The year 2010 has come and gone. As 2011 begins, attention for most parents might have already shifted from the festivities to preparations for schoolchildren.
By next week schoolchildren will be streaming back to school.
Zimbabweans, among many African societies, are known for their strong belief in education hence the 92% literacy, the highest in Africa.
Even when the economy was at its lowest, even when the current unemployment rate stands at above 80% children still stream to school to acquire education.
Of course, we can not underestimate the value of education. Malcolm X once said, “Education is an important element in the struggle to help our children and people rediscover their identity and thereby increase self-respect. Education is our passport to the future.”
Education is meant to empower a person to be a right thinker and to make the right decisions.
Most parents’ motivation for investing in education today lies in its ability to open doors for young people, which is an escape from poverty.
Of course having an education doesn’t guarantee an easy life for children, but without it their lives can definitely be more difficult.
The objectives of modern education have shifted from the original and pre-industrial period.
Education was historically meant to provide children with learning opportunities, preparation for wise leadership, personal achievement and opening children’s mind to new ideas.
The idea behind was to nurture an independent, creative, entrepreneurial and innovative mind that would provide leadership, generate new ideas and solutions to human problems.
Children were taught to think not to follow.
This is in contrast to our education system today which is tailor-made to churn out literate and skilled labour to the capital markets.
As parents we are paying dearly to ensure that our children are well polished to provide high quality labour to the job market and not to be ready to create new ideas.
This is usually marketed as career advancement, higher pay, and empowering a graduate’s job search. The final college years are characterised by lessons on how to write impressive resumes and application letters.
It is never about writing project proposals or creating new ideas. Students are taught to submit to their superiors and address them as if they are mini-gods further disempowering and suppressing their ability to challenge traditional ideas.
Perhaps this explains a number of paradoxes such as a 92% literacy rate against more than 80% unemployment rate which has pushed some of our best brains beyond borders.
Labour has always been a slave to the capital markets so it follows the enslavement (job) opportunities but innovative minds see opportunities and invest in them.
We take pride in being addressed by our job titles than our business interests.
Despite the vast availability of natural resources, Africa by and large remains a follower because we don’t invest in education systems that create independence and innovation.
It is true that labour creates an escape from poverty and opportunities to grow ideas, but it is rooted in a capitalist dependence model which doesn’t propel a strong and sustainable local economic development foundation.
Any talk about indigenisation of the economy that does not address the fundamentals of inculcating entrepreneurial, innovation and leadership skills in our education system remains just a shindig for those in power.
China is an example of a country that has successfully embraced an entrepreneurial culture rooted in both family and education system.
The failure to understand this simple concept of development has unfortunately pushed millions of families into dire poverty.
Because of the assumed opportunities associated with education, many families especially in rural communities sell their main sources of livelihoods such as cattle to raise school fees, with the hope that upon completion of their education and securing a job, their children would replenish the cattle.
However, in an environment with an 80% unemployment rate or where the only available job opportunity as a teacher earns you less than the price of a cow, replenishment becomes impossible throwing the family into beggars or recipients of aid.
There are still some parents who invest so much into their children’s education in expensive private schools with the hope of producing the best labour for high paying job opportunities.
Isn’t it logical to send a child to an average school and invest the savings into a family enterprise project that your child will inherit upon completion of his/her education?
A child who inherits an average education plus a family project is better off than one who attains quality education but without a confirmed job.
Of course this may not be an easy concept to fathom given that most of the parents today are products of the same labour-producing education system.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in SA