By Takudzwanashe Mundenga
Every year when the Zimbabwe School Examination Council (ZIMSEC) release its top 100 list of best schools according to pass rate, we ululate and whistle because the school our children attends is listed on top or that one in the vicinity. However we do not have the temerity to inquire whether the 100% pass rate in Advanced Level means 10 points and above for every students or it’s just a blur range between 2 – 8 points in two or more subjects. It might as well be a chain of “C” grades for Ordinary Level students. Passing by a slight margin does not give us the best pupil instead it gives us the number of pupil who either passed by the grace of God or amnesty of the Examination Board. This writer is one of those people who admit that our education system is flawed as long as it does not focus on the nitty-gritties that cater for the economy.
It is indeed disheartening to learn that after passing the ZIMSEC Ordinary or Advanced Level with flying colours, a particular individual in our country still lacks the stamina to participate in the employment sector. There are totally no suitable skills acquired at such levels. The Ordinary Level curriculum specializes in generalizing studies. For instance, soap and margarine production were removed from the Integrated Science syllabus for reasons not known.
To make matters worse, they left the four-stroke engine maintenance among the basics. Why substituting manufacturing with maintenance? Are they not both critical in resuscitating the economy that is already on its knees? With Zimbabwe recording 75 company closure and over 9000 job losses last year, don’t you think we are verging towards a moribund economy? I often have such fears. Our economy holds more than 70% unemployment rate meaning to say, the majority of Zimbabweans earn a living through the informal sector which some economists refer to as “disguised employment”, therefore production is necessary at any level. It is pathetic that someone graduates from high school without any entrepreneurial or production skill.
There are too many generalists than specialists targeting or occupying the employment sector in our country today. The reason being our educational curriculum is not much of accommodating many specialists. Yes we can boast that we have the best education in Africa if not the world, but we are not investing in those skills that stimulate innovation. Zimbabwe has to move from an educated country to and educated economy. The credentials competition that we now have at workplaces is a by-product of the flaws in our education system. Credential competition is a tendency of prospective workers to acquire better educational credentials in order to be more competitive in the job market.
So many graduates that are churned out of the universities every year aiming to grab lucrative jobs on the labour market oft-times find themselves spending a month of Sundays searching for elusive opportunities. It’s basically because they do not know much about manufacturing but maintenance. Many of them are unemployed and wondering in our streets, while some either resort to vending or to touting. One can simply spot that our education is not compatible with our industrial requirements.
In a story published by the Zimbabwe Mail on 12 August 2014, the Great Zimbabwe University Vice Chancellor, Professor Rungano Zvobgo speaking at a marketer’s luncheon in Harare organised by the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe said graduates coming out of universities and colleges were half-baked. “The worry of industry today is the unemployability of university and college graduates that are churned out every year. The challenge is brought about mostly by the yawning gap that lies between theory and practice in the Zimbabwean education system,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Godfrey Gandawa once admitted it in Parliament while responding to Mberengwa East legislator, Makhosini Hlongwane who had asked if Zimbabwe was producing graduates who were relevant to the economy and industry. “It is true that the graduates that are coming from our institutions of higher learning are lacking in certain skills,” Gandawa said. To top it, there are particular degree programmes offered at University of Zimbabwe that are completed without work related learning attachment giving graduates are torrid time to cope with the industrial environment.
It’s a sad awakening that most universities are not providing specialist courses to enhance employability of graduates; however they overspill with a bunch of half-baked undergraduates who will require further training in the labour sector. This is the very motive why most companies are leaving them for 4 or more year experienced personnel. Companies that maximize profits try by all means to cut the expenses of training staff; hence they find it easy to employ someone who already have the skill.
As of recent, the government is on a transition of making mining the backbone of the economy from agriculture. There are some attention-grabbing clusters in the results-based management economic blueprint, popularly-known as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET). According to a report by Partnership Africa Canada in 2014, Zimbabwe lost more than $770 million between 2008 and 2012 through under-valuation.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance suggested that if Zimbabwe was able to cut and polish its own diamonds before exporting them she would create additional $8 billion in revenue and 200 000 jobs in the processing industry. I guess everyone would agree with me that we direly need to introduce such courses that promote beneficiation and value addition such as diamond cutting and jewelry manufacturing.
From the ongoing deduction, it is crystal clear that Zimbabwe as a nation has to revisit its education system in a bid to yield the best out of it. Zimbabweans are the only people who possess the genuine spirit to rebuild their own nation not the Americans or the British or the Chinese. You can only be patriotic to your own country. Like what Ghana’s founding President Kwame Nkrumah meant when he said, “We neither face East nor West; but we face Forward.” Therefore we call upon the Ministry or Primary and Secondary Education and the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education to conduct survey studies as well as assimilating ideas from multiple stakeholders on how best can we tailor our education system for the development of the nation.
Takudzwanashe Mundenga is an undergraduate of Midlands State University, studying a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies Honours Degree. For feedback and comments please feel free to write him on firstname.lastname@example.org