It was a coincidence that soon after I finished reading this book I was speaking to a
Zimbabwe African working for National Rail at Ebbsfleet International Station.
In reply to my question as to why he had left Zimbabwe he stated it was due to the
complete collapse of the education system. Without any prompting from me he went on
to say that under a white government it had been the best in Africa.
Reading Geoffrey Harris’s book it is easy to understand why this was so. The system
of school inspections undertaken by inspectors stationed in each provincial education
office ensured a high and equable standard in schools right across the country. Whether
they were government, local council, mission, farm or mine schools they were subject to
the same scrutiny and support.
Geoffrey traces his career from teacher through the ranks to the top post of Chief
Education Officer, African Education. On the way he gives accounts of the work of school
inspectors way out in the bush and includes some interesting anecdotes while doing so. One
concerns a close friend of mine who was my stand-in father in law at my wedding and gave
my wife away. I had not known that when he was DC Kariba he had rolled his official Land
Rover, with Geolfrey as passenger, in full sight of a lioness and her three cubs.
While the book has rather more personal content than official, it does set out in full the
speech by Ian Smith on the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. It also includes
some of the propaganda produced at the time and later during the period following UDI.
There are some points in the book with which I take issue, but overall it is an easy to
read account of the life of a person who is shown very little respect in this country today,
but in the country where he gave so much of his life and expertise there is a dawning
realisation that life in the colonial era wasn’t so bad after all. At least you could rely on
the education system.