As the nation looks forward to the presentation of the National Budget this week, Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) expects the Ministry of Finance to consider allocating 22 percent of the 2018 national budget towards the Education and Skills sector instead of the 16.5 percent in 2017.
ZANEC which is composed of 68 different education sector oriented Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) has consistently emphasized on the need for Zambia to oblige to the minimum threshold of allocating of 20 percent as per Cairo Protocol and Global Partnership for Education where the government made commitment to this effect.
As key stakeholders in the Education and Skills Sector, the Coalition is glad that in his address to the second session of the 12th National Assembly President Edgar Lungu reaffirmed his desire to increase government support to the Education and Skills Sector where several commitments were made towards the sector. It is the Coalition hope that these bold statements will be actualized through the allocation of matching resources in the 2018 national budget for the Education and Skills sector.
ZANEC is concerned that the current budgetary support to the Early Childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE) is only 0.01 percent of the education budget. This allocation is inadequate to provide for the expected results and impact. Further to this, the continued failure by Ministry of Finance to disburse all allocated funds and disburse allocated budgeted lines in a timely manner has not allowed the sub-sector to adequately provide quality services.
We are impressed that President Lungu also told parliament that the government would continue supporting vulnerable female learners to access education through a bursary scheme project titled “Keeping Girls in School” where over 14,000 girls have since benefited. ZANEC would like to further implore the government to release funds in a timely manner for this inter-ministerial project and we would like to know how much we are spending on servicing the loan to this project. To further support female learners, the government in the 2017 nation budget announced the provision of sanitary towels in all government schools. We are yet to be furnished with detailed information on how many leaners have since benefited from this budgetary allocation.
It is the Coalition’s considered view that the Ministry of General Education should sustain the recruitment of 5,000 as per plan and allocations. To this end we are concerned that in 2017 that ministry has only recruited 2,000 teachers. Zambia needs to close the teacher pupil ratio if we are to improve on performance, service delivery and learning outcomes.
In its submission, the Coalition has proposed the sustenance allocation of K4, 000,000 particularly for community schools. The state of most infrastructure in community schools remains in a deplorable state, while the pupil / teacher ratios are still high and teachers are volunteers without any take-home-pay at the end of the month.
There is also need to scale up support towards Inclusive Education in Zambia as most learners do not have learning and teaching materials. Inclusive Education for learners with special education needs requires specific and clear budget lines to support infrastructure development and procurement of Teaching Learning materials such as braille text books.
ZANEC further urges the government to provide adequate budgetary location to the Youth and Adult Literacy Sub Sector which currently has huge imbalance in the distribution of literacy centres, with majority of them being in urban areas, while only a few centres have been opened in rural areas. It is for this reason that ZANEC would like to see an infrastructure allocation for this purpose.
In its submission to the Ministry of Finance for 2018 National Budget, ZANEC stated that the Education and Skills Sector faced a challenge of delivering quality practical skills and hence hopes that the sub sector will be explicitly provided for in the 2018 budget. The Coalition specifically calls for increased allocation to the provision of specialized equipment for TEVET institutions which is currently dilapidated. This will provide for a human resource base that will be relevant to the market and a necessary prerequisite for National Development. The Skills sectors also focuses on Research and Development which cannot be possible with the current obsolete equipment in trade schools.
ZANEC further expects that the allocation for loans and scholarships for vulnerable but viable students to tertiary education will not only be limited to Copperbelt University and University of Zambia.
As a Coalition that is mandated to provide checks and balances to the Government, ZANEC is further calling on the Ministry of Finance to ensure that in the 2018 budget financial year ALL allocations to the sector MUST be released on TIME and FULLY for guaranteed timely implementation and delivery of materials and services. ZANEC has observed that over the years spending agencies survive on supplementary budgets even when the allocated budgets have not been released fully.
In the ZANEC analysis of the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ending 31st December, 2015; the Coalition identified irregularities such as money not going to intended beneficiaries, unreceived School Grants, failure to deliver and distribute Teaching and Learning Materials, failure to correct contract sums, bloated payroll coupled with sheer wasteful expenditure. All these clearly highlight that the Ministry of General Education and the Ministry of Higher Educations’ loopholes in managing expenditure, which takes away the little allocated to the much needed resources from actual quality service delivery.
The Coalition therefore calls on the Government to ensure that the resources provided to the Education and Skills Sector in 2018 are spent in a prudent and efficient manner that will allow for tangible changes in the Education and Skills sector for Zambia to attain its vision 2030 of becoming a “Prosperous Middle Income Country” as well as the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Grace M. Sinkamba
Issued on 27th September, 2017