The Struggle for Education in Rushinga: A legacy of colonial neglect and post colonial challenges

The school divide: Pupils at Rushinga school

By Douglas Mutepaire

Education is a fundamental human right and a critical social and economic development driver. However, not all people have equal access to quality education, especially in remote and marginalised areas.

In this article, I will explore the history of education in Rushinga, a rural area that has suffered from colonial neglect and post-colonial challenges. I will examine how the colonial education system favoured whites and oppressed blacks, how the post-colonial government tried to address the educational gap, and current issues and prospects for education in Rushinga.

Colonial Education in Rushinga: A Tool of Domination and Subordination

The white minority and their allies used the colonial education system in Zimbabwe to oppress and dominate the African majority. They deprived Africans of quality education and skills and forced a foreign culture and ideology on them. This increased the social and economic gaps between the races and sparked the resistance and violence of the liberation struggle.

The history of education in Rushinga dates back to the 1940s when Christian missionaries came to establish mission stations in the district. The American Evangelical missionaries established the Rusambo mission, while the Roman Catholic missionaries established the Mary Mount mission. As was the norm, a school and a clinic were their priority. Rusambo and Mary Mount became learning centres for their communities. However, the education offered by the missionaries was not meant to empower the learners but to produce docile, submissive individuals who would not challenge the colonial regime or question their Christian faith. The learners were usually trained as nurses, teachers, or pastors, roles that served colonial and missionary needs.

The Rhodesian government was (deliberately) unwilling to establish schools in the country’s remote areas, and Rushinga was not spared. For almost four decades, Rushinga had only four upper primary schools that offered public examinations at grade seven: Rusambo, Mary Mount, Gwangwava, and Magaranhehwe. Bungwe, Runwa, Kasanga, Kamanika, Katakura, Nyamanyanya, and Makuni were lower primary schools ending in grade five. Kasanga had its first grade seven class to sit for the public examinations in 1974. The Rhodesian regime established some other schools during the mid-1970s: Kasenzi, Mukosa, and Chitange. In 1970, the mission stations were surrendered to the local council under the auspices of government-aided schools. The funding of these schools was now coming from the financially struggling local council under the Department of Native Affairs.

The bottlenecking education system also deprived many potential students of acquiring secondary education. The scarcity of primary and secondary schools was a blow of fate to Rushinga communities. Only a few privileged families and some lucky and academically gifted students who were given sponsorship by some missionaries made some breakthroughs to the top. This situation derailed the quest for education, causing the majority to see no value or worthiness in learning.

Accessing education in Rushinga in those days was not a right but a struggle for freedom, enlightenment, and ending oppression. When only four or five schools offered public examinations at grade seven, candidates would go for interviews with only seven secondary schools in the Mashonaland Central Province. Undoubtedly, students scrambled for places. It was rare to see one with ten units out of four subjects enrolled at a boarding school unless it was an F2 boarding school in Mashonaland Central Province. F2 Secondary Schools were Bradley and Chimimba (now called Ruya Adventist High School).

The two offered courses in grades 9 and 11. The Salvation Army church owned Mazowe Boys High, Bradley, and Howard High School. Mavhuradonha was a junior secondary school that only ended at the (Rhodesia Junior Certificate) RJC level (renamed Zimbabwe Junior Certificate (ZJC) after Independence), as with St. Philips in Guruve. Only Howard, Mazowe Boys, and St Alberts (catholic mission-owned) offered public examinations at the ordinary level. There was no secondary school in Bindura by then. All these schools were under the Department of African Education, run by the Secretary of African Education. Thus, there was a curriculum for minority elite whites and a separate one for the Black majority.

Post-Colonial Education in Rushinga: A Wave of Change and Hope

At Independence in 1980, a wave of change in the education system was significant, as witnessed by the mushrooming of primary schools in the district. Boys and girls of various age groups came to enrol in formal learning. Adults were initiated into adult learning. People in Rushinga began to see the essence of education. However, the challenge was where to get teachers for all those learners. Infrastructure could not match. The new government was determined to educate the nation. There was a mass recruitment of teachers, even those with standard six passes.

Makeshift learning structures were built, and today, you wouldn’t believe it if Chimhanda Primary, Rushinga Primary, and Chomutukutu Primary schools were mentioned in the categories of makeshift structures. They went under that in their initial developmental stages. Unqualified personnel taught these learners, with some of their academic credentials questionable. Upper-top secondary schools were also started. Rusambo, Gwangwava, Magaranhehwe, and Marymount were among the first secondary schools in the history of education in Rushinga.

Again, the issue of teachers was a problem. Some of the secondary staff had only three subject passes at ordinary level. Because of this demand, all those in the primary with better qualifications were pushed to the secondary sector. Most primary school heads were asked to head the newly founded secondary schools. Among them were Hedegwe, who had a remarkable career in education, rising from a primary school head to a secondary school leader, then a schools inspector, and retired as a headmaster., and the late Chimasha, who was assigned to Upper Top Secondary School. Other primary school heads who took up similar roles were Samukodza, now at the Provincial Education Office, Ndoro, and the late Munyonga, who headed Rusambo Secondary School.

Unlike the current situation, teachers of those days were remunerated according to their academic or professional qualifications. This motivated teachers to work extremely hard, and as such, zero percent pass rates were unheard of. Today, things have changed for the worse, triggering the exodus of teachers to places where they can have the opportunity to get an extra dollar. Policies have changed, and the curriculum has changed. Conditions of service leave a lot to desire.

Rushinga school: What hope for rural pupils?


Current Issues and Prospects for Education in Rushinga: A Call for Action and Intervention

It is expected, and to some extent, it’s still customary in Rushinga to see a teacher teaching 50 learners. Why this in Rushinga? Teachers always request to leave the district, citing distances from their home areas and families. There is always an exodus of teachers, and learners are always in the hands of new teachers. Some teachers who come to Rushinga are not there to stay. This situation affects the quality and continuity of education in Rushinga. It also discourages the residents from pursuing teaching as a career. If we were to recruit Rushinga residents, it would be a surprise to note that the locals will not fill up posts at Chimhanda and Rushinga.

Can this gap be easily bridged? Can we imagine seeing improved infrastructure in the education sector in Rushinga? Do we foresee one day teachers appreciating Rushinga as a conducive working environment?

Most parents in Rushinga are peasant farmers and struggle to make ends meet. Can they build better houses for teachers? Maybe the government should intervene and channel resources into the education sector to build learning rooms and houses for teachers, drill boreholes, and electrify teachers’ homes and learning rooms. Then perhaps Rushinga may make the anticipated giant stride to bridge the gap that history has created.

The story of Rushinga is typical and commonplace in remote areas and at the periphery of national development efforts and narratives. The struggle for education in Rushinga is a legacy of colonial neglect and post-colonial challenges. However, it is also a story of resilience, hope, and aspiration. Education is not only a right but a duty for all citizens who want to contribute to their country’s social and economic development. Therefore, all stakeholders must work together to ensure that education in Rushinga is accessible, equitable, relevant, and quality.


Douglas Mutepaire, a passionate educationist with extensive experience, was born in 1960 in the Rushinga district. He began his teaching journey as a temporary teacher in 1980, eventually earning a diploma in primary education from Masvingo Teachers College in 2001. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Zimbabwe and heads Makachi Primary School in the Rushinga district. Throughout his career, he has held teaching and leadership roles at schools such as Kasenzi, Katoni, Runwa, Nyamatikiti, Rusambo, and Katakura primary schools.