Let’s use ed­u­ca­tion wisely

Lesotho Times - - Leader - Mosa ntaote-tsi­etsi

AMID the furore sur­round­ing the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho, Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili fi­nally spoke out as re­ported in this edi­tion.

How­ever, Dr Mo­sisili’s re­marks, in which he urged de­vel­op­ment part­ners not to in­ter­fere in Le­sotho’s in­ter­nal af­fairs, are un­likely to put paid to the con­cerns they raised.

In­stead, they are likely to add to the un­cer­tainty over this na­tion’s fu­ture re­la­tions with Le­sotho’s ma­jor de­vel­op­ment part­ners, the United States and Euro­pean Union (EU).

With the yearly Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC) Board re­assess­ment of Le­sotho loom­ing in De­cem­ber, our el­i­gi­bil­ity for re­ceiv­ing spon­sor­ship for de­vel­op­ment projects con­tin­ues to hang in the bal­ance.

While Dr Mo­sisili con­fi­dently stated that the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) was al­ready in the bag and that “Ba­sotho have noth­ing to worry about”, there still re­main some hur­dles to its re­newal

AGOA, a trade pro­vi­sion that al­lows thou­sands of prod­ucts from African coun­tries to en­ter the US tax-free, is due to ex­pire in Septem­ber. While the US Se­nate has re­cently passed leg­is­la­tion to ex­tend the Act for another 10 years, it still has to go through the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

This time around, how­ever, the Se­nate’s ver­sion of AGOA reau­tho­ri­sa­tion pro­vides in­creased flex­i­bil­ity with and ad­vance warn­ing for a coun­try whose el­i­gi­bil­ity is in ques­tion. In ad­di­tion to an an­nual re­view and re­quest for public com­ment on whether ben­e­fi­ciary coun­tries con­form to the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria, US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama may now ini­ti­ate “out-of-cy­cle” assess­ments. The pres­i­dent must also pro­vide the coun­try in ques­tion a 60-day warn­ing if its pref­er­ences are to be with­drawn. Ad­di­tion­ally, the US gov­ern­ment will have more flex­i­bil­ity in deal­ing with ben­e­fi­ciary coun­tries not meet­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria. The Se­nate leg­is­la­tion pro­vides for the “with­drawal, sus­pen­sion, or lim­i­ta­tion” of duty-free treat­ment. This gives the pres­i­dent a more tar­geted way to pe­nalise vi­o­la­tions.

Dr Mo­sisili also needs to note that the Amer­i­cans’ threats are by no means idle. Last year Swaziland’s AGOA ben­e­fits were re­voked af­ter be­ing given a grace pe­riod of al­most six months to ad­dress the con­cerns the Amer­i­cans raised. Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern to the Amer­i­cans was Swaziland’s use of se­cu­rity forces and ar­bi­trary ar­rests to sti­fle peace­ful demon­stra­tions. The US gov­ern­ment in­ces­santly called on the Swazis to take con­crete steps to ad­dress the con­cerns to no avail.

Swaziland was also not the first coun­try to face such a fate, with the Ivory Coast, Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of the Congo, Guinea, Guinea-bis­sau, Mada­gas­car, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Niger all hav­ing had their priv­i­leges re­scinded (though in some cases re­stored) in the last few years for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

In all the in­stances, one thread was com­mon; mas­sive set­backs for the coun­tries’ economies.

A 2013 pa­per by Takahiro Fuku­n­ishi of the In­sti­tute of De­vel­op­ing Economies stated that the con­se­quences of AGOA re­vo­ca­tion for Mada­gas­car, whose sta­tus was re­voked fol­low­ing a coup in 2009, had a larger im­pact on the econ­omy than the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil that caused it.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Fuku­n­ishi, the re­vo­ca­tion caused ex­ports from Mada­gas­car to the US to fall by around 70 per­cent, caused al­most 30 per­cent of job losses af­ter the coup, and largely in­creased the prob­a­bil­ity of fac­tory shut­downs.

Fur­ther­more, he said, from a for­eign in­vestor’s per­spec­tive, the Mada­gas­car saga high­lights the risk of los­ing the ben­e­fits of lower tar­iffs to the US if a coun­try loses its el­i­gi­bil­ity to AGOA.

“Such a risk can­not be mea­sured but it will cer­tainly be priced,” he omi­nously notes.

It there­fore goes with­out say­ing that gov­ern­ment needs to un­der­stand the tenets of such fa­cil­i­ties as AGOA and MCC by re­spect­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments while also mak­ing the needed re­forms if they want to con­tinue with the duty-free ex­port sta­tus with the US. Dr Mo­sisili must bear in mind that even the un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing pos­si­ble re­vo­ca­tion can have neg­a­tive ef­fects in the in­terim. THERE was a time when all African chil­dren were told that ed­u­ca­tion is the key to suc­cess, that it would solve all their prob­lems of poverty and put an end to the chaos ru­in­ing our world. Dur­ing that time, ev­ery black child did their ut­most to at­tend school and ab­sorb all that the teach­ers were of­fer­ing be­cause by do­ing so, they be­lieved, would make Le­sotho bet­ter, make Nige­ria bet­ter and make Su­dan bet­ter. But this is our re­al­ity. More ed­u­ca­tion made Nige­ria cor­rupt, more ed­u­ca­tion made the peace­ful moun­tain king­dom cor­rupt and more ed­u­ca­tion made Su­dan to go hun­gry. What is it about ed­u­ca­tion that seems to curse the dark plains of Africa?

