All citizens of country have a right to education. Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to education. Elementary education shall be compulsory and that higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis merit.
The role of education in the development process has long been recognised. Investing in formal and informal education and training enhances skill, knowledge, attitudes and motivation for social and economic development. Educated citizens tend to be better informed on most issues. It if for this reason that this paper attempts to analyse the Zambia National Policy on Education, with much emphasis on the policy of ensuring the benefits of Education for the poor and vulnerable. In analysing the policy, the paper will use the studies of product and the dimensions of choice as outlined by Gilbert and Specht’s Paradigm.
Social policies are principles or courses of action designed to influence:
(i) the overall quality of life in society
(ii) the circumstances of living of individuals and groups in that society and,
(iii) the nature of intra-societal relationship among individuals, groups and society as a whole (Gil 1976:24).
Educating Our Future is Zambia’s third major Educational Policy document. The first was the Educational Reforms of 1977, while the second was Focus on Learning in 1992. Educational Reform emphasised education as an instrument for personal and national development; while Focus on Learning stressed the mobilisation of resources for the development of School education.
Educating Our Future addresses the entire field of formal institutional education, paying particular attention to democratisation, decentralisation and productivity on the one hand and curriculum relevance and diversification, efficient and cost- efficient management, capacity building, cost sharing and revitalised partnerships on the other. Flexibility, pluralism, responsiveness to needs, and protection of quality are also recurrent themes (Ministry of Education 1996:1x).
The policy on Ensuring the Benefits of Education for the Poor and Vulnerable states that;
The Ministry of Education affirms that it will take positive action to ensure that the education system caters satisfactorily for the poor and vulnerable
Priority in education provision and in the distribution of educational resources will be in favour of whatever is more likely to benefit the poor and vulnerable (ibid:72).
Among the strategies under this policy include;
All measures aimed at sharing the cost of education with communities will take account of the families’ capacity to pay.
No child will be excluded from school, or from any school activity on grounds of failure to pay or for being unable to afford the necessary materials, school uniform or similar item.
The Ministry will establish bursary and scholarship schemes targeted towards the poor and vulnerable, with special provisions for the needs of the girl-child, orphans and rural children attending boarding schools.
Gilbert and Specht tend to approach the study of policy analysis in several different but interrelated ways. The different approaches to social policy analysis can be characterised as studies of the three “P’s: Process, Product and Performance. The study of the process is based on the analytical perspective that focuses upon the dynamics of the policy formulation with regard to socio-political and technical –methodological variables. It is mostly concerned with understanding how the inputs of planning data and the collectivities in a society affect policy formulation. Performance studies are concerned with the description and evaluation of the programmatic outcome of policy choices (Gilbert and Specht 1974:11).
Studies of the Product
The product of planning process is a set of policy choices. These choices may be framed into programme proposals, laws and statutes, or analytical focus of such studies is upon issues of choices; the values, theories and assumptions that support alternative choices (ibid).
As regards the provision of school bursaries and scholarships schemes to the poor and vulnerable members of society, it is better to consider it from an ideological perspective. The dimensions of choices of social allocations are guided by the values of national ideology. The dominant beliefs, values and ideologies of society, exert a significant influence on processes on social policies (Gil 1976:27).
Zambia was lead to independence by the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which was very sensitive to the issues of African Advancement. The African advancement was guided by the ideology of Humanism (Socialism). A crucial aspect of the Zambian Humanism that had immediate application to service delivery was man-centred approach in planning. There was universal access to free education from primary to university (Nooyo 2000:49). This meant that the provision of education was considered to be the responsibility of the government.
In 1991, the new Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) government discarded socialist cum Humanism and implemented social development programmes based on western liberal tenets. The ideology of liberalism is premised on the belief that individuals are free to pursue their own ways provided they do not infringe on the equal liberty of others. Liberalism justifies the play and acquisition of goods and services (Johari 2003:250).
According to the National Policy on Education, given the limited extent of public resources and the legitimate competing demands of other sectors of the economy, it was clear that government budgetary allocations alone could not be sufficient to ensure quality education for all. The government therefore drastically reduced its provision of free education and introduced cost sharing (Ministry of Education 1996:166).
According to Gilbert and Specht the analyses of values and social policy may be approached from at least two levels. At the upper level the analytical focus is upon policy in the generic sense. At this level of generality there are basically three core values that shape the design of policy: equality, equity and adequacy. Social policy is influenced by the value of equality with regard to the outcome of benefit allocations. In a modified version these are opportunity oriented policies where the objective of an equal share to all is recast in terms of an equal share. It demands that people with dissimilar characteristics receive exactly the same treatment (Gilbert and Specht 1974:40).
For example, in general the ideology of liberalism that Zambia adopted demands that everyone is expected and presumed to be able to provide for one’s own need. The individual needs are met through the market and the family.
The studies of product involve knowing the theories and assumptions that support alternative choices. Policy makers require a clear grasp of the theoretical and tentative quality of policy objectives. Therefore to understand why specific choices are made concerning the social provision of policy entails an elaboration of theories and assumptions underlying policy objectives. Theories are considered to be largely derived from the empirical insight (ibid: 99). It is assumed that the basis of knowledge and theory give direction to the practioner in his actions. In his daily work, a practioner is called upon to use his knowledge and theory (Ng’andu 1990:66).
