Class strug­gles and the quest for 2030 Part Two

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

CLASS Strug­gles in Africa, a book by Kwame Nkrumah, is one read I strongly rec­om­mend to those who are strug­gling with the ba­sic fun­da­men­tals of class con­tent and the mean­ing of a new agenda set by the Sec­ond Repub­lic. To many, the com­pre­hen­sion of what a class is, let alone achiev­ing the mid­dle class econ­omy by 2030 is prat­tle. This is ev­i­denced by the reck­lessly thrown around eco­nomic anal­y­sis and po­lit­i­cal sophism trolling so­cial me­dia. The past week is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of how epis­co­pal fa­nat­ics overnight be­come tu­tors of fi­nan­cial in­tel­li­gence, me­chan­i­cal math­e­mat­ics and me­dia dem­a­goguery. I do not blame such a com­mon trend, it’s a symp­tom of sloth and should be re­solved sooner.

This sec­ond in­stall­ment will ar­gue that 2030’s suc­cess is re­viv­ing what was started in 1980 and will be a re­sult of the state’s model of fi­nanc­ing ed­u­ca­tion which has a di­rect im­pact on the econ­omy. To fab­ri­cate my anal­y­sis, I am in­formed by the thoughts of Moeletsi Mbeki’s Ar­chi­tects of Poverty. I find his book rel­e­vant in re­con­fig­ur­ing class strug­gles and how a de­vel­op­ing na­tion con­stantly misses fun­da­men­tals of de­vel­op­ment.

This is Moeletsi Mbeki’s book ti­tle and the ba­sis of his ar­gu­ment in the 196 pages. To de­ter­mine our fail­ure, we need not look out­side and at­tach blame to a fran­tic and frus­trated Cap­i­tal­ists West, the prob­lem lies within us. What hap­pened in the past 37 years was a de­nial that we need the rest of the world, ly­ing to our­selves that postin­de­pen­dence ag­gres­sion de­mys­ti­fies mytholo­gies we had cre­ated about our colo­nial mis­for­tunes. In do­ing so, while im­port­ing in­com­pre­hen­si­ble pol­i­tics of the na­tional purse, mod­elled on the West­min­ster, which many hardly un­der­stood we could not link cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal econ­omy to the fast chang­ing global eco­nom­ics.

We were warped by our suc­cess im­me­di­ately af­ter in­de­pen­dence which was sus­tained by large amounts of for­eign aid, a trickle of pri­vate for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment, pro­vi­sion and ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion to the pre­vi­ously dis­en­fran­chised black peo­ple and the re­turn of a well­trained black ex­iles. There­after, geo-pol­i­tics stripped us off all we sur­vived on. The global frus­tra­tion banned our lead­ing ex­port, as­bestos, wip­ing out the large for­eign ex­change earner, con­se­quently a huge pool of peo­ple lost a well earn­ing job. That is the first demise of a grow­ing black mid­dle class. Not with­stand­ing the im­pact of sanc­tions, an­other great­est em­ployer, the rich Vir­ginia to­bacco farm­ing lost a valu­able mar­ket, the West, which em­barked on dis­cour­ag­ing health cru­sades.

This pushed the gold leaf to be sold to poorer economies such as Latin Amer­ica, Asia, Africa and East­ern Europe re­sult­ing in an acute drop in to­bacco prices and pro­duc­tion. This and many other puni­tive global shifts on Zim­bab­wean ex­ports was cou­pled with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and a rapid re­sponse to the land ques­tion. Our noble land re­dis­tri­bu­tion is one op­por­tune ac­tion, how­ever, we de­layed in cap­i­tal­is­ing it. We re­cently are recog­nis­ing how Com­mand Agri­cul­ture could have been for­tu­nate had we im­ple­mented it in 2000, but any­way, more at­ten­tion on it is a good case study of cre­at­ing the de­sired mid­dle class econ­omy by 2030.

We pri­ori­tised how we dif­fered eth­ni­cally and were left be­hind dur­ing global eco­nomic shifts and mod­ern dis­rup­tions. To rat­ify the prob­lem, we chose to look out­side and place blame and rap­ture re­la­tions whilst leav­ing our kith and kin rav­aging and plun­der­ing the lit­tle avail­able to share. From then, the ex­is­tence of a class less econ­omy best de­scribed us. Cor­rup­tion, self­ish­ness, an ever widen­ing poverty-rich gap, high mor­tal­ity rates, di­lap­i­dated health sys­tem, poor in­fra­struc­ture, cap­i­tal flight, hu­man cap­i­tal de­fi­ciency and thought-pow­er­less­ness be­came syn­ony­mous with Zimbabwe.

This in­forms why the Sec­ond Repub­lic finds im­por­tance in cre­at­ing a mid­dle class econ­omy for the progress of Zimbabwe. This is a project be­ing re­vived from its flop in the early years of in­de­pen­dence. Zimbabwe is go­ing back to the ba­sics — what was ini­tially promised.

Ed­u­ca­tion: The pur­suit of class­ing the dis­en­fran­chised

His­tory tells that for Africans, an ad­vance­ment in so­cial class was the level of one’s ed­u­ca­tion. In the colo­nial era, ed­u­ca­tion was com­pul­sory for white chil­dren and the govern­ment spent 20 times more per white stu­dent than black stu­dents. For black stu­dents, ed­u­ca­tion was pro­vided for by mis­sion­ar­ies and not the govern­ment.

