Marovah, Tendayi (2014). 'Citizenship Education and human capabilities: A case study in Zimbabwean teachers' colleges' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.


This study seeks to explore the role of National and Strategic Studies (NASS) in the Zimbabwean teacher education curriculum in securing human capabilities and promoting human development for critical democratic citizenship. It is located as contributing to wider international debates on citizenship in higher education. Although international studies in citizenship education studies in Higher Education (HE) have explored the history, development and implementation of citizenship education, very few studies have focused on the context of teacher education in Africa.


Research Problems and questions

Citizenship education in the teacher education curriculum in Zimbabwe continues to be an area of great controversy marred by stereotyping from various academic circles. The common denominator in these arguments is aligned to the historiographical approach. It labels the course as a history course meant to evoke the past as a way of creating identities, citizenship and patriotism either aligned to a certain political ideology or fanned by national interest. This study explores experiences of students and lecturers in the learning and teaching of NASS through the lenses of the capabilities approach (CA) framed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. The following research questions will influence the study:

1)         How and in what ways does the NASS curriculum contribute to the development of critical citizenship among future teachers?

2)         From the perspective of policy stakeholders in the Ministry of higher and tertiary education and the department of teacher education (UZ) how is citizenship understood? How does NASS promote such citizenship? Are there any obstacles to NASS advancing a critical citizenship among future teachers?

3)         From the perspective of lecturers at two selected teachers' colleges how is citizenship understood? What form of citizenship is promoted by NASS and how is this achieved? Are there any obstacles to NASS advancing critical citizenship among future teachers?

4)         How do selected students in the two colleges understand citizenship? What are their perspectives on and experiences of NASS in the teacher education curriculum? To what extent does NASS foster their critical citizenship?

5)         How important is Ubuntu in the formation of desired citizens?

6)         How can a study of the NASS curriculum contribute to theorizing critical citizenship education and capabilities formation in a Zimbabwean context but also more widely?




Research design and research methodology

In order to interrogate the role of NASS in the TE curriculum for the formation of critical democratic citizens, I will draw from, the capability framework and the philosophy of Ubuntu/ Unhuism. I argue that the CA backed by Ubuntu offers important insights significant to the formation of critical democratic citizens which contributes to human development in education and the society. The major tenets of the African humanist philosophy of Ubuntu/ Unhu which features in the NASS syllabi and the core values of the Ministry of higher and tertiary education relate to the values of democratic citizenship. I see these two (CA and Ubuntu) as complementing each other in the quest to advance the formation of critical citizens. Whilst the CA focuses individual functionings concentrating on whether individual capabilities are realized, Ubuntu seeks to advance the common good through consensus. However, the two can be coherently and systematically used together. My choice therefore is not so much about their differences but builds more on their complementary role since they give differing emphasis on particular concepts.

The study is grounded in an exploratory and descriptive qualitative design. A case study of two teachers' colleges chosen in this research thus befits the nature of this study as it gives the researcher ample time to engage with each institution chosen.  In- depth semi structured interviews and focus group discussions with thirty-two (32) participants that is two (2) policy makers (Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education and the department of teacher education (UZ)), six (6) lecturers (three from each institution) and twenty-four (24) students (twelve from each institution) will be conducted. Furthermore document analysis looking at documents which include NASS syllabi, policy documents and students records (course work files) will be done to establish how institutional arrangements and pedagogical practices create a platform for the cultivation of human capabilities. I will also draw insights into pedagogical practices and institutional arrangements through observations in each institution. A pilot study in one teachers college should be carried out.


Value of the research

The study builds on and contributes to literature in citizenship education studies in HE since there has been little empirical research on the role of NASS in the promotion of human capabilities and human development. Therefore, this study is contemporary and addresses a gap in the literature and might be relevant for application in other contexts of citizenship education in Zimbabwe and even more widely. Since the study provides a theorisation of how citizenship education can promote human capabilities and human development in education and society, it may contribute to emerging areas of research on the complex role HE plays in the creation of democratic citizens in a polarised context. As a result, this study might inform policy on how to promote human capabilities and human development through citizenship education. It may also provide evaluative comparisons between NASS and other variants of citizenship education in HE institutions. Methodologically, this study will provide an approach and framework for researching citizenship formation for the promotion of human capabilities and human development.


What I have done so far

A pilot study has been undertaken so far which has brought out the following insights: firstly, a focus group discussion is not very useful for generating rich data because of the suspicion among the participants. Secondly, observations in formal settings need to be complemented by observations in informal settings. Thirdly, there is need to capture each participant's age and area of origin especially among students. From February to May 2014 I will collect data in two teachers' colleges in Zimbabwe which I will use to answer research questions proposed.