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World class Zimbabweans

By Tim Middleton

Zimbabwe has produced and is very proud of their numerous world-class sportsmen — Kirsty Coventry, Nick Price, the Black brothers, Bruce Grobbelaar, Henry Olonga, Peter Ndlovu, Andy Flower, to name a few.

Zimbabwe has also produced a number of world-class authors, most notably perhaps Tsitsi Dangarembga and NoViolet Bulawayo. Zimbabwe has produced some world-class musicians in the persons of Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo. Zimbabwe has year in, year out, produced pupils who come Top in the World in Cambridge exams — world-class pupils! Long may that last! However, we may do well to consider how Zimbabwe is doing in one more category — how many world-class citizens has Zimbabwe produced?

A recent article in this newspaper challenged the Harare City promotion of being a World-Class City by 2025, identifying many areas where the city currently falls well short of the target. ‘World-Class City’ is a wonderful and commendable goal; it is a classic jingoistic slogan which perhaps has gained funding and support. However, how realistic is it and what is actually being done to achieve it? There will no doubt be numerous papers on the strategy of meeting the target by filling in all the potholes, fixing all the water and power shortages, and all the rest but at the heart of a world-class city must be world-class citizens. What hope have we of a world-class city, if its citizens are not world-class?

A world-class citizen will be responsible not only for her own actions, but will also be responsible for other people’s actions. Our New Curriculum proudly declares that school leavers will be able to “voluntarily engage in participatory citizenship”. So participation is a vital component of a world-class citizen. Participation means more than joining in with the complaints but being willing to sort out the mess. Children must also learn to be “patriotic and responsible citizens” — in other words, we need to abide by the laws, even when police or others are not patrolling; we must consider the welfare and safety of others and not simply ourselves. So, patriotism is also a mark of someone being world-class — patriotism, not nationalism. Patriotism means we think of our country and its people more than of ourselves, starting above all with our leaders. We must be so proud of our country that we will do all we can to make it a special, caring, safe, productive, peaceful place.

These world-class characteristics (whereby we put the interests of others before our own) must include patience. That means we will wait our turn — yet on our roads, drivers create their own lanes, demand to be let in when overtaking blindly, drive through red lights, obstruct traffic by forming a new queue, simply because they do not want to wait an extra minute. How world-class are we in that area? Punctuality is another quality that will mark a world-class citizen. That means we will watch our time, for in being punctual we are respecting that other people have made the effort to be on time, have not got time to waste.

Of course, that is all well and good for children to learn such but what example do our children have of such citizens? When it comes to corruption, we might be considered world class. When it comes to pollution, we might also be considered world class. The litter in our city is not the problem; it is the citizens who throw the litter out of their window, who drop their fast-food packs on the pavement as they walk, who dump their rubbish on the side of the roads, who burn their rubbish in their gardens — all in contravention of civic regulations and by-laws.

Change the citizens and we will have more chance of having a world-class city. We may repair the roads and everything else that are sub-standard but if we do not change the citizens the smart new items will simply become damaged once again. We will not be a world-class city if we do not have world-class citizens.

World class sportsmen and women gain the gold medal, so world class citizens are those who live out the golden rule — do to others as you would wish them do to you. That golden rule was explained in a different way by President JF Kennedy when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” We can all aim to be world-class citizens. We do not ask what you can do; we ask what will we do? What are we doing to raise up world-class citizens?

  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 



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