Understanding Family & Religious Studies Vol. 1 Book Review
Understanding Family & Religious Studies; Focus on African Indigenous Religion and Judaism Vol. 1, P. T Chakabva and W. Dingani, Youth Ambassadors Publications, 2017, US/ZW$20.00
Zimbabwe’s primary and secondary education is going through the transformative stages since independence with efforts to implement the long awaited multi-faith approach in Religious Studies thereby doing away with the colonial residue of imparting a Christian confessional teaching. This new approach equips learners with a holistic understanding in religious education. Chakabva and Dingani made their arduous effort to pen a concise book for Lower Six students in Family and Religious Studies which focuses on indigenous religion and Judaism. The foreword writer labels the book, ‘the first of its kind in Zimbabwe’. Did the authors pen a well-researched book which prepares learners for tertiary education and if so in what way? Can it be said that critical research skills and reading is cultivated? Of much interest is that the book has many revision questions that can help readers to go beyond the textbook at the end of each chapter.
The book consist of thirteen chapters which mostly deal with conceptualizations of terms in both indigenous religion and Judaism. The first chapter is launched by dealing with meaning/s of religion with the authors noting that the definition of religion is a matter of debate. Surprisingly the debates did not emerge with clarity since a list of definitions from different sources are listed uncritically (p.7)
Also notable is that groups of Africans are listed and categorized into three, a)Africans by descent living in Africa, b)diaspora Africans and lastly c)European Africans(p.9) the authors do not show any seriousness in explanations of the meaning and difference of point b) and c). This then leaves the reader in abyss of confusion as the word ‘diaspora’ is taken loosely. Perhaps the whisperings which note that the book was a hurried project are sounding because of such errors in the first chapters of the book.
The second chapter deals with interesting issues of Existence and Functions of Spirits in Indigenous Religion. I find this chapter illuminating as the authors deployed their one and only diagram illustrating the African Tripartite Worldview (p.36). Chapter three deals with Belief in Life after death in Indigenous Religion. This chapter failed to bring out its first objective of analyzing and explaining the concept of life after death in Indigenous Religion. What is ‘life’ in IR remains an issue to be furnished with explanations by the authors perhaps in their other volume since this book is indicated Vol 1 of their publication.
Also, due to the uncritical conceptualization of what religion is, the authors went on to omit if not exhibit ignorance on some key scholars of IR in chapter four were they dealt with UNHU/VUMUNHU/UBUNTU. The book no doubt should at least have demonstrated awareness of Evans Mandova and Agrippa (2013) on Unhu/Vumunhu/Ubuntu which are recent works on the subject they were dealing with. Again the authors wrote chapter one to ten focusing on IR and Judaism appears from chapter eleven to thirteen.
The two authors managed to offer basic information on identifying and discussing their seven types of covenants within Judaism. In as much as there many Biblical references to deal with various aspects they dealt with there is no mentioning of the version of Bible used in acknowledging copyright laws in the beginning of the book. Instead, the Youth Ambassadors Publishers decided to claim that, “the publishers have made every effort to trace copyright holders…” just below the second page of the book, prior acknowledgements without mentioning the version of the Bible which is recommended as per syllabus. A brief background of Judaism is rather necessary since the book is claimed to be suitable for Lower Six Students Paper 1 from its back cover.
The book has chapter thirteen focusing on Judaism and Contemporary issues. The temptation to ‘hurriedly’ finish the book becomes evident enough as the authors only used six pages to pen their last chapter. Two pages were used as references and further reading which then makes the whole book a joke. The sources that were used throughout the 214 pages are reduced to only two pages which from the reviewers reading show many sources left out. There is no further reading to talk of as the authors allude.
Furthermore, referencing/citation was not mastered by the authors as they exhibited high levels of incorrect writing, inconsistences which reminds me of my first year undergraduate students who still need to work on referencing and be reminded now and again the correct procedure. A simple example of such careless erroneous omissions in referencing is, “…John F. Walvood in the book Millineal Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Dunham, 1959) page 139 submitted that the covenant of Abraham it furnishes the key to the entire of Old Testament and reaches the key to the entire of Old Testament and reaches for its fulfillment in the New Testament” (p.167). Of note is that Witness Dingani as a Columnist of the Bulawayo 24.com an online newspaper publishes his half-baked question and answers which put the online paper into question since it does not seem to have an editor. The same challenges have ended up becoming a co-joined venture of publishing ‘unedited’ in practical sense with partner in crime Chakabva and Youth Ambassadors Publications.
Having noted the above issues, the publishers of the book need not take Zimbabwe’s education system and especially the New Curriculum not for granted. In as much there is need for reading material there is also the need to have a sober approach as we endevour to have a multi-faith approach to the study of Religious Studies. This educational epoch needs to be handled with caution least the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education ends up being tarnished as a result of such contributions. In the spirit of constructive criticism and the love for an educational system which feeds readers with quality reading material, I rest my case.
© Brian Maregedze, University of Zimbabwe
Author, historian & columnist