Home > General > 95% unemployment, yet we still educate people so they can get a job

95% unemployment, yet we still educate people so they can get a job

In the 1930’s John Dewey won a debate with Robert Hutchins (President of Chicago University) in U.S. congress, over the purpose of education.
Hutchins held the classic position that education was “to prepare people for life,” while
Dewey took the modern, secular position that education was “to prepare people for a job.”

The results of this are seen in Zimbabwe and the West.
I’ve been reading local papers and am amazed at how many universities are advertising their programmes in Zimbabwean newspapers. Local colleges and universities, those from around the world, the UK, Malaysia are all competing for advertising space in local newspapers. With an educated workforce, the second highest literacy in Africa, thousands going to universities across the globe each year, it is no wonder that colleges and universities are keen to obtain a slice of this market. With such a huge education market I went on to look at the job market in the job section of the newspaper. Six, almost invisible adverts were for jobs while the bulk of the adverts, (24) and the more prominent adverts were education related.
What is interesting to note is that education is not translating to development in Zimbabwe. Most students are studying with the hope of getting a job. The education system prepares them for work life, yet there are no jobs in Zimbabwe. Society doesn’t like to face reality, the reality is that only 5% of people are employed in the formal sector yet thousands enter the job market each year, to find their dream job. Thousands will be disappointed. A lot of these educated people end up doing menial jobs, because all they wanted was a job. Even the menial jobs are hard to come by and are getting more competitive. It is very possible to have 3 A Level passes or even a university degree and be sweeping streets in Harare.

There is no point learning and not being able to use your knowledge. It is ironic that the country with the highest literacy, with highly skilled people working in high positions in large multinational companies around the world, is still the country with 95% unemployment rate, chronic poverty and serious corruption? With all these educated people, Zimbabwe still has not been able to tackle its problems. We have invested so much as a nation in education since independence yet our country has been on a steady decline.

With only half a million people in formal employment and about 13 million unemployed. There is certainly no way the government is going to create 13 million jobs without a detailed, focused and progressive strategy to address unemployment. The reality is that there will be more redundancies, more companies relocating to South Africa and the region, leaving more Zimbabweans out of jobs. We keep churning out graduates each year and still expect them to get jobs in the formal sector. Many of these graduates have become professional students, going from one course to another, one degree to another without any working experience. Parents still teach their children to get an education so that they can get a job and a better life. How true is this?

Our focus is misplaced and we need to rethink our strategy, we should really be focusing on entrepreneurship. Our education system is preparing people for jobs that don’t exist. Maybe be should go with Hutchins and prepare people for life. Certainly our educated workforce can run their own businesses profitably. We already have the upper hand, our people are learned, lets steer their learning to enterprise development and not just job hunting. Our education system should equip people with entrepreneurial skills so that they can start their own profitable and sustainable enterprises that will create employment for others. Enough with the lies, there are no jobs out there and education won’t necessarily get you ahead. Only a few will get formal employment, the rest will get discouraged and disillusioned. We have the capacity to build thriving businesses because we have a skilled and educated people, we just need to refocus our efforts from getting a job, to creating jobs.

Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki said, “Self employment is not a good option, it is the only option.” Government, media, learning institutions and business need to convey this message and support initiatives that encourage entrepreneurship. We cannot continue to build a nation of professional students; we need to build a nation of entrepreneurs, who use their knowledge to start businesses that will employ others and develop Zimbabwe.

This investment in education seems to be letting us down. A newspaper heading reads, Zimbabwe to import skills. This is outrageous. With 95% of people not employed in the formal sector and after investing heavily in education over the last thirty years, we will now be importing skills. Education alone cannot change the fate of a people. Maybe we should have taken Hutchins position that education was “to prepare people for life. Maybe we’d be more prepared for the cold outside.

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Categories: General
  1. April 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    love your post it’s the truth!

    • April 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

      The nation with the highest literacy in Africa is also the poorest.

  1. October 19, 2015 at 6:03 am

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