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 2010-01-28 10:07 pm Back to NEWS
EDUCATION is a vital component of any society, but especially of a democracy

EDUCATION is a vital component of any society, but especially of a democracy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never shall be."

But the object of democratic education is to produce citizens who are independent, questioning and analytical in their outlook, yet deeply familiar with the precepts and practice of democracy. People may be born with an appetite for personal freedom, but they are not born with knowledge about the social and political arrangements that make freedom possible over time for themselves and their children. Such things must be acquired. They must be learned.

Education plays a singular role in free societies. In a democracy, the regime is the servant of the people, people whose capacity to create, sustain and improve that regime depend in a large measure on the quality and effectiveness of the educational arrangements through which they pass. In a democracy, it can fairly be said, education enables freedom itself over time.

A healthy democracy depends in a large part on the development of a democratic civic culture. Culture in this sense does not refer to art, literature or music, but to the behaviours, practices and norms that define the ability of the people to govern themselves.

Education is very important in governance. But the education required to govern a community, a country, is acquired in many different ways. Education cannot only be measured by the acquisition of a university degree. We say this because there are many university graduates who are functionally illiterate. We should educate ourselves, educate other people, the population in general, to fight ignorance. We should encourage our people to interest themselves in the things and problems of our daily life and struggle in their fundamental and essential aspects, and not simply in their appearance. Let’s learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.

But we should always bear in mind that the people are not struggling for ideas, the things in one’s head or the degrees one has in possession. They are struggling to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children. And for this reason, the type of leadership our people are seeking is one which sees politics as a vocation to serve the people and not one which looks at politics like any other job where you are called for interviews and display your degrees and you get the job. Good governance will only occur when we have intelligent, honest and humble leaders who see politics not as a job but as a vocation to serve the people.

And central to good governance is a good constitution, one that is really owned by the people and contains all the rights of the people. And not a constitution like the one being currently constructed by the National Constitutional Conference. How can a constitution that overwhelmingly excludes the great majority of the people from setting for themselves a political agenda be said to be really owned by the people? In a country where not more than three per cent of the population have attained Grade 12, certificates, diplomas and degrees, it is extremely undemocratic, insensitive to come up with a constitutional clause that requires a presidential candidate to have a university degree. This is as if acquiring a university degree is the only way to measure one’s intelligence, one’s level of literacy, one’s extent of honesty and humility.

We have many highly educated people in this country who do not possess a university degree. We have military officers, outstanding generals who by the nature of their profession do not have university degrees but are highly educated people. It is foolish for one to think that General Kingsley Chinkuli, Gen Malimba Masheke, Gen Benjamin Mibenge, Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda, among many other senior officers of all ranks from our armed forces, cannot become presidents of this country, have no competence to govern. We have many other people who have spent many years training and working in religious functions such as priests, pastors, reverends and so on and so forth, without being awarded university degrees. Can any sensible person tell us that these people are not fit to govern, to be presidents of this country?

We also have many other professions where a degree is not awarded. We had a time when one did not need to have a degree in law to become a barrister. And such barristers have gone on to become very outstanding judges. Can any thinking person deny such people the right to aspire for the office of president in this country? We also have many chartered and certified accountants who do not possess a university degree of any sort. Can these be said to be illiterate people who are not fit to run for the office of president?

When Frederick Chiluba entered office as president of the Republic in 1991, he had only one ‘O’Level. But due to his experience in life, especially in the leadership of the trade unions and in politics, the British University of Warwick found it prudent to admit him to a postgraduate programme with one ‘O’ Level, no ‘A’ Levels, no first degree. Were they foolish to do so? Certainly not.

Today the great majority of our members of parliament, the people making our laws don’t possess university degrees. But they are making our laws. We wish one day the levels of education in our country will be so high that wherever one goes there will be people with degrees. But this will take a long time given the fact that we still have not achieved even universal primary education and we may not even meet this Millennium Development Goal by the target year of 2015.

It is very clear that this government and those working with it had a target in mind when they came up with this provision at the National Constitutional Conference. And that target is Michael Sata. Is this the best way to make laws for a country?

The country definitely needs enlightened leaders but not in the way they are trying to do it using the National Constitutional Conference. If a person has received the necessary talent by the favour of God, that person would fail in his or her duty if for selfish motives the person refused to take his or her share in public life and affairs. Any person who is qualified to become a leader is guilty if he or she refuses the task. The apathy of potential leaders can bring anarchy to the country, by leaving all the responsibility to inefficient or unworthy people. Similarly, it is evil for anyone to place unjustifiable obstacles in the way of a person who has received the necessary talent by the favour of God to participate in the governance of the country.

It is very clear that this National Constitutional Conference is a waste of public funds. It has lost the moral integrity to come up with a constitution that would be respected by our people. It is clear that immediately there is a change of government, another constitutional review process will be inevitable.

This is a constitution of the MMD, by the MMD for the MMD. And those in charge of this process are nothing by their mere agents, serving nothing but their interests. Everything has got a time. This seems to be their time but the people’s time will come. They can delude themselves with all sorts of things but it’s all temporal. What is going to come out of this process will not be different from Chiluba’s 1996 Constitution which he used to carve Zambia for himself and to exclude Dr Kenneth Kaunda from participating in the affairs of his country. It sometimes gets dark, but morning comes.

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