Sleeping Like a Hare Millions Billions Trillions    
African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

A hundred and twenty years
September 3, 2011, 12:42 pm


Dear Family and Friends,

Doing a favour for a couple who were leaving the country, a friend and I went to collect a crate of books from their rapidly emptying home. It was a very heavy, slatted plank, wooden crate and contained perhaps fifty books. The books had belonged to the man’s grandfather, Donald Moody, who came to the country in an ox drawn wagon in 1892. He was part of a group of farmers and their families who came from South Africa in what was known as ‘Moodie’s Trek.’ The books were being donated to a small museum in eastern Zimbabwe and were all over a hundred years old. Most of the books were dated around 1910 but some were older, with one published in 1894 and another in 1898. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was there, alongside Charles Dickens, Milton and Faust. The books of poetry and classics provided a unique insight into the type of people who had been on the Moodie Trek a hundred and twenty years ago. Were they all the brutal ruffians, racists and rogues that our children are taught about in Zimbabwe’s classrooms today, or were they, like so many others in our history, tarred with the same brush that marked a few bad characters?

At the top of the crate of books was a photograph album and I couldn’t resist the urge to have a look inside. Carefully I turned a few of the thick, heavy pages and was instantly taken back to the life lived here a century ago. Many of the handwritten captions under the pictures were no longer legible and many of the photographs were similarly faded beyond recognition. Some had survived the ravages of time and weather: a group of men, oxen and wagons preparing for a river crossing; a child sitting on the dusty ground wearing a bonnet; women grinding corn; men carrying spears; the earliest residence of a government official, dated 1915, and a hippopotamus breaking the surface in a wide stretch of river in Inyanga.

As the sun began to move towards the horizon, the electricity went off and it was too dark to see the images in the hundred year old photographs.  I looked through the newspapers of the day instead. It was a strange feeling to have records from 1910 in one hand and newspapers of 2011 in the other. Here was the story of a hundred years of the country right in front of me, a unique encounter.

By a strange quirk of coincidence I came a across a full page declaration in one of the newspapers inserted by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe.  It was headed: ‘Statement on the Abuse of the National History Curriculum,’ and was a forthright and damning expose of what is going on in Zimbabwe’s classrooms.  The teachers described how politicians in power have corrupted the history curriculum to suit their own ends. The statement said politicians have done this to: “peddle their ideology and to brain wash innocent learners.” The statement said that teachers working in politically volatile areas of the country have “stopped teaching components of the history syllabus for fear of being attacked.”

The closing paragraph of the statement by the teachers’ union read: “We call upon the nation to join teachers in condemning such efforts to convert our children into creatures endowed with political hatred…. We implore parents to ‘unteach’ what has been or is likely to be ‘mistaught’ about the history of this country.”

The statement by the teachers union in 2011 is as much a part of our history as the Moodie Trek a hundred and twenty years ago. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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