Government incompetence and poor education fuels unemployment in post-colonial Zimbabwe

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By Dr Mathew Nyashanu

The unprecedented unemployment and poor education in post-colonial Zimbabwe have been exacerbated by the current government’s incompetence and corruption. The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently sitting at 95 percent with almost 98 percent of university graduates joining the unemployed every year. This is coming against a backdrop of a government that dishes out money to its members of parliament, ministers and the members of Zanu PF’s echelons. Many people are wondering where the cash strapped Zimbabwean government found large stashes of cash totalling to US$14 million dished to members of parliament and government ministers.

Since 1980 very little has been done by the government to make education fit for purpose. The inherited colonial curriculum was further rendered ineffective through incremental changes that focussed more on the skewed history of the liberation struggle and militarised institutions for brain washing which churned out vigilantes who later became the merchants of deaths in the run up to general elections. A lot of money was poured into the Border Gezi styled colleges whose curriculum was to kill critical thinking and produce graduates who celebrated and vehemently defended Zanu PF mediocrity and incompetence. There was completely no vision for sustainable development of education and economic growth as money put into education was being channelled into a black hole to position Zanu PF for power retention in the coming elections through violence and deception.

More than forty years after independence, there are still some rural schools operating under trees and dilapidated tobacco burns left by white farmers during the chaotic land reform programme. The situation in the educational field of Zimbabwe undoubtedly shows evidence of poor craft literacy and craft incompetence in designing an education system that feeds into a viable economy. The early and later years of Zimbabwean education were littered with poor curriculum design and corruption by officials. The appointment of senior posts in education is subjected to a political process more than the required job description competences.

Educational institutions were long turned into political indoctrination hubs instead of becoming centres for excellence supposedly churning out graduates who have the capacity to respond to the economic problems bedevilling the country. The free education policy in 1980 was enacted against a backdrop of poor sight on how the same education would be sustained and expanded beyond the colonial government. There was very little to promote investment and linking the economic direction with the educational outcomes. The problem that seemed to face Zanu PF was poor direction on what was needed in education beyond the colonial government trajectory. What seems clear is that the education system was on autopilot since 1980 before being wrecked into the sea today for the final burial.

In one of my early visits to Zimbabwe this year, while in Harare, I took some time to chat with some young people who were all selling airtime for mobile phones. One observation I made was that all of these young people were university graduates. Some of them had left university in the past five years and were still treading airtime. One of the young people told me that he was very unsure whether he could confidently undertake a job in the area he was trained due to long periods without any form of formal employment.

These young people, in their honest judgement of the value of education in Zimbabwe, told me that all those who had designed the University curriculum and economic policies were not kind to their cause and deserved a special place in hell. The young people lamented how much they had paid for their university education and only to come to nothing. They were also critical of the unorthodox business ethics culture in Zimbabwe that recognise and favour people who are corrupt and uneducated. A painful observation I noted was that the young people blamed the older generation for letting Zanu PF to take us through this rough journey but they told me that they were too busy to interrogate the older generation on this issue as they were living from hand to mouth.

After a dismal fail to design an effective education system to support the economy and reckless political forays that have dented the social fabric of the Zimbabwean citizens, Zanu PF has adopted what it has termed the look east policy where Chinese business is being given a priority to invest in the Zimbabwean economy. It came as no surprise that the Zimbabwean government liked to transact business with the Chinese, notably in that the Chinese are forthcoming in making corrupt inducements and erecting an outpost of business where they have brought their own people to work in their companies at the expense of the local citizens.

In my travels across the width and breadth of Zimbabwe, during my last visit, I spoke to some citizens who were employed in Chinese companies. They reported poor labour practices and salaries that had no fixed paydays. In addition, some told me of the abuse and sometimes instant dismissals that they endured. They told me that some of these Chinese business-people were so connected to the government officials that no one dared to challenge their horrific colonial like labour practices.

My big question is that are we not undergoing the second phase of colonialism or subtle slavery that is being sanctioned by those who claim to have liberated us. Indeed, the answer is yes Zimbabwe has all what it takes to be a colonial state under the guise of imposter liberators. There is rampant discrimination of people in all spheres of life in Zimbabwe based on economic status and access to education including business opportunities. The Zanu PF echelons have firmly positioned themselves in the positions that the Rhodesia Front held under the then prime minister Ian Douglas Smith until 1980.

To show that Zimbabwe is now being run on colonial lines which does not obviously include the elements of race and colour, it is important to note that the majority of citizens are unemployed and live in squalid conditions replica of the colonial times. The new colonizers are the former liberators who are now holding the means of production. Their sons and daughters are no longer being educated in Zimbabwe because the education system has collapsed and is not fit for purpose.

The former freedom fighters and their dodgy business partners are exploiting the country’s mineral resources with their families just like the former white minority rule controlled mineral rights and land. Public hospitals are no longer functioning while the former freedom fighters are travelling abroad for medical attention. Laws to curtail the dissenting voices of the oppressed citizens are being enacted and passed.

What is the difference between Zanu PF and the Rhodesia Front? Brothers and siters, let us meet again next week when I bring you more on the role of politicians in light of the recent money laundering in parliament and government which even embroiled some opposition members of parliament who are supposed to be policing the corrupt Zanu PF. I will also be unpacking the power of the citizens and their importance in getting involved in politics to choose leaders who prides social responsibility and respect for the electorate.

Dr Mathew Nyashanu is a Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Admissions tutor for the MA in Public Health. He is a  Zimbabwean academic based in the institute of Health & Allied Professions at Nottingham Trent University. He is a social scientist and public health specialist who has contributed widely to the strengthening of Health systems in many low- and middle-income countries. The writings are purely his views and do not represent Nottingham Trent University. Dr Mathew Nyashanu can be contacted on the following email: