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Luo is right on education, development

Education minister Prof Nkandu Luo says, “There will be no change until we focus on education…Education is not about sitting in a classroom and listening to lecturers and pass exams. That is being schooled and we have a lot of people in Zambia that are schooled. An educated person is competitive, a critical thinker, problem solver while a schooled person when they graduate they go to look for who is connected to who and tell them that find me a job.” We agree to this reasoning but we do not agree with some of the actions that have been taken by this same minister and her president.

The power of education is undeniable all across the world, both socially and personally. It has even been referred to by the United Nations as the universal “passport to human development”. “It is the best equaliser”, say others.

Education is fundamental to development and growth. This is so because growth, development, and poverty reduction depend on the knowledge and skills that people acquire, not the number of years that they sit in a classroom.

The human mind makes possible all development achievements, from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For us to reap these benefits fully, we need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education.

Quality needs to be the focus of our education investments, with learning gains as the key metric of quality. Our resources are too limited and the challenges too big to be designing policies and programmes in the dark. We need evidence on what works in order to invest smartly.

But this right statement came at a time when an adverse action was taken and is still in force against learners of the Copperbelt University. The learning institution was closed after students rioted following a work stoppage by their lecturers over non-payment of salaries. And the issue of non-payment of salaries for lecturers, and associated industrial actions, lack of funding for research, failure to stock education libraries with books, are all counter to effective and efficient education promotion.

And closing institutions of higher learning after every disturbance has not proved effective in resolving issues at the institutions.

So if we are determined to change our country, we must invest in the quality education of our masses.

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