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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Funding local education..

Roger Chali blogging over at Lusaka Times, has a piece on Zambia's education system, where he argues for new innovative approach to revitalising our education system through changing the curriculum and introducing new practical projects. Recognising the funding implications of his proposal, he suggests the following :

Most of these projects will not cost much to do, but by the end of the school year, the kids will have picked up some skill if not some trade. A wood toy car in Wal-mart stores USA, sells for $5 to $15.00

Districts funding sources :

Given the population and abundance of natural resources, Zambia has potential to put its education at 21st century footing. There are several innovative ways districts can use to raise money for education programs without necessarily waiting for Lusaka to act.

  1. Education districts in United States raise money through property taxes, thus districts with capacity to raise funds through property taxes should use this tool.
  2. Districts in rural areas without capacity to property taxes should be encouraged to be innovative instead of sitting on their hands waiting for hand outs from Lusaka. Patience pays, but 44 years after independence one cannot just sit and look at falling education standards and hoping manna will come from Lusaka. So, I appeal to government to challenge districts, if you come up with any amount, the central government will meet you half way. This by the way can be applied to other infrastructure development across the country i.e. schools, roads and healthcare construction.
  3. Mwinilunga is one district which comes to mind, it has the potential to participate in the $300 million annual world pineapple market. Between Ghana and Senegal they share USD$800, 000.00 of pineapple sales to Europe every year.
  4. Due to our favorable climate, many districts can participate in the annual USD$200 million world honey market.
  5. 2003 Ghana and Senegal exported mangos to Europe worth USD $200,000.00.
Funding is certainly a constraint to boosting education and we have touched on this many times on this blog (see the blogs under the education tag), but I do not think that these funding ideas go far enough. Any new taxes are out of question without scaling back existing ones or redistributing the existing national pot. That rules out (1) and (2). Proposals (3) - (5) hint at the "market discovery" approach that we continue to champion, especially in the area of farming (e.g. see A better vision for agriculture.... ). But these are not sufficient solutions nor indeed do they target education funding per se.

An obvious method for leveraging funding is to force the private sector to do their bit. The model I have been shouting for a long time (regular readers are probably deaf now) is similar to the framework that the UK has adopted under Section 106 of the Town and Planning Country Act (1995). This UK legislation basically makes it a condition that any new investment in any local area of the UK should be conditional on providing some minimum level of investment in schools, transport and other things, if the local authority deems necessary.

If we have a similar and more robust Act in Zambia, it would mean that when someone sets up shop in certain area, they would fund schools, freeing up some current educational funding to go towards the projects that Roger has in mind. Even better, you could simply ensure that each new school comes with Roger's minimum requirements. In general such a system relieves pressure on local resources and helps tackle local poverty by linking the investment to the local needs. From an economic stand point, it also helps raise the costs of reneging by the new investor by making it that much costly for him/her to cut and run, like others are doing! We need solutions that kills many birds with a single stone.

14 comments:

  1. Roger Chali wrote:

    Districts in rural areas without capacity to property taxes should be encouraged to be innovative instead of sitting on their hands waiting for hand outs from Lusaka.

    And why not? Why should most of the national revenues stay in the ministries?

    If 50% was directly redistributed to local councils, they would triple their budgets.

    Patience pays, but 44 years after independence one cannot just sit and look at falling education standards and hoping manna will come from Lusaka. So, I appeal to government to challenge districts,

    'Challenge', how? 'Call on'?

    if you come up with any amount, the central government will meet you half way.

    Well that sounds almost like my plan. The question is - where is the central governement going to get the other half? I would suggest closing a large number of ministries.

    This by the way can be applied to other infrastructure development across the country i.e. schools, roads and healthcare construction.

    Why not just fund local authorities directly, and make their accountable for delivery of basic services (education, healthcare, policing, utilities)?

    It could be written into the constitution.

