Saturday, 27 April 2013

Zambia: Where are We Going Wrong?


Our education system is tailored to provide white collar jobs, and those who cannot muster the algebra and pass the examination will either be pushed through an education system that at the end of the day throws them out disillusioned, calling themselves grade 12 school leavers but with certificates that cannot be accepted anywhere. 
 By Nyalubinge Ngwende
It is the yearning for a better life in country that has little afforded meaningful growth in productivity. It is not lack of investment that Zambia suffers from
but inefficient productivity that is underpinned by political wastefulness and a misplaced education system.

In snippet format, I take a look into Zambia’s difficulties that start with political wastefulness and an uninspiring education system.
1. Zambia suffers from political wastefulness that prefers to use scarce resources for feathering political nests. This is a country where government leaders will find money to fly bureaucrats in a rural district, fuel a dozen vehicles and claim huge allowances to investigate the cause an epidemic outbreak, piling blame on a hapless health worker who hardly gets 40 dollars for his operations and the only medicine that could be in stock is painkillers (Panadol).

2. Education is insurance for any future potential that is stored, undiscovered in a
child like a bright glow of bulb that is not there until it is switched. It is for this that those who have been proponents of education demand that conditions a child finds himself or herself in various communities should do less to determine their future opportunities to become useful members of their communities and later on the country.

It is good that education must produce professionals—teachers, doctors, pilots and engineers. But more than that it must also give us artisans for the village industry, for those weaved and carved products to be touched with skill and embedded with value that can go to the market locally and abroad. It needs people in the arts and culture—musicians, cultural performers, traditional garb designers and those who will bring the industry of culture in construction to make the country a unique marvel for tourism. 

The supposition is: how can a country get such kind of an education that will get all productive sectors firing at their best and ensure that supersonic takeoff like seen in the tiger economies?


3. It is an instant occasion of any high school student to dream big—thinking of passing examinations, proceeding to tertiary education, graduating in the field of choice, finding that good job and start life as a middle class. Middle class means having a decent home in a good location and one of the major towns of the country, having a good salary that can afford a car, three meals a day, designer clothes before thinking of marriage and having babies who are assured of a decent

School children dream for a better future
life and future in terms of being in good schools and starting off on the same road of their parents. Above this educators tell the learners that they can only be useful and productive citizens with a good education.
But this dream comes quickly to a few, slowly and painful to hundreds of thousands others despite graduating from high school and tertiary institutions, colleges and universities. Others who did not meet the grades remain without secondary education and there hope, unless luck bumps into them to become shop owners or hardworking farmers, they are forever condemned to low paying jobs. It is all because of education.
4. Our education system is tailored to provide white collar jobs, and those who cannot muster the algebra and pass the examination will either be pushed through an education system that at the end of the day throws them out disillusioned, calling themselves grade 12 school leavers but with certificates that cannot be accepted anywhere. Those who make it with grades and have the financial support or manage a government bursary will go to college or university and become doctors, engineers, agriculturists and economists, nurses and administrators.                                     
Potholes in the Middle of Engineers

The huge number of graduates in the country is swallowed by the teaching profession and, sadly, even the scientists and engineers of acclaim never find their place to use their knowledge to produce industrial tools that can manufacture goods for the economy. While the education system may in some cases strive towards churning out human resource that are supposed to do the-hands-on, the economy operates more on the software side which just obscures anything practical on which our engineers can apply their knowledge and produce. In the end the country has very few engineers in work suits and boots; hardly are they innovating for plant machinery that can turn a country hungry for news one bigger world of print presses, or use the physics and chemistry knowledge that earned them to be professors breakthroughs in surgical and bio medicine. It is a society that insults its own purpose of education. Despite having the road engineers, the country’s roads are still built by foreign contractors, and these are major roads that government finances. But for urban, the trace of engineering misses every measure of the distance and turn at a corner.  Roads are rutted with huge potholes that every rain season are filled with mud water while drainages are either missing and, if at all they are around, they serve a reverse purpose—pouring water onto the asphalt concrete instead of draining it away. 

5. The relevance and competence of our education overlooks the basic of the country’s problems. For half a century 50 of the country’s Independence, Zambia’s rural ilk suffer a perennial problem of drinking unsafe dirty water. This is not because the country lacks resources to take clean water to its rural dweller but because it has put the colossal sums of money in measures of providing water that are not sustainable; installing and repairing hand pumps at a huge cost. No one in government has thought out of the box of thinking that the only way of giving water to rural areas is through a borehole and a hand pump that lasts less than two years. No attempt towards replicating the similar water installations that provides water to urban households. Cheap is expensive, but unfortunately it puts money in the hands of suppliers of hand pumps and contractors who install the facilities from Lusaka and other cities along the line of rail. 

6. Our policy makers and implementing agencies in the bureaucracy have no slightest thought of approaching public services like water reticulation that will create demand for village water engineers and electrical technicians. They do not want to see a village entrepreneur who will supply water purification chemicals to the village water plant. The village ilk could have missed the physics and chemistry inside a classroom, but they are not short of learning applied skills needed to run village water schemes or incapable of folding sleeves and breaking stones to pave the village roads. By picking this path of modernizing the villages and going its way, government can resolve the problems of spending money on hand pumps that are prone to breaking up, just as they can end perennial gravelling of roads at a huge cost on contractors who end up worsening the conditions of the gravel roads in the rural communities. 

7. This country’s economy is not any day going to grow if the mindset is to produce workers who do nothing but ensconce in the comfort of consuming imports. Its total factor productivity is bad; the services and good produced are two few compared to the available capital in terms of natural resources, labour  and human skills.
8. The problem in this country is that we allow the inefficiencies and inadequacies to continue. It is a country that wants to grow its scientific field, but does not finance its R&D. Gaps exist all through the systems that must drive the economy and there is little expected to come out of such building blocks that do not fit together apart from chaos. A jigsaw puzzle can be resolved when the parts fit into each other, but remember to remain juggling the pieces forever or starring at a disfigured piece because of the missing links.     
NN