Lazarus Dokora, the Primary and Secondary Education Minister in Zimbabwe has Monday said that he deliberately introduced Islam in the new education curriculum because “it had always been in the content” since 1980.
Dokora is presently under fire from parents, the church and other interest groups in the education sector for bringing in Islam in the new curriculum which he introduced this year.
Unease over the development even reached cabinet level, President Robert Mugabe revealed last week, adding that Dokora, who keeps faith with a longish fuzz on the chin, earned the moniker ‘Ayatollah Dokora’ amid concerns he had converted to Islam.
“He (Dokora) refused to be called Ayatollah, insisting that his beard was not proof of conversion to Islam,” Mugabe, speaking in Shona, said during an interview with the ZTV for his birthday.
“Others said he had visited Iran and that that was where he converted to Islam but he said ‘no I am not a Muslim at all. I remain a Catholic’.”
Mugabe added that the minister had told colleagues that “I cannot shave it (beard) off”.
On Monday, the minister said there was nothing novel or radical about encompassing Islam in the new curriculum.
“In 1980 the curriculum that we fashioned to the republic included Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and I was just a classroom teacher then, and those were introduced at Grade Two (2).
“Now, I have told you that we have now brought in the little ones in the school system, the four-year-olds; and do you not think we should take these themes and teach them to these little ones?”
He continued: “If you went to school soon after independence you probably went through the experience of learning these things.
“What has been misleading in the media was that the minister has brought in the curriculum Islam as if that is a new thing. It has been always in the content.”
Dokora has been criticised for coming up with policies seen as undermining the country’s once-globally respected education system.
Last year he introduced the national pledge in schools which was dismissed as partisan praise elegy President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.
The minister also proposed the wearing of uniforms by teachers which was rejected by unions.