What is required to achieve middle-income status by 2030?


THE launch of the Zimbabwe National Critical Skills Audit Programme raises serious fundamental issues about the country’s readiness to seize and run with our President Emmerson ‘ED’ Mnangagwa’s Vision2030.
An 80 percent skills deficit in agriculture literally sends all agricultural training institutions to the drawing board.
How do we retool and re-skill the thousands who make up the touted 94 percent literate population for the country to realise the vision?
In earlier articles, I have discussed the role of language in the teaching of the sciences, arguing for the use of local languages.
Scientific knowledge must be turned into know-how.
Know-how is what creates goods and services.
Goods and services are what we market to generate much-needed foreign currency to retool and develop our economy.
Are our teachers and lecturers ready to impart knowledge in local languages?
Or for those insisting on ‘O’-Level English, do we have the time for all those who must rewrite the English language papers?
The President has defined the tools for shaping the modernisation and industrialisation of Zimbabwe.
He is championing policies that set a science and technology-led development path.
The President and his Government have fully embraced a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-led development agenda to achieve middle-income status by 2030.
This ambitious agenda is not the stuff of science fiction, neither is it futuristic.
Our President’s vision for a transformed economy is most urgent.
In this piece, we shall attempt to highlight some of the actions that must be pursued to transform the vision into reality.
First is the President’s mantra, that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business.’ Government is taking all necessary steps to invite prospective investors to explore business opportunities in Zimbabwe.
The laws are being aligned to facilitate ease of doing business.
The response of local and international business to date can best be described as overwhelming.
While not all proposals will translate into investments, we note that Government has moved quickly and with determination to conclude and launch major infrastructural projects in mining, energy and transport.
In agriculture the ‘Command’ model has already made tremendous progress in anchoring food security and generating surpluses that are contributing to increased industrial capacity utilisation.
Command maize, tobacco, soya bean and cotton are Government-initiated programmes with full participation of private sector companies in the seed, fertiliser, chemicals and processing sectors, among others.
The Command Livestock Programme mobilises the livestock sector which is largely anchored in the southern and western provinces.
Boosting soya bean production will enhance livestock feed production, further accelerating value addition initiatives in the leather, meat and related industries.
It is correct to state that the new dispensation, led by President Mnangagwa, has already set in motion the mechanisms to develop Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy by 2030.
The success of all economic initiatives depends on the quality of the people involved at all levels; their moral fibre, ideological orientation, patriotism, educational qualifications, technical skills base and motivation.
All these factors constitute the human factor content of the development actors and will determine how hard they push the wheels of development and in which direction.
Corruption is the key symptom of human factor decay and rot.
And this is where our President has launched the key battle against the scourge of corruption.
The setting up of special courts to expedite corruption trials is a key element in the war against corruption.
If corruption is not curbed, the prospects of a middle-income economy by 2030 are dim.
But as an educationist, I will revisit some of the key issues that must be addressed in the education sector to ensure that Zimbabwe develops into a middle-income economy by 2030.
Again, it all revolves on skills development.
Education curriculum reforms must be accelerated with a clear vision of what the system must produce — a scientifically literate society endowed with a wide range of hands-on skills and competencies in the different economic sectors.
In the immediate future, the recently completed skills audit will provide guidance as to which areas need urgent attention.
We will need to do a Zimbabwe Integrated National Teacher Education Course (ZINTEC)-type programme such as the one used to increase the number of teachers soon after independence in 1980.
In the agricultural sector, the curriculum of colleges and vocational training centres will need to be re-oriented to provide a strong dose of practical hands-on experience.
Agricultural education must move beyond cosmetic window dressing practical exercises for purposes of awarding otherwise meaningless paper qualifications in the form of certificates, diplomas and degrees.
We shall discuss the need for massive retraining to put agriculture back on track in a later article.
The school curriculum is already under review.
It needs to be infused with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content.
All necessary steps must be taken to demystify science by presenting it as knowledge about our natural surroundings and how nature works.
Bodies of knowledge which constitute what are traditionally named as biology, chemistry and physics in school science must be introduced to children right from early childhood stages.
That is why we need to use our local languages to teach sciences as argued in earlier articles.
The scientists and technical personnel to drive the 2030 agenda must be trained and deployed now. The work culture and ethic of current personnel at different levels must be improved for greater effectiveness.
The administrators and management personnel at various levels must be trained now.
Change management consultants and trainers must be engaged now.
We are looking at just over 10 years to 2030!
This means we must overhaul our theory-based curricula and give them a distinctly practical orientation.
This does not apply to the sciences only but to all other disciplines that contribute to the smooth running of a modern vibrant economy.
By launching the National Geospatial Space Agency and National Skills Audit, Government has provided a framework for various sectors in the public and private sector to put in place systems and processes that will transform Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy in the next 12 years.
We have prided ourselves as having a highly ‘educated’ labour force with a high literacy rate of 94 percent.
This literate labour force needs to be re-tooled with skills that go way beyond mere ability to read and write in English.
Our workforce needs to acquire practical skills and know-how to carry out various tasks in the economy.
In all our efforts to educate our population, the greatest threat continues to be the diploma disease. This is manifested by the insatiable desire by Zimbabweans to acquire academic paper qualifications as opposed to practical skills.
They say if you acquire a higher qualifications, you gain two things.
The first is that you earn more money, which is everyone’s desire.
The second and more sinister is that the more ‘educated’ you are, the less you have to physically exert yourself.
As a throwback from colonial times, back-breaking manual work was left for the least educated. Unfortunately, this also included agricultural operations.
So, we have a situation where Africans viewed education as a liberation from undertaking agricultural chores.
While it is true that volumes have been written on agriculture, no agricultural produce has ever come without physical effort, whether it be crops or livestock.
The naked truth is that the more educated Zimbabweans become, the less physically involved they become in agricultural operations.
Who will strengthen the country’s economic backbone, agriculture, if we all shun hard work?
We have the example of agricultural extension workers (varimisi/abalimisi) in Zimbabwe.
The least qualified had certificates from Mlezu Agricultural College or Chibero, among others. These extension workers went around on foot or bicycle visiting and teaching farmers.
They were effective.
Above them were those with diplomas from Chibero and Gwebi. In olden days, they were referred to as Land Development Officers (LDOs).
The LDOs had a higher status and supervised those below them.
They did not spend time visiting farmers.
Later came the graduates with degrees. Again their contact with farmers on the ground was minimal as they spent more time in offices and official meetings.
Even later a call was made that all those with certificates should upgrade to diplomas.
Those who did expected to do less field work such as visiting and teaching farmers. So, the more educated, the less work one does!
Extension officers with first degrees went for postgraduate degree training fully expecting to be relieved of frequent field visits upon graduation.
This means the more educated the extension officer is, the less contact with farmers. The question then is: Who is providing technical and advisory support to the farmers. So how are farmers’ skills sharpened and improved?
Yes, there are other factors but given the above scenario, is it any wonder Zimbabwe’s agricultural productivity is well below expectations?
Investment in agricultural education appear to be inversely proportional to the technical services availed to farmers!
How will the above scenario affect Vision 2030?
The above scenario can be repeated in other spheres of the Zimbabwean economy.
There has been such a rush for higher degrees to the extent Zimbabwe is a lucrative market for those selling bogus degrees.
The tragedy is that those acquiring the higher degrees expect to do less work and to earn more money. How then do we realise Vision 2030?
We shall further explore these contradictions as we look at how Zimbabwe can realise our President’s Vision 2030 in the next instalment of this series. The real struggle lies ahead!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here