Education in any country holds the key to the economic, political, social and spiritual emancipation of its people. It frees the citizenry from the shackles of poverty, incivility and spiritual darkness. It uplifts the self and society from the lower levels of abject poverty to economic and political freedoms and spiritual enlightenment.
As we celebrate 50 years of our political freedom, one question which ought to ring in anyoneâ€™s mind is whether education in this country has played its full course in meeting the challenges of the current generation and preparing them for tomorrow.
It has taken this country this number of years to realise the inadequacy of the capacity of our educational institutions to accommodate the millions of our citizens and to have all of us wake up from the knowledge slumber and seek to make divergent progress based on differing aims.
There is a gold rush for education never seen before. It has become an in-thing for anyone to strive for a degree. This is a generation and an era of degrees, a song that is on everyoneâ€™s lips. Whatever the tune and orchestra, only the students and the various learning institutions can tell.
Further, thanks to Governmentâ€™s liberalisation policy of the education Industry, we have moved from so few public universities in the yesteryear to an additional half a dozen private universities meant to complement governmentâ€™s efforts in addressing the knowledge gap.
The papers called degrees have their own merits, the status and approval accorded to recipients as members of the elite group and as dog-eaters is unquestionable.
After acquiring these degrees the expectations from society is considerably high. That they, the educated, will provide solutions to societal woes is obvious and unquestionable. One would be tempted to ask, have we benefited in the manner we should as a nation from our education system and from those who have acquired these degrees? Our celebration in this year of jubilee should have been manifold, celebrating our peace and economic, social and scientific achievements.
What is this nationâ€™s return to the 49 yearsâ€™ investment in the education sector? What economic, social and political benefits have accrued to this nation? Is it now time to take an introspection as a nation to see where things have really gone wrong? While we celebrate our political freedom and the peace we so much cherish, the greater challenge which we have is how to transform this to the next level of development and prosperity where the greater resources we have been endowed with will be exploited and transformed to the greater benefit of all.
Our current educational system prepares us to be consumptive-oriented and not value creators. The education system that we have is ideal at making us national traders more than anything else. We have not been able to make noteworthy inroads in areas of economics, science, technology, medicine etc., yet our love for fast cars, fancy gadgets, clothes, foods, which we have literally not contributed to their creation, is unmatched.
If out of everything we use 95 percent, at home and elsewhere, is foreign-made, including the toothpick on our tables, then there is a problem somewhere. The country is being held captive to its peril. Where does the buck fall? Of course on our education system, personal attitudes and Government! Our Government can take a leading role in the change process. We need such transformative education, which involves â€œexperiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions, a shift of consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world. Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our visions of alternative approaches to livingâ€. [Oâ€™Sullivan, Morrell and Oâ€™Connor]
This country needs an education system that will educate the mind and one that will tell the youths that they can add value to whatever they look at or touch and be able to earn a meaningful living from that.
The time is now to act for prosperity to enjoy a better future.
The author is from the University of Lusaka.