In line with the above, the National Policy on Education has a set of objectives, among others include;
Producing a learner capable of maintaining and observing discipline and hard work as a cornerstone of personal and nation’s development.
Increasing access to education and life skills training
Building capacity for the provision of quality education
Rationalising resource mobilisation and utilisation
These objectives will inform the education policies and practices of all partners in educational provision and are a basis for teaching and learning in schools (Ministry of Education 1996:5)
One of the value assumptions, for instance, the residual model of social policy –is that the residual non-market sector should concern itself with the social deviants, who are unable to provide for their own needs (Titmus 1974:133).
According to the National policy on Education, the programme of cost –sharing in relation to the provision of bursary scheme under the policy of Ensuring the Benefits of Education for the Poor and Vulnerable, aims at strengthening the financial resource base of the education system by letting communities, non-governmental organisations, donors, churches and individuals participate in meeting the costs (op.cit:166). This programme also assumes that the strength of the school – community linkage by the way of increasing community participation in the provision of education services will be increased. The other assumption is that through this programme, the education system within the framework of liberalism will be expanded and improved because government resources for the sector are constrained. The government assumes that the introduction of school fees in higher institutions of learning will enable it to direct savings into financing basic education, hence reducing the disparities of expenditure between basic and higher education. Lastly, this programme assumes that people are able to contribute to the cost of education fees and those who cannot, can be scrutinized and helped by relevant ministries or departments (ibid:167)
Dimensions of Choice
Now it is important to discuss the dimensions of choice on ensuring the benefit of education for the Poor and Vulnerable. The analytical approach to policy analysis provides a way of thinking about this programme that extracts and organises its major elements, making the whole more readily comprehensible. Within the benefit-allocation framework, social policies are seen as choices among principles or guidelines to determine what benefits are to be offered to whom, how these benefits are to be delivered, and they are to be financed.
Bases of Social Allocation
Bases of social allocations refer to the choices among the various principles upon which social provision are made accessible to people and groups in society. The bases of social allocations are guidelines for the operational definitions of eligibility criteria (Gilbert and Specht 1974:30).
In determining eligibility for a bursary or loan scheme, the Ministry of Education works with the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, and with traditional and local authorities. Eligibility may be conditioned upon evidence regarding an individual’s inability to pay school fees. Therefore the individual’s access to education is limited primarily by his economic circumstances. Among the people in this category include the poor urban and rural families. Special attention is also given to the girl-child, the orphans and differently abled people (Ministry of Education 1996:71).
Bursary scheme is also aimed/targets the poorest of the poor, such as pupils and students from severely impoverished households. Hence the value of equity in the form of equitable inequality, that is, giving special privileges to some people because they (need) deserve it.
Nature of Social Provisions
The questions about the nature of social provisions refer to the forms in which the benefits are delivered. In policy analysis the benefits may come in form of money-cash or in the form of services (Dolgoff and Feldstien 1980:115)
Freedom of choice is also reflected in the extent to which provisions are offered in forms that allow recipients to exercise their individual preferences (Gilbert and Specht 1974:44). Recipients of the bursary are given grants in form of cash. For example eligible undergraduate students at the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University are provided with grants and loans of varying percentage; 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent bursary. Apart from that students are also given monthly meal allowances (GRZ 2002:5). With provisions in the form of cash, a high degree of consumer sovereignty is preserved.
Strategies for Delivery
Delivery strategies refers to the alternative organisational arrangements among distributors and consumers of social welfare benefits in the context of local community systems, the level at which the overwhelming majority of distributors and consumers come together. The way of delivery systems is designed to achieve the objective of getting the selected social provision to eligible consumers are closely related and are of crucial significance to the allocations and provisions (Gilbert and Specht 1974:31). The delivery system can either be centralised or decentralised.
The National policy on Education state that for the protection of Poor and Vulnerable groups, the government established scholarship and bursaries schemes which various education boards administer at district and school levels. The policy also states that the government regularised the situation by entrusting Education Boards with sufficient discretionary powers to enable them take positive and affirmative action on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. However this is done in conjunction with the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (Ministry of Education 1996:72).
From the above, it can be stated that the delivery system of the bursary is decentralised since the government delegated its powers to Education Boards.
According to Gilbert and Specht distributors of service may be individual professionals, professional groups, public and private and voluntary associations (op.cit:108). Apart from the government offering bursary scheme to poor and vulnerable pupils and students, some non government organisations such as the Forum for African Women’s Educationalist in Zambia (FAWEZA) sponsor some girl child students (WILDAF 2000:10).