    ReplyDelete
  2. MrK
    You are closest to reality. Neither Donors, investors and diaspora are not going to invest seriously in rural Zambia's social needs until there is a political system that demonstrates accountability, care and a desire to share power with the citizens at local government. Donors are under increasing pressure at home to stop funding bad governance and wars so they might pledge this and that but they will concentrate on humanitarian aid until the political environment is right for genuine partnership. Foreign investors or settlers who remain producing in the rural areas or who are attracted there now are fully aware of the patrimonial structure and stay primarily because of the warm weather, wilderness and adventure (lifestyle). Most live with their bags packed as immigration have them by the proverbials and have them out in a jiffy if they don't tow the line and keep quiet. They pay tax to ZRA reluctantly because they know what happens to it but most also pay a plethora of local levies, taxes and direct social costs making rural Zambia one of the most expensive places to do business in the region- hence the uncompetitive high prices for ag. and tourism. Its no where near enough to even maintain the local infrastructure. Bottom line- education relies almost entirely on the patronage of the central state which has become predatory and thus non-responsive to the people's needs. Of course agriculture is the answer, the commercial boys prove annually that yields can increase from the national average of 1.5tonnes up to 6-8 tonnes but that requires commitment and investment. I think we can forget about writing change into the constitution this round- that is a well managed process which will ultimately strengthen the elite. Try hut-tax, that worked to drive out the last colonialists! Actually VAT is effectively the same thing except one can opt for subsistence.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If we have a similar and more robust Act in Zambia, it would mean that when someone sets up shop in certain area, they would fund schools, freeing up some current educational funding to go towards the projects that Roger has in mind.

    How about this - every foreign company must buy from a Zambian supplier - who they will have to train or bring up to specification.

    That would have a multiplier effect on FDI and the MFEZ zones. This way, costs will be spent in the Zambian economy, instead of leaving the economy and going to imported (capital) goods.

    That would be huge boost for SMEs, it would encourage a switch to Zambian produced biofuels, etc.

    Anonymous,

    Bottom line- education relies almost entirely on the patronage of the central state which has become predatory and thus non-responsive to the people's needs.

    It is also the fact that it is highly centralized. There is a general desire to see far greater decentralization. Either to the provinces, districts or councils. I prefer councils because they are the lowest rung on the hierarchy, making them most responsive to the people's input.

    ReplyDelete
  4. In the words of Sudan's Lakes State governor Daniel Awet Okot:

    Decentralization will only be complete when subsidiarity has filtered down to every village.

    This could be an Africa wide model, and a blueprint for governance in the AU - if the AU would ever become like the USA, instead of the EU.

    ReplyDelete
  5. MrK "Decentralization will only be complete when subsidiarity has filtered down to every village."
    Is there any example of this process happening without revolution, peaceful or otherwise? Grass grows from the roots!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Online learning could be a factor in improving education in Zambia. Especially as internet access improves with the laying of fibre optic cables, and new devices such as the future OLPC XO-2 laptop come onto market.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-learning

    http://gizmodo.com/392060/olpc-xo-laptop-20-has-dual-touchscreens-looks-amazing-and-future+y

    http://allafrica.com/stories/200905280009.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. Here it comes:

    http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-05-28-at-last-bandwidth

    ReplyDelete
  8. Scheduled dates of completion for new fibre optic cables to Africa:

    http://www.worldwideworx.com/archives/184

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kafue,

    Very interesting links.

    Relevant to the discussion we having on Telecomm. Its interesting how the two easily coalese and one case see how education becomes cheaper with internet access.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Rwanda has targeted to provide all 2.2 million of its primary school children with laptops by 2012:

    http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/business_power/2_2million_children_to_own_laptops_by_2012_86511.shtml

    ReplyDelete
  11. Another article about the OLPC laptop, this time in the Pacific. Interesting comment :

    "THOMSON: What we are trying to do is to give them modern learning skills, so we are trying to move away from the teacher-centric, learn-by-rote model into a student-centric, enquiry-based model so that they are developing skills to find resources and evaluate resources. So we hope that those skills will make them better suited to move up into the next levels of secondary and tertiary education."

    http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/200906/s2599935.htm

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is one of the most important factors to improve education, since one cannot learn on an empty stomach:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-16819-Global-Hunger-Examiner~y2009m7d31-An-interview-with-Purnima-Kashyap-of-the-World-Food-Programme-in-Zambia

    ReplyDelete
  13. How some Rwandan kids are progressing with the OLPC laptop:

    http://www.newtimes.co.rw/index.php?issue=13975&article=4438

    http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Sugar_Etoys

    ReplyDelete
  14. Nice post. Zambia is a stature of African and is a adventure destination. You can enjoy the impressive Victoria Falls. This is an adventurous spot and Eco friendly spot.Enjoy the numerous adventure activities like safaris, white water rafting, bungee jumping, helicopter flights and many more. Livingstone Safari Lodge is a not much expensive. Most exciting and thrilling experience is a bungee jumping you just need to jump from 55m. Very attractive experience you can enjoy like white water rafting, effusive River Zambezi. You can see Chobe National Park in Botswana.

    ReplyDelete

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