“The Pursuit of Higher Education in Zimbabwe: A Futile Effort?”

10.31.2008

Zimbabwe’s economy suffers from ever-escalating inflation levels, price distortions for key commodities and utilities, high unemployment rates, rising poverty levels, foreign exchange and commodity product shortages, deteriorating public services, rising inequalities, and large income disparities. This harsh economic reality is crowding out young people’s ambitions of career and entrepreneurial development.

In this Feature Service article, Roselyn Sekai Kapungu, 3rd place winner in CIPE’s 2007 Youth Essay Contest, talks about the destructive effects that this acute economic crisis has had on Zimbabwe’s education system and opportunities for the country’s youth. Education is conventionally thought to bring private benefits through increased earnings. But education brings greater social benefits as well through creating a skilled workforce capable of propelling economic growth and development. Without that engine of growth, Zimbabwe’s economy will continue to suffer.

Kapungu asks, “The question is, do we lose hope in education and flee? If the answer is no, we need to come up with strategies that reward educational attainment and reduce poverty by promoting economic growth and job creation. Together with those policies, the key issues of equal access to education for boys and girls, improved graduation rates, better access to higher education, and enhanced life skills development need more attention.”

Article at a Glance

  • Poverty and economic hardship can either mobilize people to fight for quality education and a better future, or drive them away from education. The latter is disastrous to society in the long run, but it is the path many people in Zimbabwe have taken in recent years.
  • The education system in Zimbabwe has long suffered from an insufficient focus on teaching practical skills, limited access to higher education opportunities, and unequal access for girls to specialized fields such as science.
  • Successful educational reform is a necessary step to create the basis for sustained economic growth and requires the involvement of all stakeholders, ranging from families and civil society to national and local governments as well as the private sector.