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 :
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.
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.
- Education districts in United States raise money through property taxes, thus districts with capacity to raise funds through property taxes should use this tool.
- 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.
- 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.
- Due to our favorable climate, many districts can participate in the annual USD$200 million world honey market.
- 2003 Ghana and Senegal exported mangos to Europe worth USD $200,000.00.
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.