The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) engaged the Zimbabwe National Intangible Cultural Heritage committee for a validation workshop focusing on “Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in formal and non- formal education in the Southern African region”.
The workshop was a component of the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Change project, which identified gaps and needs in existing teaching materials in natural sciences subjects covering biology, chemistry and physics, taken from the Zimbabwe Combined Sciences Syllabus for Forms 1 to 4.
Based on the findings, the project consultant, Mr. Caleb Mandikonza, developed an adapted version of teaching materials for secondary school teachers in training for natural sciences, specifically focusing on topics that students struggle with in the mentioned subjects. Mr Mandikonza endeavoured to use principles of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), a concept that falls under Intangible Cultural Heritage, Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development to assist students in these problematic science topics.
To enrich the concepts identified, UNESCO invited the National ICH committee, currently chaired by Dr Bridget Chinouriri, to validate the concepts in the new teacher support materials. 14 members of the committee attended the workshop and they identified a number of viable Indigenous Knowledge concepts that can enhance students understanding of science topics.
For example, the plenary discussed the topic of “Separation” from the Chemistry curricula, which includes processes of filtration, magnetism, winnowing, decanting and evaporation. To illustrate the process of evaporation teachers could use the process of drying crops after harvesting as an example. Students are exposed to some of these processes, as they assist their guardians with these chores at home. Therefore, by domesticating the idea of evaporation, the concept ceases to be a foreign concept because it is something they either have done before or witnessed.
Another example discussed by the plenary is the process of winnowing. Winnowing is the method in which heavier components of the mixture are separated from the lighter substances with the help of wind. Students could understand the process better if the teacher refers to the process in colloquial terms. By providing terms in Shona, for example, Shona-speaking students would quickly grasp the concept by synonymously linking it to “kurudza” or “kupepeta”, a domestic chore familiar to most Shona families. The process of “kurudza” or “kupepeta” practically explains separation by density, which, again, domesticates the concept of winnowing in the students’ minds.
At the end of the session, the chairperson of the National ICH committee, Dr. Chinouriri congratulated UNESCO on leading this inter-sectoral initiative.
We hope to continue to work with UNESCO on this initiative and we would appreciate regular updates on progress, as we believe it is a great step towards Zimbabweans appreciating their culture and most importantly preserving it, through education.