- The Literacy level of this nation, which in part mirrors the nation’s repertoire of skilled manpower, is an issue of paramount importance if we are to chat the way forward and take a break from the past. Fifty years down the road in post independence Zambia, our literacy level stands at only 61.4% (http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/zambia_statistics.html). Comparatively, the same source indicates literacy rates for Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia as being 91.%, 85.1%, 93% and 76.5% respectively. Note that these are countries that gained independence much later than our selves. In fact, we were instrumental in their liberation from the bastions of British imperialism. What did they do differently?
According to the 2010 Census of Population and Housing National Analytical Report, the gender parity index (GPI) for Zambia stands at 0.91 indicating gross gender inequalities in both rural and urban areas although urban areas showed more equality.
Moreover, the national net primary and secondary school attendance rates were 71.65% and 45.5% respectively. Of those who attended school and were aged 25 years and above, completion rates for primary and secondary schools stood at 47.8% and 37.3% respectively as at the 2010 national census (ibid). For every 1000 pupils enrolled at primary and secondary levels, some 520 and 620 respectively drop out of school. What do they become? Does anybody care? We should. It is little wonder that even as Zambia turns fifty years, we can only boast of 0.2% and 1.8% of our population attaining PhD and Masters Degrees respectively. If we included bachelor’s degree holders who constitute 7.6% of the population, the reality that this bracket of our intelligentsia is shy of 10% of our overall population. With due respect to each level of education represented, certificate and diploma holders between them command 60.2% and 30.2% respectively which is 90.4% of the total population. Like it or not, it is this group that largely drives the Zambian education system which in turn has a bearing on every other aspect of the economy.
Just in case one is in doubt, consider the fact that according to the Percentage Distribution of Population 25 Years and older by Field of Study and Sex as at 2010, some 21.8% of the population was Teacher training. Remember the bulk of this bracket is diploma and certificate. That is the majority. One only wonders what fraction is involved in continuing research of any kind.
I would like to offer that you and I should do something drastic to arrest this retrogressive trend. The starting point is to critically engender a complete overhaul of our educational system and the dispensation of education in a holistic approach. There should be deliberate effort to educate those who are out of school while at the same time ensuring that every Zambian is given the ultimate opportunities to be made not only literate but educated.
Where are we going with such levels of literacy? Is our populace capable of analysing issues and make informed contributions? Certainly not. You and I should set realistic targets. We are the government, we form governments and we dissolve them by the same token. Accusing fingers are not necessarily progressive. Let us think, suggest, facilitate and support innovation.
By Elarm Chalusa