In our long quest for ed­u­ca­tion we made one mis­take as Africans. Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans made us be­lieve that to see a brighter fu­ture we must learn and we thought that meant open­ing our books to read and read hard. But be­ing ed­u­cated is much more than that. We must learn to un­der­stand that which is writ­ten and make sense of it and turn it into re­al­ity. When Euro­peans en­cour­aged us to learn, we jumped to books with­out first ask­ing them “how must a man learn to be ed­u­cated?”

When the Euro­peans vis­ited Africa, they saw mas­sive po­ten­tial and colonised it. Africans did not care much about the out­side world. To them, there was no world other than their own. As the first set­tlers ar­rived, Africans no­ticed there was a dif­fer­ent world out there.

The for­eign­ers made many Africans want to live like them. Those Africans who set out to get ed­u­ca­tion had a mo­tive, and a dream for a bet­ter Africa, but, upon their re­turn greed had man­i­fested Africans so much that the ed­u­ca­tion was used to ter­rorise Africa. Be­cause ed­u­ca­tion was not com­mon­place in Africa, most of those who be­came ed­u­cated did not help de­velop it. Per­haps it’s not so wrong for one to blame our prob­lems on the colonis­ers be­cause in­deed they too played a role.

In 1956, Shell was granted an ex­plo­ration li­cense in Oloibiri, along the Niger delta in Nige­ria. This dis­cov­ery should have been a game changer for Africa. It is un­de­ni­able that Africa houses some of the world’s most valu­able nat­u­ral re­sources and this dis­cov­ery was the be­gin­ning of an era and history in the mak­ing. Surely Nige­ria should have be­come a first world na­tion from the pro­ceeds of the oil. Alas, 59 years later this great dis­cov­ery has proven to be a curse to Nige­ria.

What hap­pens when ed­u­ca­tion falls into the wrong hands? It de­stroys them! Many Africans sit still and watch the so-called lead­ers and brave men de­stroy the world be­cause there is so lit­tle that they can do. Many good peo­ple in Africa did not re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion be­cause only the few were wor­thy of it. In Le­sotho, only those who danced the most at po­lit­i­cal ral­lies would have their chil­dren granted bur­saries to study over­seas. That re­sulted in many in­com­pe­tent doc­tors and im­proper health ser­vices. We have many econ­o­mists who stud­ied over­seas, but they mis­use the funds be­cause they know noth­ing about im­ple­ment­ing strate­gies that can change Le­sotho.

When put in charge of fi­nances in Le­sotho, most peo­ple do not use the money for good pur­poses but for them­selves. The most im­por­tant as­pects are ig­nored and the rest used for per­sonal gain. Le­sotho has two types of peo­ple, those who are ed­u­cated and those who have stud­ied.

The prob­lem is those who are ed­u­cated are not given a plat­form to lead and aid Le­sotho into a bet­ter tran­si­tion, while those who have sim­ply stud­ied think they are ed­u­cated. As long as we don’t know the dif­fer­ence, we will never be a de­vel­oped coun­try.

There are many doc­tors who strug­gle to di­ag­nose a mi­nor ail­ment like malaria un­til the pa­tient dies. We have nurses who are dis­gusted at the sight of blood and sick peo­ple yet they were the first to be ad­mit­ted into nurs­ing col­leges. Mean­while, those who re­ally were pas­sion­ate about nurs­ing were left out in the cold. Our sys­tem is so cor­rupt that it be­gins at the top and runs down in ev­ery depart­ment. Our ig­no­rance is caus­ing more and more prob­lems. In our cor­rup­tion, ig­no­rant peo­ple are cho­sen and sent over­seas to study. How can ig­no­rant peo­ple lead Le­sotho? Is there still any hope in this sit­u­a­tion? At this point, many Ba­sotho are be­gin­ning to doubt the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion. In­stead of go­ing to ter­tiary schools, many run off to join the armed forces. At least there they know they will be get­ting a guar­an­teed salary ev­ery month. Those who do not get ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion end up re­gret­ting be­cause they won’t have jobs while their peers en­joy monthly salaries.

Join­ing the army and po­lice is so much in fash­ion nowa­days that when new re­cruits are called the whole of Le­sotho gath­ers.

Those with ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion are mocked be­cause they have no jobs and no chance in the army. Even those classy girls from ter­tiary choose to marry sol­diers and po­lice­men be­cause they know their high main­te­nance costs will be cov­ered.

Gone are the days when of­fice guys in suits were the epit­ome of per­fec­tion be­cause now their jobs are not guar­an­teed and the salaries are too low to main­tain a fam­ily. Do­ing things the right way is no longer an op­tion. Be­fore one can ap­ply for a job posted on a news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ment, he must make sure they know who­ever is in the HR depart­ment or else they are wast­ing their last money.

Since our prob­lems started at the very be­gin­ning, when ed­u­ca­tion was first in­tro­duced, then our so­lu­tion will also start there. Politi­cians were too busy ed­u­cat­ing the wrong peo­ple and putting them in charge. If this sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues, Le­sotho will be­come a coun­try of ig­no­rant peo­ple with­out any ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion be­cause it seems like get­ting ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion is sum­mon­ing poverty. This dis­ease is not only at­tack­ing Le­sotho but many African coun­tries. Ev­ery day peo­ple lose their jobs, ev­ery day the econ­omy takes a step down, where will we be to­mor­row? This ed­u­ca­tion we sought so much de­stroyed us, now it must be our sal­va­tion, only we should learn to use it wisely.

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