HomeColumnistsOf educated fools, socially daft: the Zimbabwean crisis?

Of educated fools, socially daft: the Zimbabwean crisis?

Robert Mandeya

SPEAKING at some function recently in Masvingo, Professor Amon Murwira, the minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, berated Zimbabwe’s education system which he said has over the years failed to produce “solution holders.”

He said at birth, people are ignorant and without knowledge of anything but are made stupid and foolish by the type of education they receive from institutions of learning. Whilst I agree with him to some extent, I found his diatribe interesting and ironic given that it was coming from one of our leaders whose mandate is to transform the system which he so much despised. I am aware, of course, of Professor Murwira’s efforts to overhaul the entire higher and tertiary education curriculum with his introduction of the Education 5.0. I am however not sure how much support he is receiving from his colleagues in government.

Education and the environment

The most pertinent question is whether it is the education system or the operating environment for our graduates to be creative and innovative. Given that our graduates are excelling in lands further afield outside Zimbabwe, Murwira’s argument calls for further interrogation. It brings to the fore the need to explore the intersection of education, logic and the pragmatism. According to Murwira, “Education should create solutions, not add to the problem.” He adds that: “We see our graduates getting into the streets demanding jobs yet we expect them to create jobs. We ask ourselves why our education system is creating professors who are begging for food.”

Quite a rhetorical question indeed! Fair and fine, it would appear we are all victims of this education system including, of course, the professor himself. A lot many casualties of this system unfortunately occupy leadership positions in some of the most critical sectors of the economy (private and public) and government for that matter. Murwira’s sentiments come at a time our “O” and “A” Level results have just come out with most of schools flaunting their best candidates with strings of As in both O and A level. We have seen this year in and year out but no one has taken time to track these “whiz kids” in terms of their performance and competence, in whatever endeavours they are pursuing later in life.

Academic vs social intelligence

Ronald E Reggio, a psychologist, says “intelligence, or IQ, is largely what you are born with. Genetics play a large part. Social intelligence (SI), on the other hand, is mostly learned. SI develops from experience with people and learning from success and failure in social settings.

It is more commonly referred to as ‘tact’, ‘common sense’, or ‘street smarts’. Whilst the two are conceptually distinct but overlapping constructs, it is interesting to explore how these play out in real-life situations. Coming from a teaching background myself, both at secondary and tertiary levels, I have often noticed quite some very interesting trends with most of my students in terms of their exploits and achievements later in life.

I am referring here to those we (as teachers) regarded as high flying, mediocre, and below average. I will not want to delve into this issue at the moment, suffice it to say that our curriculum encouraged us to teach our children to pass an exam not for critical thinking, problem solving, analysis, factual and opinion functional discernment.

Academic brilliance overrated

Professor Abletor Sedofia from the University of Ghana further observes that “Academic excellence is overrated,” adding that “being top of your class does not necessarily guarantee that you will make more money than everybody else.”

Sedofia, basing on his experience in university education, goes on to elaborate his point, saying, “The best graduating Law student does not necessarily become the best lawyer. The fact is life requires more than the ability to understand a concept or memorise it and reproduce it in an exam.”
Consequently, school rewards caution whereas life rewards daring. In the same vein, school hails those who live by the rules whereas life exalts those who break the rules and set new ones.

So does Sedofia mean people should not study hard in school? Oh no, they should. But people should not sacrifice every other thing on the altar of first class degrees.

Social intelligence

Socially intelligent individuals learn how to play various social roles. They are also well versed in the informal rules, or “norms,” that govern social interaction. In other words, they “know how to play the game” of social interaction. As a result, they come off as socially sophisticated and wise. Great people watchers, individuals high in social intelligence attune themselves to what others are saying, and how they are behaving, in order to try to “read” what the other person is thinking or feeling.

Understanding emotions is part of emotional intelligence, and social intelligence and emotional intelligence are correlated—people who are especially skilled score highly in both. The socially intelligent person knows how to play different social roles— allowing him or her to feel comfortable with all types of people. As a result, the SI individual feels socially self-confident and effective – what psychologists call “social self-efficacy.”

The point here is, whatever the case, think less of becoming an excellent student but think more of becoming an excellent person. Start a business and fail, that is a better entrepreneurship; join or start a club; contest an election and lose, it will teach you something, Attend a seminar, read books outside the scope of your course, do something you believe in, I can go on and on but the point is, make the world your classroom!

Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Institute of Leadership, Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw/www.lird.co.zw.

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