Marovah, Tendayi (2014). 'Foregrounding the Capabilities Approach in interrogating fear in Citizenship Education in Zimbabwean teachers' colleges' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

This paper builds on and contributes to work in the field of citizenship in higher education (HE) and the challenge of the formation of critical democratic citizens. It applies the capabilities approach (CA) backed by Ubuntu conceptually and empirically to this challenge to a Zimbabwean case study. I argue that the notion of the CA backed by Ubuntu[1] offers important insights significant for the formation of critical democratic citizens as agents who can contribute to human development in education and society in an African context. Although international studies in this field have explored the history, development and implementation of citizenship education, very few studies have focused on the context of teacher education in Africa, or drawn on the CA and Ubuntu. With the exception of McCowan and Unterhalter (2009); Waghid (2014) and Walker and Loots (in press) there has not been much attempt to explore how human capabilities, Ubuntu, human development and social justice can be advanced through citizenship education.

The CA offers an alternative framework for the assessment of the role played by National and Strategic Studies[2] (NASS) in securing students capabilities to do and to be what they value in life. Its emphasis on agency, heterogeneity and public deliberations can be useful in advancing the operationalisation of a NASS curriculum that contributes to the formation of critical democratic citizens.  Ubuntu is valued not only in the NASS curriculum and the ministry responsible for HE in Zimbabwe, but also in Africa in many more ways. Because of the value placed on Ubuntu, I use this philosophy as leverage in claiming capabilities necessary for the formation of critical democratic citizens. The philosophy has not been widely used as an application to the advancement of the formation of critical democratic citizens. As such, this paper provides additional insights into contemporary debates on the formation of critical democratic citizens and addresses a gap in the literature which might be relevant for application in other contexts of citizenship education in Zimbabwe and even more widely. In addition the paper provides   a theorisation of how citizenship education can promote human capabilities and human development in education and society which may contribute to emerging areas of research on the complex role HE plays in the creation of critical democratic citizens in post-conflict societies. Methodologically, the paper provides a robust framework for researching citizenship formation for the promotion of human capabilities, human development as well as social justice.

A qualitative approach was adopted in exploring individual experiences, perceptions and opinions in contexts rather than statistics. Semi structured in-depth interviews were employed as the primary data collection strategy with selected 24 students, six (6)lecturers at two teachers colleges and two (2) policy stakeholders at the head office of the ministry responsible for HE and the University of Zimbabwe. Focus group discussions, observations as well as documents analysis were used to augment interviews. Participants were selected using purposive sampling.  I detail the prevalence of fear among participants in this study and demonstrate the seriousness of the various implications on the future teachers' capabilities to do and to be what they value as citizens.  I explain how fear and suspicion among both students and lecturers inhibit the true spirit of the formation of critical democratic citizens. Additionally I emphasise that fear and suspicion do not acknowledge individual differences, nor foster students' agency, or promote public deliberations which are critical for human development, democracy and social justice.


[1] Ubuntu is an African humanist philosophy embodying the world view of Africanness.

[2] NASS is a variant of citizenship education introduced in Zimbabwean tertiary institutions in 2002.