ISSUED ON 24th JANUARY, 2023
ZANEC is pleased to join the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Education which falls today. This day is important in the education calendar as it provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the importance of education to human and economic development.
In line with this year’s theme which is “To Invest in People, Prioritise Education”, there are many compelling reasons why governments world over need to prioritize investment to the education sector. As a result of the important role that education plays in development, SDG4 on inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all lies at the center of the attainment of all SDGs. It is for this reason that UNESCO standards provide for allocation of at least 4% to 6% of GDP or 15% to 20% of national budgets to education. However, evidence has shown that although most developed countries pledged to allocate a total of US$110 billion between 2018 and 2021 under the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) replenishment initiative, most developing countries failed to adhere to either of these benchmarks or the pledges.
Education financing particularly by African governments shows a dire picture due to low capacity of many of Countries to raise taxes coupled with the mounting debt burden. In Low Middle Income Countries (LMICs), it is estimated that an additional US$ 15.4 billion a year is needed to achieve SDG 4 targets by 2030. This entails doubling of current expenditure in LMICs in order to meet the SGD targets. For Zambia in particular, the share of the education budget over the SDG period has reduced from 20.2% in 2015 to 13.4% in 2023. To the contrary, the analysis of the education budgetary allocations by size from 2016 shows that the budget has doubled over the SDG period rising from ZMW9.1 billion in 2016 to ZMW23 billion in 2023. Despite the steady increase in the size of the education budget, there have been significant disparities between the approved budget and the amount released, with the performance of the budget averaging 91% since 2016, while majority (91%) of the education allocations are spent towards Personal Emoluments and Recurrent Departmental Charges.
Overall, Zambia’s education financing gap has been widening since 2016 reaching an estimated ZMW48.4 billion by 2022, translating into an average annual financing gap of ZMW6.9 billion. As a result, Zambia is on course only to achieving two out of the seven SDG targets by the year 2030 namely target 4.1 on the provision of free primary and secondary education as well as target 4.5 on eliminating all discrimination in education by 2030. To achieve the remaining targets, Zambia will need to restructure its debt portfolio in order to free financial resources that can be used to invest at least 20% of its budget towards the education and skills development sector.
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