better future for Zimbabwe’s children the Jesuits have launched Education for Justice Zimbabwe, a programme that aims to offer both quality education to the poor and to empower local students to build a fairer future for their country.
Education for Justice Zimbabwe will focus on:
- Professional development of teachers;
- Educational initiatives to reinforce reading, writing and micro-enterprise skills,
- Student leadership development;
- Modernisation of the school curriculum and creation of an Education for Justice educational programme.
This innovative programme has been launched after a thorough assessment of local education and responds to the strategic needs of the schools in Zimbabwe. Education for Justice Zimbabwe will form graduates not only with a good level of education and professional skills, but who will also act as men and women for others, ready to promote social justice and serve their country and their fellow Zimbabweans.
The UK and Zimbabwe: A joint initiative
Education for Justice Zimbabwe is also a joint initiative between the Jesuits of Zimbabwe and Jesuit Missions UK: in fact, in September 2014 Jesuit Missions UK launched Education for Justice UK, a programme providing UK schools with resources and opportunities to promote social justice. Education for Justice builds upon Jesuit Missions’ Companions Programme scheme, which links British schools to Jesuit schools in various African countries, and especially Zimbabwe. Education for Justice will see British and Zimbabwean students striving to promote the same values of social justice in their local context and globally.