Back in the days – and to a lesser extent today still – agriculture was used as a punishment in schools. If a learner is deemed to have defied reasonable orders or instructions from a teacher, such learner was ‘sentenced’ to weed out the school’s miniature vegetable garden.
Weeding was done amidst the midday scorching sun, on an empty stomach and on tired feet – synonymous with having spent a whole day at school. But learners had to do what they had to do. The result? They grow up hating gardening – or by extension – agriculture.
As they become adults, the very sight of a crop field reminds them of the hard raking and shovelling they had to do in school and the resentment flows naturally.
The benefit of the crop field – from which many households feed – is unfortunately not that obvious to them at such times.
We all ought to learn from this grave mistake and embrace agriculture as not only an optional subject in school but part of the core subjects. To foster a loving relationship between the subject and learners, it ought to start at an early age.
What benefits do science, mathematics or languages have for learners that they could equally not derive from studying agriculture?
We have learners who have different interests and ambitions and not all are intrigued by the ability to speak flawless British English. Or not all want to have the awkward, albeit celebrated ability to carry out Pythagoras Theorem by the drop of a hat.
Some may just want to be able to study food production patterns and become future food scientists. Others may want to venture into producing animal vaccines or become vets.
The study of agricultural education is, therefore, of the highest importance in the growth and development of the country’s economy. For many years, it has been used to produce essential food crops that we enjoy today. Also, agriculture is beyond just farming. It includes fruit cultivation, dairy, forestry, poultry, mushroom, bee-keeping and much more. In addition to providing raw material and food, it also creates employment opportunities for many people. In regards to that, the importance of agricultural education cannot be ignored.
Namibia made the same mistake with vocational education, limiting it to a few ‘desperate’ or ‘academically weak’ learners. The outcome was that many learners shied away from taking up any trade skill through vocational education due to the growing stigma associated with it.
The result is catastrophic as can be seen today! We have more job seekers than job creators. We have more young people wanting to be administrators and managers of enterprises, but which enterprises?
Those with trade skills are the ones to create these enterprises by setting up wood joinery, plumbing, bricklaying, welding, mechanical and electrical repairs companies. Sadly, this would not happen – at least not on a large scale as such businesses lacked the necessary support. Lest we want to plead amnesia, we ought to do something drastic now with agriculture to salvage what we can. Let’s walk the talk; enough with aimless rhetoric. Make studying agriculture interesting and alive – normalise it!