Editor's Comment

Invest in locals

WITH the Kwacha appreciating exceptionally, the call by Ministry of General Education Permanent Secretary for technical services Jobbicks Kalumba ties in with the mood in the country by advising the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) to print examination papers locally.
Speaking during the official launch of the 2021-2025 ECZ strategic plan yesterday, Dr Kalumba urged ECZ to look internally for printing of grades seven, nine and 12 examinations to reduce the cost of production.
Currently, the country spends huge sums of money on printing examination papers outside the country.
Printing examination papers means ECZ exports the much-needed foreign exchange and this contributes to the weakening of the local currency.
With the Kwacha now being bullish, it is time for ECZ to contribute to consolidating the gains of the local currency by printing the examination papers locally.
The greatest advantage of printing locally is that money remains in the economy and it has downstream effects of providing taxes.
Local printing will create local jobs because when ECZ engages outsiders to print examination papers as has been the case, it has actually been exporting jobs to other countries.
Apart from creating jobs locally, ECZ will also boost business opportunities for other local businesses.
Printing locally will help build local capacity in terms of technology and human capital. It also enhances capacity for security printing in terms of both experience and skill sets and provides opportunities for more business from both local and regional sources, hence ECZ can earn foreign exchange through these activities.
In the long run, skills development is enhanced. This capacity can be used to win printing contracts for the region.
Apart from helping to save on the much-needed foreign exchange, ECZ will also build sustainability for the future.
If you are importing, you get exposed to price volatilities through price increases or unfavourable exchange rates.
It will also be cheaper if the sum total of everything, including production costs and logistics, is taken into account.
Examination malpractices are rampant and almost inevitable, but the country can never know its ability to curb this if the papers are not printed locally.
Printing of examination papers was, in past decades, done locally.  By now, with experience and advances in technology, Zambia would have been well placed to manage this annual task.
The printing of examination papers outside the country is part of the bigger challenge in the sector. There is also the concern about publishing and printing school or education textbooks abroad.
Surely Zambia can do better than passing such jobs to external suppliers.  What is it that foreign publishers and printers have that Zambians don’t have?
If there are any limitations, let these be identified and resolved to ensure that Zambians retain the jobs and keep the money within the country.
Importing textbooks could partially be the reason the education sector sometimes relies on outdated curricula. Zambia has to be in tandem with current global trends.
For instance, who is better placed than a Zambian to write on
Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s life, the country’s peaceful political transition and entrepreneurship curriculum?
There are many well-schooled Zambians who can ably deliver on this front. Relevance and context are very important.
The capacity in printing is there. It has been growing steadily over the years and can grow even faster if jobs are retained locally.
Some may argue that Zambian companies are inadequately equipped to print books and examination papers. That is not true. The capacity to print grows with more jobs being given. Let’s use that root rather than one through which printers are told to first prove that they have the equipment.

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