Analysis: LEE MPUNDU
EDUCATION is described with such appetising terms as the ‘key to success’, ‘the great equaliser’ and ‘the opener of unlikely doors’.
Numerous tales have been heard from individuals coming from a humble background who have escaped the jaws of poverty through the power of education.
Such individuals have gone on to occupy important positions in the social, economic and industrial echelons of society.
However, one area where the relationship between employment and education seems to be a distant cry is farming.
In this crucial sector of our economy, the power of education has not been fully exploited to help the agriculture sector and its players reach new horizons of prosperity.
Education is largely viewed with suspicion by farm managements. People brandishing certificates and other academic papers are regarded as unproductive and good-for-nothing employees.
In fact, once discovered, they are earmarked for dismissal at an appropriate time. Little wonder that just before one takes up employment, it’s not uncommon to stumble on one’s photocopied certificates that have been thrown on the garbage dump site.
Individuals joining the farming sector with the aim of pushing up their sluggish academic credentials should make sure that what they are doing remains a top secret.
People showing interest and ambition to study while working are not encouraged to pursue their objectives. Farms are not known to support those who wish to enhance their skills, and there is empirical evidence to that effect.
One named man who worked for an agribusiness firm in Chisamba confessed that management fired him after it learned that he was doing a course in Transport and Logistics Management by distance with a local college.
He said when his employers got wind of what he was doing, a campaign of harassment, intimidation and open threats was set in motion which culminated in his dismissal.
The farming sector, which is poised to become Zambia’s major foreign exchange earner through increased food production, should invest more in the education and training of its employees.
Deserving workers should be given a chance to carve out careers in areas of specialisation and interest.
This is not to imply that farms should become centres of intellectual excellence and philosophical pantheons. They are centres of food production.
Diversification from a copper-dependent mono-economy to a fully-fledged agricultural economy might not be attained unless there is a gradual shift to a new culture of knowledge, which should embrace the worker to ensure sustainability and progress.
In the modern world, education for progress should aim at equipping the individual with survival skills and increasing productivity and efficiency.
That is what the modern farm worker needs.
Farms are attracting a new type of worker, who is educated, literate, ambitious and hungry for success.
Unfortunately, managements are scared of educated and ambitious employees. They would rather employ someone who can neither read nor write than flirt with an erudite person.
But farms must invest in human capital if they are to contribute to the nation’s diversification drive.
Modern education and training should liberate and benefit deserving citizens, including farm workers.
Workers in the sector deserve to also enjoy the advantages of training and knowledge just like their directors.
Education and training should trickle down to the individual employee. A farming sector dominated by an illiterate workforce would not be worth replacing Zambia’s dependence on copper because it would not be equal to the mammoth task that lies ahead.
In the meantime, the phobia to education, training and knowledge by the farm owners is real.
Nothing would change that in the foreseeable future due to the patriarchal nature of the industry.
But the two ministries under which farming falls, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry Livestock and Fisheries, can help sensitise farm owners on the benefits of education and training.
The author is a Chisamba-based freelance journalist.