Funding choices involve the various sources through which social provisions flow, usually in the form of cash, and the conditions placed upon this movement up to the point that it reaches distributors (Gilbert and Specht 1974:33)
The financing of the policy on Ensuring the Benefits of Education for the poor and Vulnerable is through tax payer’s money. According to the Economic Report 2005, a total of K3 million was disbursed for the provision of bursaries to the orphans and vulnerable people (Ministry of Finance and National Planning 2006:51). Recipients of the social welfare benefits may also be asked to participate directly in financing programmes through fees paid for services rendered (op.cit:144). As regards the bursary scheme, the applicants for loans and grants are scrutinised and given bursaries ranging from 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent depending on the individual’s vulnerability. This means that those who receive bursaries of less than 100 percent contribute towards financing the programmes (Ministry of Finance and National Planning 2004).
Evaluation of the Policy
Any policy implementation is usually met with successes and set backs. This can be caused by the policy implementers or the target groups. The policy on Ensuring Benefits of Education for the Poor and Vulnerable has had both successes and setbacks.
Education lies at the centre of efforts to help poor people on their struggle to obtain necessities of life such as food, shelter and a secure future. In an effort to stem the decline in educational standards, the Government embarked upon the current reforms. The main thrust of these forms is the sharing principle and decentralisation of the education delivery system. The main forms of cost sharing are school fees, examination fees and boarding fees. (Chigunta et al 1998:33).
As a result of the above measures, education costs to families became considerable high, taking into account that 57% of the Zambian population is absolutely poor. It became clear that accessibility to education became a far cry among the poor and other vulnerable groups in society. As a consequence, the withdrawal of children from school became a coping strategy. According to the second PRSP Implementation Progress Report July 2003 – June 2004, as a way of meeting the needs and increasing education requirements of the vulnerable and poor people. Government responded favourably by providing bursaries to such people. This resulted in the increase in total enrolments at the country’s two state universities by 14.7 percent (Ministry of Finance and National Planning 2004).
The provision of grants and loans of varying percentages has resulted in the provision of bursary on a more equitable basis so much that a great number of the most vulnerable groups are able to access the service. This has enabled the poorest of the poor to access education without any impediments in terms of school fees.
However, as much as the Government came up with the policy on Ensuring the Benefits of Education for the Poor and Vulnerable, the implementation of the policy leaves much to be desired. For example, as regards to the Bases of Social Allocation, in spite of the establishment of the bursary scheme aimed at ensuring the benefit of Education for Poor and Vulnerable, there is presently considerable dissatisfaction and discontent with the design and operations of the bursary scheme. These complaints indicate the level of policy inconsistency in the implementation as well as lack of guidance on the eligibility criteria. Because bursary scheme is not for everyone and it is not advertised broadly and easy access is not made to them, many of the poor never find their way onto their rolls. There are almost as many people eligible for bursary but who are not receiving it. The rising numbers of school drop outs and street children suggests that the scheme has not succeeded in assisting its beneficiaries (Chigunta et al 1998: 34).
As regard the nature of Social Provisions, the Scheme is currently characterised by delays in releasing meal allowances for eligible students, poor management and administration of the scheme, and deficiencies in the benefit structure. A critical analysis of the strategies for Delivery shows that there are many deficiencies. Some of the problems relate to authority and control of decisions. The other problem is that of fragmentation. For example, applicants of the scheme are scrutinized by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry Community Development and Social Sciences (ibid). This means that clients are referred from one ministry to the other. Because of these referrals, people tend to give up.
The financing of the bursary scheme leaves much to be desired. For instance, taking the education sector as a point of reference, the Abuja Commitment to which the Zambian Government is a signatory stipulates an allocation to the education sector of not less than 15 percent of the total budget (CSPR 2006:3). Comparing this with the 7 percent the education sector has received in 2007 budget; it becomes clear that there is still need to do better. The allocation to social protection within the education sector at less than 10 percent of the total budgetary allocation to the education sector is inadequate. This will definitely affect the provision of bursaries to the eligible pupils and students. Whilst government proclaim a lofty objective of providing relevant, equitable, efficient, quality and ensuring the benefits of education for the poor and vulnerable, it fails to put money on the table.
In views of the above set backs in the provision of the bursary, below are the recommendations:
1. There should be substantial redistribution of expenditure in favour of poverty reducing programmes and activities. Thus allocations to education, particularly social protection must be raised up so that many eligible people can be accessing bursary schemes.
2. Government must consider restructuring the delivery systems of the bursary scheme. Only one ministry should be responsible for scrutinising the applicants for the scheme. This will reduce on fragmentation of the service.
3. The criteria for selection of eligible people should be decentralised. Currently all applicants for the scheme are made to travel to Lusaka. This has brought about discontinuity, that is, many people give up.
4. Government must ensure that women are given equal access to scholarships and grants.
A nation that values its future accords the highest priority to providing genuine and quality education for all its young people. Education is a right that must not be denied to the young people or we throw away their lives. But it must be a genuine and empowering education. Education will always need more and more of the resources and deserves serious attention. And quality education does not come cheap or easily. It is clear that certain policy reforms in the education sector are long overdue. These are clear and current pitfalls, which if not given sufficient attention by our government, will undo the gains achieved by the previous efforts of our people. One such policy that needs to be reformed is the policy on Ensuring the Benefits of Education for the Poor and Vulnerable.
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