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Music education is a human right

Music education should be defended as a human right just like the air that we breathe and the water that we drink because music is a basic human need. It is found everywhere you go and is part and parcel of human survival. There is no single nation on this earth which does not use music for a variety of reasons which include the preservation of culture.

By Fred Zindi

Music plays a prominent role at funerals, social parties, wedding ceremonies, spiritual gatherings and many other functions.

Music education should therefore be provided in schools as part of educational and cultural programmes. Thus, through sufficient and sustainable funding there ought to be lifelong training for music teachers and trainers in all areas of the music sector.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in its new curriculum, whose implementation began in 2016, came up with Visual and Performing Arts as well as Music in its syllabus for Forms 1 to 4, but nothing for the lower grades. I suggest music education should start right at the beginning and should be made compulsory
During infant school, children are taught the alphabet through singing. That is music. They are also taught nursery rhymes. That is music. Music is therefore part of our lives and it becomes a human right.

The problem that exists is that governments do not take this important aspect of our cultural heritage seriously.

Music has been found to be an important subject in the holistic development of learners. Nurturing children’s music talent also promotes the development of skills in key academic areas such as mathematics and science. It has already been scientifically proved that there is a link between music and mathematical performance in schools (Whitthall, 2002). Music, therefore is as important as the three R’s and the so-called “intellectual” subjects, but to this day, it is not treated as such in Zimbabwe.

A recent study carried out in Germany by Jacobs (2013), showed that schools with strong music departments achieved higher academic standards when compared with those with little or no music departments. In view of this, one would expect Zimbabwe, in view of its strong cultural links, to take advantage of these findings and make music a compulsory and examinable subject in all schools.

For years, Zimbabwe’s music educators have been engaged in endless struggles to justify the inclusion of music in school curricula. Even before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, Alan P Merriam (1964), a renowned anthropologist and researcher in music education identified 10 functions of music which he used to justify the inclusion of music in the school curricula.

These functions have been adopted by many protagonists of music education as significant justifications for the inclusion of this subject in the general school curriculum.

It is indisputably clear how important it is to conceive of music as part of mainstream education to the benefit not only of each individual, but also society at large. Curriculum planners should seriously consider including music education in every school syllabus. Although a variety of strategies can and should be applied to foster learners’ emotional lives, the potential contributory role of music education in Zimbabwe is not always recognised.

In this regard, one can assume that music education has the potential not only to nurture the emotional development of Zimbabwean learners, but also to enhance harmonious social interaction between these learners.

The government should re-align the Education Act to ensure that arts, music and culture are also given priority in the school system from grade zero through university.

Concern about the current state of music education in Zimbabwean schools is based on the conviction that this specific subject area is of utmost importance in ensuring the holistic development of all learners yet it is still to be implemented.

The Zimbabwe community must first understand that children who excel in the arts but struggle with academics can learn a lot through music and may benefit from playing an instrument and singing if they fail academically. We have several popular musicians in Zimbabwe such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Jah Prayzah, Alick Macheso, Winky D, Killer T and Tocky Vybes. who do not have academic degrees, but are doing very well through their ability to deliver popular music.

Music is currently taught in some schools as an extracurricular activity. There are a few schools in Zimbabwe which have placed music education on their syllabuses. However, those timetables which include music are often rendered ineffective as many teachers prefer to use the music periods for extra lessons in mathematics or other subjects which they consider to be more important. During school holidays many parents pay for their children to have extra lessons in various subjects. These do not include music. Many teachers do not know how to teach music either.

Although teachers’ colleges such as United College of Education and Mutare Teachers’ College train their students to teach music, after graduation, these teachers concentrate on the ”more important” academic subjects and leave music out of their main timetables. Thus, very few schools benefit from the training these teachers will have received.

Lately, other universities such as Great Zimbabwe University, Midlands State University and Africa University have also embarked on offering music education degrees, but the impact of this is still yet to be seen.

It is mainly through the efforts of one or two private institutions such as the Zimbabwe College of Music and Music Crossroads Academy that formal music education is provided in Zimbabwe.

We therefore call upon the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that there is music education being taught in all schools. We also ask for better protection of intellectual property across borders, and for people involved in music to use technology to foster innovation in the teaching, learning and distribution of music.

In other countries, there are hundreds of organisations which have come together to defend music as a human right and call for free movement of artistes, professionals and non-professionals across the world. We also urge our government to give these popular musicians diplomatic passports to enable them to move across countries freely. After all, they put Zimbabwe on the map wherever they go.

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