Investing in people, prosperity and peace: Part Three …end-of-era reflections on education

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THANKFULLY today, the African Union (AU) has a vision of ‘an integrated, peaceful, prosperous Africa, driven by its own people to take its rightful place in the global community and the knowledge economy’.
This vision is predicated on the development of the continent’s human resources.
In its ‘Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education (2006 – 2015)’, the AU recognises the importance of Technical and Vacational Education and Training (TVET) as a means of empowering individuals to take control of their lives and recommends, therefore, the integration of vocational training into the general education system.
The AU also recognises that vast numbers of young people are outside formal school system and, consequently, recommends the integration of non-formal learning methodologies and literacy programmes into national TVET programmes.
I also wish to re-iterate that one of the greatest intangible gains of education is peace in all its forms.
It is by no accident that in spite of the suffering as a result of sanctions and indeed in spite of political polarisation our people have been subjected to, none of them chose the path of violence.
And this confirms that education translates into civilisation.
Hence the axiom that: Peace is a universal desideratum, can never be more truer than now.
Peace is undoubtedly a precondition for human development and the safety of the people.
Whether we consider war and peace as part of a historical process, the primary causes of conflict are closely related to the question of sustainable development, or better stated, sustainable un-development.
Examples of current global trends which present formidable challenges to the achievement of both peace and sustainability include; lack of ease of access to known natural resource base, mounting pressure on diminishing access to land, disputed jurisdiction over territorial areas containing strategic resources, the destabilising impact of widespread poverty, increasing social inequality and a rising flow of migrants fleeing war, famine and other vestiges of political, social and economic breakdown.
Above all these causes of war, is ignorance
The price that war exacts on the illiterate is unequivocal.
Young people who are supposed to go to school go to the war and have their entire psyches destroyed by war.
The story of child soldiers in Africa is perhaps one of the biggest curses of Africa.
When there is no peace, there is no prosperity, there is no infrastructure development; in short, there is no human development.
There is no question that armed conflicts destroy natural resources, infrastructure and human lives.
The establishment of peace permits the recuperation of stable conditions for development and liberates resources for needed investments.
And yet sustainable development, if achieved, contributes decisively to the dissipation, if not the complete elimination of several of the primary causes of conflict.
If a sustainable development strategy has been successful in terms of the reduction of poverty, the levelling of social inequalities and the optimum allocation of scarce resources, then certainly many of the situations that exacerbate conflict between different groups, communities and nationalities would be avoided.
Improving the conditions for social justice, in particular, is fundamental to the promotion of peace in a variety of contexts throughout the world.
In the final analysis for us (Zimbabwe), our education has taught us to struggle together as a people. For us ‘people’ refers to something broader than biological identity. Its full meaning is embedded in our philosophy of hunhu/ubuntu/botho.
Hunhu/ubuntu/botho means being, and being means ‘with others’.
As you may be aware, relationships are the cornerstones of African culture.
To be human is to belong.
As one of our African philosophers puts it hunhu/ubuntu/botho “is something to be achieved, not given simply because one is born of human seed.”
This implies a human being is intrinsically a communal being embedded in a context of social relationships with fellow beings, which idea of the human society values collective interests above individual appetites.
For us, ‘people’ are not a mere association of individual persons pursuing different personal interests, but a group of persons linked by interpersonal bonds (biological, social, economic and political) defined primarily by common interests, goals and values enshrined in our shared culture.
I can’t agree more with his Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa when he concluded his inauguration speech thus: “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
We must stress the fact that we have now come of age to know investment in our people is the most sustainable of all investments, and that people are responsible for peace, which peace is the sine qua non for prosperity and development.

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