Zimbabwe/ 8.3 Arts and cultural education  

8.3.2 Arts in schools

Currently, the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture is responsible for Arts and Culture in schools, that is, from primary to high school levels. From the colonial period until recently, Art education has had a negative image. During the colonial era art was usually confined to wealthy urban schools and taught mostly to white students. The subject was often used as a dumping ground for non achievers and girls (who had few career options available to them outside of marriage). As a result art was considered an expensive and non-academic subject in former Rhodesia.[9] The situation did not improve that much after independence. Art still retained a poor image and did not expand into mainstream education. The government made art compulsory in primary education but has been unable to provide the necessary financial backing to implement the scheme.

As the general state of education started deteriorating alongside the economy from 2000 the state of art education in schools suffered a great deal. Most of the few teachers trained to teach the arts left the country in search of better economic opportunities outside the country. From around 2008 the remaining few teachers spent most of their time on strike as their salaries could no longer afford them to live a decent life.

Curricular Art Education
At primary school level music is taught just like mathematics and science, with a fully developed curricular. Arts and crafts are part of social studies and general studies. However other arts subjects such as drama, dance, are offered as co curricular activities. Some of these activities culminate in competitions such as the Jikinya Dance Festival. The Jikinya Dance Festival showcases various traditional dances by primary school pupils around the country.  The festival aims at encouraging children to appreciate and perform Zimbabwean traditional dances thus preserving its rich cultural heritage. This festival can also be regarded as participation and consumption of dance by school children. 

The same applies to secondary school with the only slight difference being that at this level Art (Drawing) is also offered as a subject with a fully developed curriculum just as music. Again at this level drama, dance, crafts and other forms of arts are taken as co curricular activities.

The state of art education from 2009
Pathisa Nyathi (2012) observes that since the creation of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture in 2009 the Principal Director who heads it has issued the following circulars which have had a considerable impact on the state of arts education in schools.
The features of the circulars have been described as follows:

1. Circular 28 of 2010: Institutionalisation of the arts and culture in Zimbabwe
This circular proposed the establishment of a department of arts and culture in all schools from primary to high schools coordinated by the Head of Department. The incumbent also leads a school committee which coordinates artistic and cultural programmes at the school.

  • Every school to hire an arts teacher
  • Every learner to participate in at least two performing and two visual arts programmes
  • Arts and culture programmes to be done all year round, supervised and reported upon

2 Circular 29 of 2010: Exhibitions and festivals
This circular explained the role of culture in the economy, nation-building, national cohesion and national identity. It also encouraged the establishment of community based cultural institutions such as galleries and the hosting of community based arts festivals.

3. Circular 3 of 2011: The Arts and Culture Inter-house competitions in schools
This circular stipulated the following:
A calendar for inter-house competitions on arts and culture to be prepared and made use of, community members to be invited to these competitions and adjudicators of the competitions to be carefully selected.  It also provided an extensive list of artistic disciplines from which these competitions are to be based.

However this having been said and all these circulars having been distributed to schools there is still need for a comprehensive analysis of the level of success attained so far in implementing their provisions. Policies on their own cannot be taken seriously unless they are implemented.

[9] Rachel Abraham, (2002), Article on Arts Education in Zimbabwe Published in the international Journal of Art and Design Education
Pathisa Nyathi and Kudzai Chikomo, (2012), Understanding Arts and Culture in Schools, Amagugu Publishers, Bulawayo

Chapter published: 30-08-2012