The few black chil­dren who got an ed­u­ca­tion, most of them, upon em­ploy­ment in the pres­ti­gious white col­lar jobs, be­came the mid­dle class. This was a class re­served for the ed­u­cated blacks, Asians and mixed race. They be­came the elite class: those striv­ing and strug­gling to be Eu­ro­pean.

Hi­lar­i­ously is how in­tel­li­gence then, and in some in­stances now is how one’s English ac­cent is more Bri­tish, de­not­ing their level of ed­u­ca­tion. The mid­dle class then was the black Bri­tish ac­cented, to­day, no mat­ter how long you have been in school and the nu­mer­ous de­grees you may flaunt, mid­dle class by ed­u­ca­tion is a mi­rage. Un­for­tu­nately, that mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of ed­u­ca­tion was car­ried into lib­er­ated Zimbabwe yet global forces of at­tach­ing ed­u­ca­tion to fi­nan­cial pros­per­ity have changed.

Even the govern­ment’s 1980 pol­icy of “Growth with eq­uity” which was meant to elim­i­nate the so­cial di­vide cre­ated by the school­ing model then, still fo­cused on de­lim­i­ta­tions of colo­nial ed­u­ca­tion hence a fundi in Ed­u­ca­tion, Fay Chung, said that we did not pro­duce school leavers for the world of work.

The nar­ra­tive of be­ing ed­u­cated and au­to­mat­i­cally mount­ing the so­cial lad­der (mid­dle class cit­i­zens) has eloped. We con­structed our own poverty by not re­mod­elling our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem to be qual­i­ta­tive, but in­stead, al­though im­por­tant as well, made sure that as many peo­ple go to school, al­beit the qual­ity of what they learn be­ing colo­nial and frigid. The ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem we served pro­duced em­ploy­ees; the rea­son why count­less are wait­ing to be hired un­equipped with so­lu­tions to the prob­lem of un­em­ploy­ment.

This was sus­tained by a façade that Zim­bab­weans get em­ployed eas­ily out­side, ig­nor­ing that the spa­ces they are eas­ily em­ployed have a pre­dom­i­nantly “peas­antry cul­ture”. If you think I am men­da­cious, then re­visit the his­tory of Ghana im­me­di­ately af­ter in­de­pen­dence. A clas­sic ex­am­ple, the for­mer Pres­i­dent, Robert Mu­gabe, went to Ghana for em­ploy­ment be­cause Kwame Nkrumah in­vited ed­u­cated Africans then to come and get em­ployed be­cause a ma­jor­ity of his coun­try­men were un­e­d­u­cated.

From ide­al­is­ing to prag­ma­tism

Be­yond that thought line, our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has con­tin­ued to en­rol enor­mous num­bers and grad­u­ates few of ex­tra­or­di­nary em­i­nence. So­lu­tions to res­cue our coun­try sel­dom come from those ed­u­cated within and that has, and is a prob­lem. With only 38 per­cent be­ing skilled grad­u­ates that begs a lot of sta­tis­ti­cal ques­tions on the more than 15 000 who an­nu­ally grad­u­ate.

What is es­sen­tial from now is that state fi­nanc­ing of ed­u­ca­tion, from pri­mary to ter­tiary should in­cen­tivise re­search on chang­ing what is be­ing learnt to foster qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. While univer­sal ed­u­ca­tion is crit­i­cal, it should be dou­bled with the qual­ity that makes Zim­bab­weans not only glob­ally rel­e­vant but skilled enough to be do­mes­tic think tanks.

The rea­son­ing of fi­nanc­ing ed­u­ca­tion now is that by 2030, it would have stim­u­lated a shift­ing cul­ture from rec­om­men­da­tion to so­lu­tion based think­ing. In fact, the World Bank’s Pres­i­dent, Jim Yong Kim, com­ment­ing on the Hu­man Cap­i­tal In­dex men­tioned that global economies are sus­tained by a de­lib­er­ate in­vest­ment and pro­tec­tion of hu­man cap­i­tal and that means fi­nanc­ing ed­u­ca­tion to en­sure qual­ity so that de­vel­op­ment is fa­cil­i­tated by stu­dents of a do­mes­tic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Stu­dents are the next gen­er­a­tion of work­ers and 2030 is an ad­vent of an­other gen­er­a­tion— the mil­len­ni­als.

When govern­ment heav­ily fi­nances ed­u­ca­tion, par­tic­u­larly fo­cus­ing on qual­ity change, it will coil to in­di­vid­u­als who can sus­tain the mid­dle­class. A pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion that is di­verse enough to ac­com­mo­date and nur­ture vary­ing tal­ents and in­vests in its teacher ed­u­ca­tion will pro­duce high school stu­dents whose six years will be spent on grow­ing iden­ti­fied and spe­cific skills that are im­por­tant for sus­tain­ing a mid­dle class econ­omy.

For now, we have been pro­duc­ing aca­demic ro­bots, stu­dents whose pri­or­ity is the num­ber of “As” not what they can do with them. De­lib­er­ate fi­nanc­ing of ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion will in­cen­tivise re­search, in­no­va­tion, cre­ativ­ity and log­i­cally rich thought and man­power. It is at this stage that not only will a mid­dle class be sus­tained, but ideas of go­ing be­yond that level will be cu­rated. A mid­dle class econ­omy is in­evitable with this. Till next week!

Pham­bili ngeZim­babwe

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