Tag Archives: goats

The tragedy of Zimbabwe’s policy making: Dokora’s education for Goats = Antoinette’s let them eat cake:

25 Apr

In Zimbabwe, the past few weeks have been animated with jokes and memes poking fun at Zimbabwe’s Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Lazarus Dokora’s  pronouncements that school fees can be paid using goats. Indeed, these kinds of pronouncements could not have been imaginable but …, well it happened. In the aftermath Dokora attempted to sanitize the whole issue and noted that he only meant parents and guardians could sell their goats (read livestock) to pay for school fees. This pronouncement is problematic on several levels:  It gives a very confused view of how the Zimbabwean economy is run and what Zimbabweans value as currency; what the government policy is with regards to access to education and how this pronouncement affects peoples’ livelihoods especially those in Zimbabwe’s rural areas. I will focus on a simple matter with regards to how this seemingly laughable and innocent matter has the potential of disrupting the resilience of rural communities’ livelihoods all in the name of wanting to send their children to school.

That Zimbabwe strives to have a well-educated population is not in dispute. However, with the strained and poor economic conditions bedeviling the country it has not been easy for the government as the service provider and parents/guardians as the customers of this service to pay for the goods delivered. Government has tried all sorts of mechanisms under its Social Welfare grants and schemes but this never seems to be enough. Children dropping out of school or failing to write their final examinations now seems to be the order of the day in most parts of rural Zimbabwe and other urban areas. Faced with such challenges, citizens have tried to look up to the government for solutions through policy interventions. As sure as the sun would rise, government through Lazarus Dokora came up with the pronouncement that parents struggling to pay school fees for their children could use goats as a form of payment.

I would like to give the Honorable Minister, the benefit of the doubt and think that goats were a figurative expression. I’m trying to convince myself that he meant well as he has tried to defend himself in his latest pronouncements. However, I still find even his rejoinder problematic.

Since time immemorial, Zimbabweans have used livestock to engage in barter trade as well selling it for cash to pay for their other needs. Government and other civil society groups have had numerous projects of enhancing income in most rural families by ceding make and female goats, cows etc. so that they can rear them and increase their resilience to shocks and generally can look after themselves. Thus, the pronouncement by Dokora was and cannot be news at all. There was nothing genius about his pronouncement if for any reason he thought that he was saying something outside the box meant to relieve the pressure from parents who are currently struggling to pay school fees for their children.

In fact, Dokora’s pronouncement is dangerous to the extent that it encourages poor households to strip their assets so they can pay for school fees for their children. Taking the goats for example, it is a fact that most rural folk no longer have such assets after the last drought in 2015. Moreover, because of the economic hardships most families in the rural areas have sold these assets to cater for food needs mostly. So, it would be interesting to know from Dokora who exactly he will be referring to when he says these folks can use or sell their goats to pay for school fees. For those that have the goats (read livestock), I’m sure they get milk which is used to feed children etc. Selling off such vital sources of food to pay school fees does not look intelligent and exposes families to malnutrition unnecessarily. The same goats need to breed and produce more offspring before someone can think of selling them and making money out of them. This encouragement coming from such a high-powered government official is quite forceful as it is misleading. The real risk that those who have such livestock will be tempted to sell their “only” livestock to pay for their children’s school fees is too high.

Dokora and the government of Zimbabwe need to come up with a solid policy and sustainable action to deal with the rising problem of parents failing to pay for their children’s’ school fees. Such a cavalier mentality and attitude to the rights of millions of Zimbabwean children’s right to education by senior government officials is unwarranted and reckless. Dokora needs to realize that the problem is not simply a matter of raising money. The Zimbabwean economy has been in the doldrums for years in the meantime, depleting peoples’ sources of livelihoods and resilience to poverty. Pushing for such a policy written or otherwise will only lead to entrenched poverty among Zimbabweans especially those in rural teachers all in the name of trying to send their children to school. Dokora needs to think more about the possibility and dangers of a lost generation, that will lose out from school because their parents could genuinely not pay for their school fees is unimaginable.

This goat business, is not going work. Period. The pay for education with goats pronouncement is as arrogant as the supposed Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” stupid pronouncement and as hair brained as Mugabe’s utterances in 2005 that if Zimbabweans didn’t have food they could as well eat potatoes.

 

%d bloggers like this: