Devalued Education, Devalued Economy, Devalued Nation By Natnael F. Alemayehu
To intellectually debate Ethiopia’s history, one must first accept the contributions of all Ethiopians. To dispute past achievements or legacy of events or particular individuals, one must not begin with “state of mind” of the personalities or group involved in that particular time. Questions of un-witnessed history, most of the time, if not always, lead to answers with more intriguing questions. When questioning the recent history of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, there are a few generalizations, which can also be backed by statistics, making theme events whispered in kitchens and backed with figures. Aside from the usual famine and poverty, there is one element of Ethiopia’s downturn our intellectuals view lightly or have chosen not to highlight in the conversation of economics and the actions of the current administration: Education.
An educated workforce is an unequivocal component of social and economical progression—a strong collective that will study, invent, create, build, innovate and give back to the system. Unemployment and political oppression are two of the many reasons that the world’s poorest nations are currently losing their youngest and brightest. Ethiopia again is a leader in the category of “losing a national resource”. Brain drain is detrimental to the progress of any nation; however, if the education within the country is devalued rapidly, there we have a recipe for social disaster, slow communal downfall and meager nation building.
Human capital is essential to a competitive economy and the overall health of nation. According to a 2009 report by EstandardsForm, in Ethiopia, only 22% of children who begin the first grade complete the eighth grade. Together with a literacy rate of 35.9% for those who are 15 years of age or older, Ethiopia has a school life expectancy of 7.6 years, lower than the regional average of 8.6 years . The same year, a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum addressed the ability of 31 African countries to provide quality higher education and training for its citizens to compete globally. Ethiopia ranked a dismal 26th on the African index and 126th on the world ranking . In a nation where high-achieving university graduates are being instructed to teach the following year, with the consequence of being unable to go further in their academic careers, it is fair to assume that education-devaluation is a matter of urgency.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index, the new measure of the U.N.’s Human Development Report, has Ethiopia as the second poorest country in the world, with 90% of its people living in poverty, 39% living on as little as $1.25 a day and 61.5% deprived of adequate schooling . Although, undoubtedly, the causes may be multifaceted, there is unquestionably a root cause of the poverty that has haunted us for several decades. Ask your self. If a person is identified as living in poverty, where do his or her historical and social records play a part? Where are the current influential forces working to improve the quality of education? Impacting this specific effect? How important is Human Capital?
False Developmental Strategies vis-à-vis Brain Drain
Ethiopia continues to be Africa’s leading recipient of foreign aid, but has not experienced the social or economic growth such aid is meant to stimulate. Continued rise in living costs without insufficient visible economic growth is a recipe for poverty. We must point to those who have the potential to change the status quo. The current regime will continue to execute the same politically motivated social policies, which have sustained slow growth, rapid under-development and an exodus of the educated population—a development strategy they have copied or were instructed by a donor to implement. The educated elites within the administration continue to implement social programs based on individual political stature or personal gain. Not all of them, but those who knowingly betray their morals are the reason why “international development” by Western nations has succeeded in under-developing nations like Ethiopia. The “one size fits all” scheme only works on those who choose to follow and not question.
Ethiopia is a leader in exporting qualified professionals. In 2007, allafrica.com reported an alarming statistic presented at a national symposium on Ethiopian Diasporas, namely that Ethiopia had lost 75% of its skilled works in the previous 10 years. One-third of doctors had also fled the country within that time . Today, mass exodus by the educated continues to be a problem as those returning to the country are only a small portion of those who continue to leave. Inadequate educational procedures and brain drain of previous generations should worry anyone who has a say or would like to be in the conversation of national development and the “nation as a state”.
Concept of the “Nation State”
The relationship between the government and the public must be questioned when the nation’s ability to exist independently is in question. The responsibilities of the governing body to the sovereignty of the state and to its citizens, along with the legitimacy of the individuals in power, must be questioned. A European-philosophized and African-duplicated political process continues to be the main cause of Africa’s downfall. No greater example exists than Ethiopia, whose current administration continues to export young woman to be maids in the Middle East, arresting anyone who opposes this action or offers a differing opinion on national topics, thereby creating a prison state for anyone who thinks or speaks differently. If there was an all-inclusive, free, democratic and progressive political system, would the current state of the nation change? How does a nation or community evolve into a freethinking and open society?
