BY LEARNMORE NYAMUDZANGA
ON July 29, 2021, the 2021 mid-term budget review was presented at the time the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) was concluding its two-day Global Education Summit (GSE) on Financing GPE (2021-2025).
The Global Partnership for Education empowers lower-income countries to lead the development and implementation of their own education strategies and policies to achieve education results. The summit managed to raise US$4 billion from donors for the GPE and was being co-hosted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London.
World leaders and delegates gathered in person and online for the summit which took place at a critical time as the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted education for millions of young people, especially girls. Donors raised US$4 billion to the GPE, putting a path to a successful raise of at least US$5 billion by 2025.
The GPE partner countries (including Zimbabwe) endorsed the Kenyatta declaration committing nearly US$200 Billion in education spending. The partners mobilised more than US$1 billion in innovating financing and launched new public-private partnerships to improve data and get more girls in school. A fully-funded GPE will help get 88 million more children in school and enable 175 million children to learn.
In as muchas donor funding is appreciated, it creates a dependency syndrome, promotes begging mentality, and is neither sustainable nor predictable. Access to education needs to be delivered consistently and sustainably.
Covid-19 taught us a lesson when we saw the perennial donors reducing their funding to developing countries. Tax is the sustainable source of finance for public education, and that is why we are calling for long-overdue wealth taxes, curbing of illicit financial flows, fair taxing rights, and fair international tax architecture.
As the situation in the education sector is deteriorating, while whooping budget surpluses, this week I thought of sharing the 10 Abidjan overarching principles.
In February 2019, the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and regulate private involvement in education were adopted in Côte d’Ivoire. These principles are as follows: The States must:
Respect, protect, and fulfil the right to education of everyone within their jurisdiction in accordance with the rights to equality and non-discrimination;
Provide free, public education of the highest attainable quality to everyone within their jurisdiction as effectively and expeditiously as possible, to the maximum of their available resources;
Respect the liberty of parents or legal guardians to choose for their children an educational institution other than a public educational institution, and the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct private educational institutions, subject always to the requirement that such private educational institutions conform to standards established by the State in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law;
Take all effective measures, including particularly, the adoption and enforcement of effective regulatory measures, to ensure the realisation of the right to education where private actors are involved in the provision of education;
Prioritise the funding and provision of free, quality, public education, and may only fund eligible private instructional educational institutions, whether directly or indirectly, including through tax deductions, of land concessions, international assistance and cooperation, or other forms of indirect support, if they comply with applicable human rights laws and standards and strictly observe all substantive, procedural, and operational requirements;
Ensure that where international assistance and cooperation is provided, it must reinforce the building of free, quality, public education systems, and refrain from supporting, directly or indirectly, private educational institutions in a manner that is inconsistent with human rights;
Put in place adequate mechanisms to ensure they are accountable for their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil the right to education, including their obligations in the context of the involvement of private actors in education;
Regularly monitor compliance of public and private institutions with the right to education and ensure all public policies and practices related to this right comply with human rights principles;
Ensure access to an effective remedy for violations of the right to education and for any human rights abuses by a private actor involved in education; and
Guarantee the effective implementation of these Guiding Principles by all appropriate means, including where necessary by adopting and enforcing the required legal and budgetary reforms.
If the above is to be achieved in Zimbabwe, political will and improved domestic revenue mobilisation is required. I know that Section 75 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe speaks of the right to education. Sustainable development goal number four (SDG4) seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The National Development Strategy (NDS1) speaks of access and strategies to improve quality, equitable and inclusive education among others. Our Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) from 2016 to 2020 and the Successor ESSP being developed seek to make sure that the needs and aspirations of the nation are addressed effectively and efficiently.
In addition, Zimbabwe considers access to a high quality and relevant education for all children, as a basic right that lay the foundations underpinning the cultural, social, economic, and democratic growth of our nation.
Well, I must appreciate that when it comes to policies, blueprints, and strategies, we are doing great. Our greatest challenge is implementation. Do we see quality education? Are we proud of our education sector? If not, where are we missing it?
When it comes to the recent budget review, I am speechless “There is need to stay the course. Therefore, there are no policy changes as I believe the existing policies are achieving the desired results and are still adequate. We only need to stay the course and any substantial policy changes will be introduced through the 2022 National Budget Statement,” Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube said.
I leave it to you citizens. Do you think the education sector is fine and that the existing policies will be achieving the desired results and are still adequate?
Covid -19 exacerbated poverty and inequality. The said stability in terms of numbers and figures is still fragile. Zimbabwe is highly informal, estimated at 70% and contributing 50% of Gross Domestic Product. Sometimes these official figures may be misleading. The so-called stability is not improving general citizens’ life.
Figures are totally divorced from reality. Right now, the black-market rate is running away from the official rates and is dominating the streets. The education sector is not in a good state.
We long to see ZW$9,8 billion (US$114,4 million) and ZW$570 million (US$6,6 million) budget surplus during the first and second quarter of 2021 respectively, transforming the education sector.
According to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef): Government education spending has significantly shrunk from an average of US$832 million over the period 2013 – 2016 to US$397 million in 2020, which is lower than our regional comparators and the Dakar Education for All target.
The capital budget underperformed by an average of 63% over the period 2017-2019, which is evidence of weak budget execution. There is a general decline in development partner support to education, with increased financing needs as a result of the promulgation of the Education Amendment Act.
Let us upscale education spending to recommended global thresholds, through properly planning, prioritisation, improving utilisation of the available resources and improving budget execution, curbing illicit financial flows, and introducing wealth tax to raise more revenue at the same time reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.
We need a sustainable education sector financing mechanism, with more bias to innovative domestic financing sources. Make our taxes more progressive, providing quality public services to encourage tax compliance. We need to improve our tax to GDP ratio which is falling even if we are meeting revenue targets. Teachers need to be equipped and paid a living wage if we are to improve the quality of our education.
Nyamudzanga is an Independent Economist, Tax consultant, ZES member, and holder of a Master’s in Tax Administration and Tax Policy. Email: email@example.com. These weekly New Perspectives articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators in Zimbabwe. — firstname.lastname@example.org and mobile:+263 772 382 852.