Decolonising childcare practice in rural Zimbabwe

Embracing local cultures

Authored by: Edmos Mtetwa , Munyaradzi Muchacha

The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472468512
eBook ISBN: 9781315557359
Adobe ISBN: 9781317029380


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In the traditional Zimbabwean childcare system, the care of children was not confined to the nuclear and extended family, but extended to the entire community (Mushunje, 2006). Under this traditional approach to childcare, orphaned children remained in the care of the extended family with collective support from the community, which, through the traditional leadership structures, provided material support to the family (Dhlembeu & Mayanga, 2006; Mushunje 2006). When a parent died, the community provided moral, social, and material support to the surviving parent. As custodians of African tradition and culture, tribal chiefs played an active role in protecting children in their communities (Omagu, 2013). However, colonialism attempted to strip traditional leaders of their judicial and economic powers by transferring authority to the colonial government. The colonial administration modeled its governance and welfare structures on the British system, which tended to exclude local traditions and cultures and provided services mainly for white settlers. However, local people who worked within the colonial administration were given access to pension and unemployment benefits.

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