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Friday, 16 July 2010

Are Zambians too illiterate for the PACT?

Yes. According to Sam Mulafulafu (Director, Caritas Zambia) :

The experience of an alliance that presents one presidential candidate but competes among themselves at Parliamentary and local government levels has been confusing to the electorate even in situations where constituencies and wards are shared among the cooperating political parties. With the low literacy levels among our voters, it sounds funny to the electorate to be told by a campaigning parliamentary or council candidate that in the parliamentary or local government vote (which ever the case may be), vote for me but for the president, vote for candidate so and so from another partyIt really does not make sense to an average voter. In fact, some candidates won’t even make an effort to campaign for the chosen presidential candidate if that candidate is not from their party. This must be a learning point for the UPND/PF pact; to convince the electorate that they are a two in one party may be a daunting task.
Mr Mulafulafu's underlying sequential logic is as follows:
i) To understand and be able to vote for a coalition government  you need to be literate.
ii) Zambians have low literacy levels.
iii) Therefore UPND-PF pact is facing a very challenging or near impossible task . 
If (i) or (ii) is wrong then (iii) is bound to be wrong.

On proposition (i) : I find it difficult to accept that literacy (the ability to read or write) is related to people's ability to understand a simple concept of two clubs headed by two separate leaders that come together to achieve a shared vision. They will have different local represents from two clubs but only one leader. Is Mr Mulafulafu really saying that such requires some form of literacy?  Coalition governments existed in some western democracies as early as the 19th Century. Are we really saying our people are so ignorant that what an average westerner in 19th Century was able to contemplate they can't?  So proposition (i) fails.

But so does proposition (ii). The question I have for Mr Mulafulafu is that when he says "with the low literacy levels among our voters", who is he comparing Zambia with? Just how high do we need the literacy levels to be for people to understand the idea of a coalition? The truth is Zambia has high literacy rates and primary school enrollment rates above the average for Sub-Saharan Africa and Low Income Countries (LICs) as the table below demonstrates.
It seems to me that the problem is not so much the ability of our voters to understand but the failure of these political parties to communicate their vision and ideals in a simple and organised way. If Civil Society Groups are able to reach our remote parts with complex messages about HIV, sanitation and so forth, why can't political parties achieve the same feat?


  1. Interestingly, Zimbabwe, with it's pro-active and universal educational system, has achieved a 92% literacy rate. Of course, the MDC is trying to make access to education 'fee based', and reduce the number of graduates.

    Zim has highest literacy rate in Africa: UN
    By: TH-TZG
    Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 3:18 am

    ZIMBABWE has the highest literacy rate in Africa, according to the latest United Nations study.

    The UNDP Statistical Digest shows Zimbabwe ahead of all African countries and taking over from Tunisia which held pole position for years with Zimbabwe second-best and number one in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Zimbabwe’s literacy level currently stands at 92 percent, up from 85 percent while Tunisia remains on 87 percent.

    Commenting on the latest statistical data yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Dr Washington Mbizvo, attributed the increase in literacy levels to Government’s investment in education over the years.

    He said Government had promoted conventional and open distance learning in its quest to achieve education for all.

    "The latest statistical digest was published last month and shows our country surpassing all African countries.

    "This is because we have been able to make all people access education including those in resettlement areas.

    "Despite hardships, education facilities are present in most parts of the country," he said.

    Dr Mbizvo said while infrastructure had deteriorated, the quality and the culture of education had improved.

    "Zimbabweans have always been eager to learn," he said.

    He also cited Government’s investment in teacher training colleges as another contributory factor to the increase in literacy levels.

    "We have expanded the number of teachers’ colleges to 13 and we are producing 2 500 teachers per year.

    "Other countries in Africa produce between 200 and 400 teachers annually on average.

    "This has seen other countries like Namibia requesting us to train teachers for them and this shows that we are well-recognised on the continent," he said.

    As a result, despite the exodus by teachers to countries that offered better pay, Zimbabwe still produces more skilled personnel that most other nations.

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  3. Are there any current statistics that have the literacy rates of women in Zambia from 2009 to 2011?


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