There was drama in Parliament on Wednesday as parliamentarians interrogated the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Lazarus Dokora if he was intending to introduce Islam in schools under the new curriculum the ministry is introducing.
The motion was moved by the Binga North legislator, Prince Sibanda, who asked if government was introducing Islam in schools.
“Hon Minister are you talking of varying curriculum including introduction of Islamic studies and are you Moslem yourself?” Sibanda asked.
Since his appointment as the minister Dokora has come up with a raft of changes most of them having been introduced in January this year. Some notable changes which have left tongues wagging in communities include seven compulsory subjects up from the traditional five subjects.
“The enlargement of the curriculum that we have done is to capture the variety of skills and aptitudes that learners do have. The question of religion is not an innovation of the new curriculum. If you take the 1980-1987 curriculums in this country, you will find Judaism, Islam, Christianity, all in play and those syllabuses are available for comparison. So, exactly where this question is coming from, certainly not from the new curriculum, we are not introducing Islam, it has always been there just as Judaism look at the syllabuses,” Dokora responded.
But Sibanda was not convinced and he raised a point of order with the Speaker of Parliament and clarified what he was asking to the minister.
“On a point of order. Hon. Speaker, with all due respect to the Hon. Minister, my question was quite clear and straight forward. Is the expansion of the new curriculum introducing Islamic studies? I think that is what the nation is waiting to hear from the Hon. Minister.
“Let him answer that question because there is clear apprehension from the people outside there that the Hon. Minister intends, through expansion of the curriculum, to introduce Islamic studies. Does he intend to introduce Islamic studies into our education? I thank you,” he said.
In response Dokora said there was nothing new in what his ministry was doing.
“Hon. Speaker, I do not know how I can put it. I said, the old curriculum is available and the new curriculum is also available.
“You will find that we have maintained the themes as carried in the old curriculum to the new curriculum and we can make it available for publication. We are not introducing Islamic studies, they were already there,” Dokora said.
Member of Parliament for Musikavanhu Prosper Mutseyami asked the Minister the source of his motivation to come up with the new curriculum.
Dokora said the new initiatives were informed by the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Education training that was appointed by President Robert Mugabe in 1998.
However, after pressure mounted with legislators insinuating the move could be linked to his personal beliefs, Dokora had to pull a rosary from his pocket to prove he was a Roman Catholic like President Robert Mugabe. Dubeko went on to ask, “Are you Islam yourself?”
In response Dokora said, “I hold this rosary here, so whether I say one thing or another, you are fixated with what you have been reading and that may not necessarily be a fair invitation to a contestation here.”
The Speaker eventually adopted a suggestion by Jessie Majome which requires that legislators receive the document for study before Dokora can explain grey areas.
Dokora has implemented a raft of uncomfortable changes since he was appointed education minister including abolition of entrance tests, holiday lessons—earning him the mockery name “Dofora”.