Academic journal article International Journal of Education

The "Nativist Turn" and the Crisis in University Education in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article International Journal of Education

The "Nativist Turn" and the Crisis in University Education in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt


National socio-economic development cannot succeed in a country with a malfunctioning education system. The adoption of nativist policies and practices in Zimbabwe since the year 2000 was met with peaceful resistance from the public university community. The purpose of the paper is to expose the impact of nativist policies on university education. A critical interpretive case study of two public universities was carried out. Thirty participants were interviewed and these included students, faculty, administrators and a government official. Document analysis and observations were also undertaken. Findings indicate that universities have been functioning amidst immense political and economic pressure from the government. While nativism has been put across as an indigenous empowering ideology, the intolerance and neoliberal (privatization) principles accompanying it have led to growing displeasure and opposition from the university community. One observes the imposition of the culture of capitalism and the accompanying reactions that equally fits into this culture. The article recommends a critical rethink of development paradigms that are responsive to the local communities in place of copying and pasting ideas developed in the global North.

Keywords: Zimbabwe university education; nativism; coloniality; national sovereignty; privatization; Africanization/indigenization; academic freedom; academic politics

1. Introduction

The ultra-nationalist developments in Zimbabwe since the year 2000 have been explained from different perspectives with varying conclusions. The unfolding processes have been described as the Africanization or indigenization of the country's natural resources, signalling empowerment of the majority black peoples (Government of Zimbabwe, 2007; Moyo & Yeros, 2011), while others see the unfolding processes as simply the domestication of the culture of capitalism (Amin, 1997) as seen by the commodification of social services such as education as the government forcefully implements privatization and marketization policies. The corporate emphasis of the programmes is further highlighted by the reluctance to Africanize formal education except in the area of ownership of profit making private institutions. It is the purpose of this paper to explore and assess the impact of the government of Zimbabwe's nationalist autochthonic policies on university education. The nativist blueprint guiding Zimbabwe since the year 2000 has seen the country being isolated and placed under sanctions by the European Community, North America and the white Commonwealth (Hwami & Kapoor, 2012) while at home the Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) government responded by claiming that they are under siege from former imperialists and are therefore willing to do anything to safeguard national sovereignty.

With abundant evidence indicating that the student and worker union that culminated in the formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party was supported and funded by white commercial farmers, Britain and other western countries (Bond & Manyanya, 2003; Raftopoulos, 2003), a radical pan Africanist paradigm advocating an indigenous Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans policy was adopted by ZANU PF as a response. This change from pro-Western and international aid backed socio-economic paradigms to an African anti-Western development framework has been referred to as the nativist turn or "nativist revolution" (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2006, p. 5). It denotes among other issues, the Afro-radical attempt to resolve the national question of natural resources restitution, especially land, without the support of global capital (Western nations and institutions). Articulating the philosophy behind nativist and Afro-radical discourses, Mbembe (2002) said:

Nativist and Afro-radical discourses of the self are both projects of self-regeneration, self-knowledge, and self-rule. …

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