Analysis: SHIKANDA KAWANGA
SUB-SAHARAN Africa is fast becoming a hotbed of unemployment, poor quality jobs and impoverished workers, a reality that is making the aspiration of most countries to transform into middle-level economies a mirage.Despite massive investment in infrastructure to drive economic growth, research has shown that Sub-Saharan Africa is not only grappling with runaway unemployment but the majority of the jobs are in the informal sector and the few employed people are actually living in poverty.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s World Employment Social Outlook 2017 report states that in sub-Saharan Africa, poor-quality employment rather than unemployment remains the main labour market challenge. This problem is compounded by rapid population growth, specifically growth of the working-age population.
According to trading economics, unemployment rate in Zambia increased to 7.79 percent in 2017 from 7.78 percent in 2016. Then in 1986 it averaged 12.88 percent until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 19.70 percent in 1993 and a record low of 7.75 percent in 2015.
The fact that the informal sector is the one creating jobs could be dangerous for the sustainability of the economy.
But for Zambia, the situation will not be as gloomy because Government through the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) is encouraging teachers to position themselves for expatriate jobs in Africa.
This follows the global teacher deficit projected by United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which states that nearly 69 million new teachers must be recruited and trained to achieve global universal primary and secondary education.
The statistics also reveal that sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia are the most affected by the worldwide shortage.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, also shows that sub-Saharan Africa has the largest teacher gap and the region will need about 17 million primary and secondary teachers by 2030.
It’s a known fact that the teaching career is one of those usually shunned by many people but with opportunities such as expatriate jobs it is likely that more people will be attracted to the profession.
Given the prospects for international jobs, it is important for the TSC to promote and ensure high professional standards among teachers. This will help position locally-trained teachers for international job opportunities.
Early this year, the Zambian Government was approached by the government of Seychelles to provide human resource in the education sector.
According to TSC, 54 Zambian teachers underwent interviews and have been seconded to work in Seychelles as expatriate teachers for two years.
Such opportunities call for highly skilled teachers who can deliver according to international standards.
It is worth noting that the entire education system is gearing up for the big push to achieve Sustainable Development Goal four by 2030, which calls for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education. It also includes a specific call for more qualified teachers, and more support from the international community for teacher training in developing countries.
However, the 17 million primary and secondary school teachers required in Africa by 2030 can only be attainable if all countries position themselves strategically.
UNESCO notes that sub- Saharan Africa as a region with the fastest growing school-age population in the world, it is already struggling to keep up with demand: more than 70 percent of its countries face acute shortages of primary school teachers, 90 percent of them face serious shortages in secondary education.
But this can be avoided in Zambia if a proper frame work is put in place to encourage and train more teachers.
There is need to look at how best the country can recruit new teachers and attract them to the vital profession of teaching in view of opening up of opportunities on the global market.
Apart from providing decent jobs for citizens, this is also a potential revenue earner for the country.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail correspondent.
Analysis: SHIKANDA KAWANGA