15 November 2012

Zambia: Education - the Backbone of Development

WE welcome the announcement by President Sata that the Patriotic Front Government intends to overhaul the education landscape in Zambia through increased investment in the sector in order to transform the dilapidated facilities and erect new schools.

The construction of 83 schools country-wide, 44 of which are scheduled for opening in January, next year, underscores the PF Government's commitment to raise the level of investment in this critical sector, a trend that will buttress development efforts.

Development programmes undertaken by countries the world over cannot be successfully implemented if there is no commensurate investment in the education sector.

In short, there is a correlation between the level of development achieved by any country and the level of its investment in the 'knowledge industry.'

One important barometer used to measure the level of development attained by any country is the number of institutions offering primary, secondary and tertiary education.

The more advanced a country is, the greater the investment in quality learning institutions.

By contrast, under-development is often measured by the degree of crass ignorance which poses veritable danger to any community, for it is the single biggest obstacle to advancement that undermines development efforts and consigns the affected people to abject poverty and all its manifestations of backwardness.

This sordid fact is widely acknowledged by many governments around the globe, and this is what informs many of the decisions taken by governments to increase investment in the education sector.

Sadly for our country, the last 20 years of MMD rule were, in many respects, lost decades as successive regimes presided over an education sector that had suffered gross neglect, resulting in the bulk of the infrastructure initiated during UNIP's 27-year reign becoming dilapidated.

Lest we forget, the University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Road campus was a product of the visionary leadership of the first republican President Kenneth Kaunda's administration, after taking stock of the appalling statistics of skilled manpower available to the country at Independence in 1964.

When the country attained independence in October, 1964, Zambia had a paltry number of university graduates who were less than 100 (one hundred), and the number of secondary school leavers who had completed their "O" levels was also less than 1,000 (one thousand).

With these dismal statistics militating heavily against the newly independent state, the Kaunda administration got down to the brass-tacks and undertook numerous development projects in the education and health sectors, as well as other infrastructure developments such as road construction.

Over the last 20 years, Lack of investment in new education infrastructure has been evident in all corners of our country where the dearth of facilities condemns most of the rural-based school children to walking long distances to schools and rural health centres.

This situation has seriously undermined efforts to combat ignorance and the unacceptably high levels of illiteracy in rural areas which, in some cases, are as high as 70 per cent.

We applaud the efforts being made by Government to reverse the decline and neglect recorded over the past two decades and hope that the construction of new educational facilities will be matched by a concomitant programme to train more teachers at all levels.

Zambia needs to train more artisans, technicians and skilled manpower in various fields to ensure the country has the requisite numbers of skilled personnel to drive the wheels of industry and provide the desired back-up to all development endeavours.

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