Dokora and govt out of touch

The lower education ministry has announced some ambitious changes to the secondary school curriculum - including placing O level students on attachment in the business sector.

Lazarus Dokora
Lazarus Dokora

This is a weird decision that clearly shows how the minister in question, Lazarus Dokora, and the government in general are out of touch with today’s economic reality in Zimbabwe.

Under normal circumstances, it would make sense to give young students a feel for the real world of employment. Most countries do this. It helps the youngsters to appreciate how the working environment operates and shapes their goals at a fairly early stage. It also gives them a sense of responsibility and equips them with practical knowledge of how to apply what they learn in school. As it stands, the Zimbabwean education model has for a long time been accused of being too abstract.

But that is where it ends. The rest is absurd. Surely somebody must have told Dokora and cabinet that our economy has no capacity to absorb thousands of secondary school interns. Already, tertiary students who wish to go on attachment as part of their curricular requirements are having a torrid time getting internships in both the private and public sectors.

The employment market has virtually collapsed since the 2013 elections. There are hardly any industries to talk about and the few that remain are surviving by the skin of their teeth.

Ironically, government has for a long while been talking about retrenching and downsizing. How then would it take care of the thousands of excitable young interns if it cannot even cater adequately for its existing workforce?

In any case, it remains to be seen where it would get the manpower to supervise and mentor the students, considering the fact that most of the departments that matter are understaffed and strained. The employees who would mentor the students are severely demoralised and it would take truckloads of effort to get them to guide these youngsters professionally.

There is no sense in believing that government can mobilise them. The employees are poorly paid and sometimes plainly incompetent to do their own work, let alone mentor the students.

We have not been told what criteria would be used to choose where the interns would go. Are we going to have a new law that would compel the few remaining companies to absorb them? If we get such a law, what are the ramifications on the operations of the struggling firms? You don’t want to flood them with students and disrupt whatever little production is there, do you?

Furthermore, it is difficult to understand how government would monitor and evaluate the interns, considering that it doesn’t have the capacity to evaluate its own workers. Deploying monitors and evaluators has implications on public expenditure, and who doesn’t know that government does not have the money?

Dokora is too excited and seems to be running around like a beheaded chicken. It is foolhardy for him to adopt the Nziramasanga Commission study that was done close to two decades ago and assume that it will work as if we were still in the nineties. There has been a sea change since then. Even though the economy was starting to cough then, it was still relatively vibrant. Today, it is tottering on the brink of collapse. Thus, Dokora and government are using a good report at the wrong time. They must know that. What they should have done, instead, was to revise the commission recommendations to make them sensitive to prevailing conditions. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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