HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe says that his new Minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education is tasked with reviving practical subjects in schools to equip pupils with "life skills."
Mugabe said non-academic subjects — ranging from farming to vehicle mechanics, carpentry and electronics — had slipped from school curriculums in recent years and "must be brought back," the state Herald newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Herald said the title for the new Cabinet post "sent tongues wagging" when ministers were sworn in on Sept. 11 after Mugabe won another five year term in disputed elections in July.
Mugabe explained why he created the new position in the Herald interview. Mugabe, 89, an academic and former teacher, did not say why he chose a ministerial title that few understand.
The appointment of Josiah Hungwe, a longtime Mugabe loyalist, as the psychomotor minister in an already bloated Cabinet had Zimbabweans reaching for their dictionaries to learn a term for coordination between the mind and body.
Even Hungwe was unable to describe his job and asked for more time to reply in a parliament question and answer session after he had been in the post for three weeks. He could not tell lawmakers what he had been doing at work in that time, records of the session show.
In the newspaper, an official mouthpiece, Mugabe described the need to promote what he called psychomotor skills that would help procure jobs for less academically-gifted students. Hungwe would work alongside the main ministries of education and science and technology, he said.
"We will have to co-opt quite a number of educational experts working under the Minister of State without disorganizing the smooth running of schools," Mugabe told the paper.
David Coltart, the former education minister in a shaky coalition between Mugabe and the opposition that ended after the July 31 polls, said efforts to return to the teaching of practical subjects in his tenure in office were largely frustrated by incompetence and "astonishing bureaucratic red tape."
"While I disagree with the need to have an entirely new and separate minister, with all his attendant expenses to do this task, I am pleased the issue is getting the attention it deserves," Coltart said in a social media posting on Tuesday.