Diversity, citizenship education and human capabilities formation: Perspectives from two Zimbabwean teachers’ colleges

Marovah, Tendayi (2016). 'Diversity, citizenship education and human capabilities formation: Perspectives from two Zimbabwean teachers’ colleges' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract This paper contributes to debates on citizenship education, human capabilities formation and social justice. It recognises that citizens’ capabilities formation becomes indispensable given the complex cultural, religious and political diversity within and between nations resulting from increased migration, technological advancement, economic relations and globalisation. Despite the multifaceted  diversity of citizenship and changes of the nature of states and how their citizens relate to each other, both the liberal and civic republican models of citizenship formation (prevalent in citizenship education literature), continue arguing that citizens are fundamentally homogeneous (or potentially the same). This paper considers the assumption that citizens are all the same and diversity should be considered only in the private sphere as flawed. Applying the capability approach to a case study on citizenship formation in two Zimbabwean teachers’ colleges, in which National and Strategic Studies, a variant of citizenship education is taught, both models are criticised for ignoring subtle forms of injustices in the form of discrimination and exclusion. In this case, the capability approach is used to describe, assess, and promote critical citizenship understood as human development and social justice in a context where people’s circumstances and values are vastly different and rapidly changing. Using student and lecturer participants’ voices, this paper considers heterogeneity, a significant concept in the capability approach, as key to a better conceptualisation and understanding of diversity in citizenship discourses. Heterogeneity adequately captures the diverse, plural, or multidimensional nature of citizens’ conditions and development experiences. From this qualitative data, it emerges that ignoring diversity, cast minority groups in a predominantly passive role, and relegate them to subservience. The focus on the local context used to drive nationalist agenda in identity discourses and political activity in an effort to reduce disruption of national and cultural identities reinforces the idea of treating some citizens as ‘others’. This results in undermining democratic values such as tolerance and accommodation apart from stifling critical thinking, the ability to think as a global citizen and creative imagination, which are critical democratic citizen’s central capabilities. Regardless of the ‘good’ aims and content of National and Strategic Studies, ignoring diversity of political interests, make students criticise the partisan nature in how the course is taught. It is argued that if contemporary citizenship formation programmes are to take a global or cosmopolitan outlook that transcends narrow familial, ethnic, partisan, national or regional geographical boundaries, then, they must remain open to the possibility of dissonance and ambiguity when engaging students with difference and diversity.

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