HARARE – A group of church leaders believed to be aligned to the governing Zanu PF party threw their weight behind Education, Sport and Culture Minister Lazarus Dokora on Wednesday and defended his controversial National Schools Pledge.
The national pledge, which pupils have to recite every day before they start lessons, was introduced at the beginning of the second school term on 3 May. They will pledge their allegiance to God and the national flag.
Addressing journalists in Harare soon after meeting with Dokora, the spokesperson of the Church Elders Group group, Alexander Chisango, said there was nothing wrong with the schools pledge as it did not deviate from the country’s honour of God.
“We resolved that the eldership will assist the government in upgrading and refining the usage as well as any other refinements that need to be done, but for the time being we also acknowledge the fact that Zimbabwe is a predominantly Christian country that is tolerant to all other faiths and we acknowledge that there is an acknowledgement of God at the beginning of the pledge itself and in no way does the pledge deviate in regards to that,” he said.
The pledge has been challenged in the constitutional court by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the case is expected to be heard this month. An urgent chamber application to stay the reciting of the pledge was dismissed by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku in April.
Chisango said there had been a lot of misinformation regarding the pledge as most of the communication had reached the people through the social media and was not clear.
“The wisdom and situation of our nation also led the meeting to understand that some of the things that could be solved by and agreed upon regarding the national school pledge are issues that go beyond just the schoolchildren, they are issues that also touch on the adults, a lot like value systems; children are just recipients of what the adults bring,” he said.
If the country wanted to instil patriotism, integrity, anti-corruption and respect for work, these needed to be addressed not only to school children but the whole population as children had a tendency to do not what they were told but what their elders did.
Chisango said the minister had assured them that churches and scripture unions would not be barred from schools.
“So the status quo remains regards relationships between the churches and the education system in the country, including building of schools and training of teachers. We have been reasonably assured that the position of the ministry has not changed and there is documented evidence on the ground that the churches were barred from schools,” he said.
He said the church elders had agreed that the national pledge was a global phenomenon, and not peculiar to Zimbabwe.
“It is practised in Western countries, African countries as well as North and South.”
The church, Chisango said, had a role to protect school children from unorthodox practices such as satanism infiltrating schools under the guise of religion
Minister Dokora, who avoided questions from the media, said they had had happy discussions, referring further queries to the church leaders.
Africa News Agency