Education, Not Indoctrination
Aside from the ideals of the “developmental state,” where are the rule of law, human rights and democracy in Ethiopia? Democracy will continue to benefit tyrants if the masses being oppressed do not understand the benefit of a free and self-governing society. Race and cultural (ethnic) differences are the tools of the established political, financial elite and anyone who is able to influence national conversation. The regime continues to enforce politics, economics and education with a centralized agenda to indoctrinate citizens with their own principles, which has been responsible for the lack of transparency in politics, unstable growth economically and lack of satisfactory education at all levels.
We must act quickly! Education should not be an indoctrination tool for self-serving bureaucrats, but a cornerstone of a sovereign nation. If we all share the ideals of a free society, then let us begin with educating those who have been deprived of basic information. Social change lies in the cooperation of the collective and not the secluded ideals of a few. The current administration’s closed-door policy on national concerns will continue to hinder the future of the country. It is only the unity of the educated Diaspora—their coming together to discuss and debate—that will reignite the love of nation, both in those in Ethiopia and in Ethiopians around the world.
We Will Not Be Free Until We Free Our Minds!
Centralized economics has been the policy of all previous administrations as well as the current regime. But this is a nation of millions, not a dictatorial playground for a few. We must understand and respect that it is only with the contributions of all citizens that we can change as a nation. A sovereign nation requires all who are invested in the state to be given the same rights, so the “nation state” will remain united. Differences aside, there are pressing issues that will force us to unite under duress if we do not begin to wake up and unite ourselves, on our own terms. When people’s freedoms and sovereignty are stripped away and governing bodies are unable to feed them or meet their basic needs, history has shown us that people turn to violence to get back what was taken from them.
“One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” Plato
Ominous governance and unethical practices in politics have been a leading cause for the brain drain and disastrous educational system. It is understandable for anyone not to get involved in politics, but it is weak to stand by and watch injustice, using politics as an excuse not to speak up for change. There is a direct connection between suppressive governance, lackluster economy and inadequate education. When the educated fail to act, the status quo remains. The need for an immediate action is not simply about politics, but the survival of a nation.
Free Market of Ideas and Innovation
The educational elite in the developed nations are the architects of the systems to destabilize the growth of developing nations through systematic social tools like debt, aid and international development plans (“one size fits all”, “poor Africans” model of subjugation). We must construct from within, build using our resources and our own innovate minds and give back to the system. We are living in the West, helping to strengthen their nations. What is it we lack to rebuild our own? UNITY. We have simplified unity to a simple victory of wars against invaders, but our forefathers left us much more than stories when they came together to defeat great odds.
Political, Social and Economic Development
Not every problem requires money, nor does it require a complete shift in politics. However, our current issues do require certain political resolutions going forward. Without directly implementing other structures, we can infuse the ideals of democracy with the realities of our nation. Our future political system must not be about the ideals of a few; rather, let us try to build our own system of governance with:
• a “Legislative Branch of High Governors” to produce and put into affect national laws, constructed by the representatives of the people (all the people).
• an “Executive Branch of policy and institution governors” to lead the nation and its specific branches, such as foreign affairs, defense, treasury, interior, agriculture, commerce, energy, education, etc., and
• a “Judicial Branch, which will hold all citizens to the same standards, regardless of ethnicity, or social stature” and will look at the actions of all political leaders, the average individual and millionaires, regardless of affiliation, in the best interest of the nation under the laws of the state.
We must have a constitutional government with accountability/transparency enforced by the rules of the state for all political representatives. Fiscal responsibility and a free market must be part of the economic agenda. Unquestionably, media freedom has to be the adhesive between the actions of politicians and all citizens. Transparency, legitimacy and accountability have to become law to protect all citizens, regardless of sub-ethnic background, for the betterment of the nation.
The Educated Workforce
An educated workforce will better the nation as a whole. A functioning economy requires this force for sustainable development. National issues require an educated force to discuss national projects from a variety of viewpoints, enriching the outcome. Education is an investment for the future, which will continue progress made by previous generations toward a prosperous nation. An educated society is attractive for foreign investments. Currently, Ethiopia’s infrastructure is being blueprinted and constructed by foreign corporations. Ask yourself, is Ethiopia truly building a self-sustaining economy?
We must act immediately! GET INVOLVED! GET INVOLVED! DO YOUR PART!
“Where have all my children gone?” she asks. “If they are far, do they remember me?” she wonders. “After I gave them all I had, will they return to look back at the younger generation?” she ponders. Oh dearest Ethiopia, where have your children gone?
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