Let’s use education wisely
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 The president must also provide the country in question a 60-day warning if its preferences are to be withdrawn.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.