guest column: LEARNMORE ZUZE
No one could have captured it well than a frustrated old man at last week’s University of Zimbabwe graduation ceremony, who said: “It is the greatest heartbreak to go through four painstaking years selling cattle to send through a child to university and thereafter struggle again to buy them something, as debasing as an undergarment because they cannot afford.”
It was quite an emotional outpour. Whether one is political or apolitical, it is undeniable; the government has rendered education useless. In the last six or seven years, the many graduation ceremonies around the country’s institutions of higher learning have become nothing, but conveyor belts churning out talented brains into the streets.
It is shocking to think of brilliant brains lying idle because of a failed system of governance. We have a system that does not pause to think of the suffering majority. A system that gives no regard whatsoever to the catastrophe in this once-prosperous nation. Technically speaking, the many universities have been ironically turned into institutions that fuel the already high unemployment rate.
It is sad that, of the past 36 years, the last 16 have virtually obliterated the little there was to yearn for of the Zimbabwean education system. To add salt to injury, we have a government that likes to go to town about Zimbabwe’s literacy rate being among the highest in Africa, but surely people do not live on literacy. In fact, it is degrading when literacy has to be accompanied by poverty, as is the Zimbabwean case. It is never easy when university graduates have to be seen standing behind vegetable stalls in a country where government makes a name for massive corruption, gobbling millions of dollars.
What really irks about the Zimbabwean situation is the indifference of those governing this country to the agony of the generality of Zimbabweans. The unrelenting economic crisis has seen a whopping 5 000 companies shutting down and over
80 000 people losing their jobs, yet the Zanu PF-led government has not seen the urgency in it. It is even pointless talking about the promised 2,2 million jobs as it becomes clear with only a year to go to the next elections that Zanu PF threw sand in the electorate’s eyes.
A host of other electoral promises to the masses — included 250 000 low-income housing units, 310 public schools and 300 clinics — were made, but it is apparent this was mere talk; the reality is the unrelenting poverty Zimbabweans live with daily. Recent reports indicate that more than 40 000 graduates from universities and other tertiary institutions have resorted to vending to eke out a living and this does not, in the slightest, prick the government’s conscience.
The crisis in this country becomes more defined when Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa puts it in the open that at least 70% of the country’s 13 million people are living in poverty. There is absolutely no distinction between those who have put in years of study towards attaining an education and those who haven’t. The government must admit that its policies have led us into this economic abyss we find ourselves in.
When he launched the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in Harare, late in September, Chinamasa admitted that the effects of the country’s economic crisis were mostly felt in the social sectors, where thousands continue to lose their jobs and children also continue dropping out of school.
Against this background, we have an elite ruling class, whose children are treated to the best foreign, usually “imperialist”, schools and have access to the best medical healthcare, while presiding over a country with clinics and hospitals lacking basic medical drugs.
Surely, there should be some pride in governing a healthy and well-fed people, but it boggles the mind how, honestly, our rulers go to sleep when children are dying from treatable diseases and, worse, when engineers, lawyers and chemists are scrounging for a living owing to their mode of governance.
Thousands of Zimbabwean graduates have trooped to foreign lands where they have taken up anything that makes them survive, yet the government even has the temerity to talk of “brain drain”. People do not send their children to school for the sake of it neither are they charmed by literacy rate statistics: People need to survive and that is government’s role to ensure a decent living for its people. It’s not about power and pontificating at public galleries, as it is about delivering on electoral promises. There is very little to expect from a government that has dismally failed to live up to expectations of its promises.
Never had it been seen in Zimbabwean history that graduands demonstrate on the grand day, but we all saw it last week. It can only point to the fact that the centre cannot hold. Please bring back the decency that comes with education.
Learnmore Zuze writes in his own capacity. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org