Where to with the Zambian education system?

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A week before the eve of our 50 years of independence I made a contribution through an article to this paper entitled “Transformative Education Vital”. In that article I urged that Our current educational system prepares us to be consumptive-oriented and not value creators. The education system that we have is ideal at making us national traders more than anything else. We have not been able to make noteworthy inroads in areas of economics, science, technology, medicine etc., yet our love for fast cars, fancy gadgets, clothes, foods, which we have literally not contributed to their creation, is unmatched.

If out of everything we use 95 percent, at home and elsewhere, is foreign-made, including the toothpick on our tables, then there is a problem somewhere. The country is being held captive to its peril. Where does the buck fall? Of course on our education system, personal attitudes and Government! Our Government can take a leading role in the change process. We need such transformative education, which involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions, a shift of consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world. Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our visions of alternative approaches to living.

One Asian leader is quoted as having said that “Notice that in African Countries, Education is a Disaster …………………………………..he further said the “any society that is full with superstition, religious indoctrination, lack of education and nationalism is always ridden with violence.”

Painful as it may but this is a reality for Africa and for Zambia.

Lessons from India.

India today is able to transform anything transformable, but this was not possible before independence. The question is what did India as a Nation and a people do to attain such heights?

India attained its political independence from Britain in 1947 and immediately took it upon themselves to mould their educational system to suit the needs of the nation in a fast changing era. What they did was to start reorienting the entire system of education. The content of learning whose emphasis had been mainly of a general and theoretical nature had to be given a practical emphasis. The country needed a large number of technicians, engineers, doctors, scientists and other skilled workers who could impart a new shape to various things in the developing economy of the country, which had been languishing under colonial exploitation for about two centuries.

What did India Do?

India went ahead to reform and transform the primary and secondary education system. The present education system in India is made of (a) primary education, (b) secondary education, (c) senior secondary education and (d) higher education. Elementary education consists of eight years of education. Secondary and senior secondary education is taken in four years to reach what is referred to as the 12th standard or “A” levels. Higher education in India starts after passing the higher secondary education or the 12th standard and depending on the stream of the degree, completing a degree in India can take three to five years. Masters courses or programs are generally of two to three years of duration.

Higher Education: Immediate post- independence

In what was dubbed as the Radhakrishnan Committee report, its Chairman, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was quoted to have said that “Universities are the seats of higher learning from where the society gets its leaders in sciences, arts and various other fields of national life, he is further recited saying that “If India is to confront the confusion of our times, she must turn for guidance, not to those who are lost in the mere exigencies of the passing hour, but to her men of science, to her poets and artists, to her discoverers and inventors. These intellectual pioneers of civilization are to be found and trained in universities, which are the sanctuaries of the inner life of the nation.” ………… The aim and purpose of higher education is to provide an integrated and coherent picture of the creation. It is through education that we must obtain a sense of perspective, a synoptic vision and a coordinated view of the different items of knowledge. Education is not knowledge or information. It is, in fact, a training of mind and a training of spirit; it should aim at imparting both knowledge and wisdom. University education in India must aim at providing the knowledge and wisdom, which are necessary attributes of a fuller personality. Unfortunately, universities in this country have been working under severe limitations and hence suffer from all possible ills, which would vitiate

The setting up of the Radhakrishnan Commission in 1948 was a major landmark for enunciating the goals and objectives of higher education in Independent India. This Commission recommended as follows:

  1. The aim of education must be to awaken and promote the innate ability of a person and to train him/her for development of self and democratic attitudes. Thus, the purpose of education is to acquaint an individual with his/her cultural heritage and to impart professional and vocational training.
  2. The Commission emphasized the role of post-graduate education, training and research for the advancement of knowledge.
  3. It stressed the university’s role in studying agriculture in an agrarian economy like India and suggested that special attention should be paid to the development of higher education in rural areas. It also emphasized that the scientific and technical base of the education system should be strengthened.
  4. Realizing the importance of the medium of instruction, the Commission recommended that English as a medium of instruction in higher education should be replaced as early as possible by an Indian language.
  5. A university degree should not be required for government administrative services. Special State examination for recruitment to various State services should be organized. 6. Realizing the deficiencies of the examination system and the magnitude of the wastage, the Commission recommended a thorough study of the scientific methods of educational testing and appraisal.

Post independent India saw considerable changes in the political, social and economic structure of the country putting greater responsibilities and tasks before the universities to provide leadership, guidance and qualified personnel in various fields of national reconstruction. The academic problems assumed new shapes and universities had wider conception of duties and responsibilities before them. They had to meet a growing demand for every type of higher learning- literary and scientific, technical and professional. It began to be realized that universities in an independent India must play a fuller role of nation- building and enable the country to attain freedom from want, disease and ignorance in the shortest possible time, by the application of the knowledge of science and technology in the development in various directions (MOE 1949).

In years that follow years, several Commissions and Committees were also appointed by the government for educational restructure and changes in the system of higher education in India.

Where to Zambia?

Are our Universities Public and private the seats of higher learning from where the society gets its leaders in sciences, arts and various other fields of national life? Such is a question that anyone of us should be able to answer.

What am I advocating for, is a question of so many of your readership? But even before I say anything I would equally pose a counter question, are we satisfied with the levels of our development a contribution and sustainability of our education system? Yes, we as a national have subscribed to Education for all and our government is doing everything to ensure that it offers free education for all up to secondary school.

Given this background the other question could be, what are the fruits of our education, are we able to charge of our everyday lives or the type of education results in being consumption oriented and not creators of wealth?

Indian today is able to produce anything in the world and countries which have challenged their colonial masters are ones who have said no to the status quo. Such countries like Iran, North Korea, Brazil, India, China, Singapore, Malaysia. The list is endless.

Some people may urge and pointing at the massive and well paved roads. But who is behind these, what of the perennial food and mouth disease, the low levels at Kariba Power generating plant (when we watched water running to sea), Many woes in which the education system would risen to the occasion and served the day.

We will soon be celebrating 55 years of independence and a stern reminder to all us in the academic world what is contribution to changing the face of country.

We have a lot of lessons to learn from India, the country whose leadership (political, economic and social) took the bull by its horn, realizing her weaken has been able to drive the country to superpower status.

This country will NEVER be developed, by Indians, Chinese, Britons, Americans, South Africans or anyone else BUT ourselves. The relationship with all of these and others is purely business. If there is no profit you won’t see them around. The will pack and vamoose.

The greatest enemy we have is our Education System which has failed to deal with the many challenges that this country has. Unless and until we work or it we will continue wallowing in the same conditions. We need to overhaul our entire education and reconsider the various scholarships given to Zambian students which are completely tailored and dictated to the needs of givers and not the recipient country, if our education system cannot offer solution it then is defunct.

Lastly congratulation to Government through Levy Mwanawasa Medical University (LMMU) for recruiting 469 medical students. It a first of its kind, we hope we are not going to see the same systematic reduction of the numbers which has existed at other public universities since independence. Let these gallant young and women come and serve this nation.



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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31