A CONSENSUS developed at Independence that education, health and a clean water supply were key development policies for two decades, but implementation has since weakened.
Primary education has been relatively successful, reaching 96% of the population. However, the quality has deteriorated from a 72% pass rate in the 1980s-1990s to about 37% pass rate at the Grade 7 examinations.
Large scale secondary enrolment was achieved, enabling more than 60% to reach this level: one result is that in 2021, 60% of the population enjoyed two years of secondary education, up from 4% before Independence. However, secondary enrolment has now fallen to 49%.
Moreover, there is high dissatisfaction with the content and quality of secondary education, which is seen as placing inadequate emphasis on agriculture and technical-vocational education and training, TVET.
Changes were made in the 1980s to these subjects but they looked at family rather than agricultural and industrial training transformation. Farming now involves more than two million farmers, most of whom have not had the advantages of modern agricultural training and equipment.
Manufacturing industries have shrunk considerably, although export of raw minerals has increased. Training for both agricultural and manufacturing industries has remained at the pre-Independence content and quality whereas regional and international training and experience have moved forward spectacularly.
Primary health facilities have fortunately continued for vaccination, but have stalled because of the lack of medicines in low income institutions.
Pregnant women can no longer afford modern birth facilities, leading to a higher rate of birth problems. It has been difficult to maintain the clean water supply programme. It is difficult to obtain a clean water supply even in the capital city.
It is absolutely essential to re-establish and maintain the modest State subsidies to low income communities, particularly rural areas, for local schools, clinics and water systems. In the first two decades, schools, clinics and water systems were provided with construction, textbooks and medicament subsidies, amounting to about 5% of the State budget.
These were totally removed as a result of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap), leading to the collapse of investment in these institutions. In the 1980s-1990s such subsidies attracted further investment by the community, the diaspora, churches and donors.
It was possible for communities to construct tens of thousands of primary and secondary schools, and thousands of rural clinics. Such construction was no longer possible over the last two decades, when all State subsidies, whether for construction or for administration, were removed.
As a result, 90% of the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, MPSE, budget was soon utilised for salaries, with little left for equipment, textbook and educational materials, and supervision, for example.
Thus an efficient education system became an inefficient. These modest community subsidies for education, health and water supply were approved by Parliament and should be re-instated with important impacts on the availability and quality of these institutions.
They will impact on national unity and satisfaction, as well as increase political support. Revival of the educational, health, water and infrastructure to the 1980s-1990s levels is one important aim. However, it is not enough as so much has changed in the last forty years. One challenge is that the population has doubled, and there has been a large movement from rural to urban areas. There has also been a large movement of population into the diaspora, mainly into South Africa and other regional countries, but also overseas. This has been estimated at over four million, about a quarter million of the population. The compelling need for combined political, developmental and economic development makes it even more urgent to initiate programme and policy reforms as soon as possible.
These reforms should be based not only on the political achievements aimed at. They should also be based on developmental and economic aims and objectives.
These changes should begin before the next national elections in 2023 so that both the ruling party and the opposition grouping can agree on the main principles and time lines, making it possible for a national consensus to be developed as existed in the 1980s and 1990s. For example, to achieve certain economic goals and policies some aspects of educational and training must be included and further developed.
The introduction of professional criteria will make such as agreement possible. It will move the necessary professional decisions away from purely political foundations. Ensuring that the new candidates will combine both political and professional characteristics is absolutely essential.
The two major economic areas for development are agriculture and manufacturing, which require ambitious further development. What developmental areas are necessary to achieve growth in these two areas? What specific focus, national, provincial, local and institutional is needed? There were few subsidies for economic development in the past. Instead it was assumed that the private sector would be responsible for such development. The Zimbabwean private sector was almost totally controlled by the European population, unable and unwilling to support rival African competitors.
The State needs to adjust its programmes and policies to enable investment and evaluation of economic development, both of the formal and informal economy. The State is providing more than 60% of the formal economy jobs, and desperately requires upgraded infrastructure, training and markets. Infrastructure has been thoroughly neglected for almost twenty years. Road maintenance has begun over the last two years. The fact that so much progress was observable in such a short period indicates what is possible within a short period.
Agricultural and industrial infrastructure require very serious attention. Lack of infrastructure maintenance and development has proved to be a serious impediment to economic development.
The need for water, electricity and transport infrastructure is clear. Dialogue with different communities would enable better decisions to be made than the present highly centralised system by top politicians.
Dividing the infrastructure and economic development funds by province, and in each province by specific local areas, will enable a fairer expansion.
This will require criteria to be developed regarding which provinces and which areas will be favoured at the various periods of the plan. Employment creation and economic development are key areas. Regional collaboration within the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), Central and East Africa, is one of the most important focal areas for both. Most of the diaspora are in the region.
Zimbabwe’s main import and export areas are in the region. These two should be combined.
Allowing Zimbabwean companies to attract regional investment would be a key economic policy: Zimbabwe has several million hectares of under-utilised agricultural land; Zimbabwe has thousands of empty and half empty industrial buildings. Zimbabwean farmers and manufacturers should, with State support, attempt to attract regional business partners.
The State can offer attractive support systems, such as support for repairs and free land for new construction. It can also offer support finance, such as the one established by the Ethiopian government to match forex investment from its overseas citizens with State loans at very low and attractive interest rates. This has been a very popular programme.
Such a programme for regional companies may be very attractive, as Zimbabwe has a well-developed industrial working force and tradition. Moreover, its pay scales are attractively and comparatively lower than theirs, and can well attract many Zimbabweans who are being exploited within the region to return home to guaranteed employment. Many regional companies have developed not only high level products, but also export markets for them, and this will be very useful and attractive to Zimbabwean partners.
Regional economic integration should be a major programme and policy for the near future. Such a policy would mean targeting the regional neighbour for locations, for example near Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa.
Forming such partnerships can be done over the next couple of years, and could have an enormous impact on the economy. It could also lead to a movement of Zimbabwe’s regional diaspora to home, to combine good quality employment with education and housing.
Zimbabwe has continued the national systems it inherited from the settler-colonial regime.
Much of its development has been heavily influenced by the past. It is now necessary for it to look forward to a new system of political, developmental and economic development.
- Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships; lecturer in polytechnics and universities, teacher trainer in the liberation struggle, UN civil servant, civil servant and minister of primary and secondary education. These weekly New Horizon articles published in the Zimbabwe Independent are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance and Accountancy in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). – firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile: +263 772 382 852.