Education and Skills Development
The education sector is a critical pillar in achieving human and social development as it directly contributes to a skilled labour force and is essential for growing the economy as well as reducing poverty. As global trends evolve, the need to link skills with labour market demands cannot be over-emphasised. However, Zambia’s education sector is characterised by a myriad of challenges that include; inadequate financial and human resources, poor education quality and low progression rates, among others. These challenges tend to be higher in rural areas due to developmental inequalities, where access to quality education has continued to be affected by distance, poor infrastructure, lack of teachers and inability to pay user fees. Consequently, this impacts development as high levels of unskilled personnel may not be able to significantly contribute to the growth of the economy.
In line with Government’s aspirations to make quality education accessible to all, the 2022 budget has allocated K18.1 Billion representing 10.4% of the National Budget to the sector. This is an increase by 32% in comparison to the subsequent allocation of K13.8 Billion in 2021. Government has also set aside K2,188,592,645 to support school operations and K694,331,744 for school infrastructure as well as K199,787,477 for skills development.
Several measures have been put in place to improve access to quality education. For instance, Government seeks to recruit 30,000 teachers in 2022 at a cost of K1.7 billion in a bid to guarantee quality education by reducing the teacher-pupil ratio. Another measure set to improve access to education will be through the construction of an additional 120 secondary schools to be financed through a loan obtained from the World Bank. Like primary school education, access to secondary schools is limited in rural areas, hence there is need for Government to target rural areas in order to address challenges such as low progression rates and distance to schools. Moreover, the continued investment in the development of school infrastructure should be targeted towards increasing the number of STEM schools across the country in order to nurture innovation through science and technology which is an essential tool for development and will help advance the country’s technological skills base.
As a means of ensuring equitable opportunities for the girl child, Government will continue to address gender specific challenges that the girl child faces such as walking long distances to school, early marriages, menstrual hygiene and unwanted pregnancies. In this regard, Government will increase beneficiaries on the Keeping Girls in School Programme from the current 28,964 in 2021 to 43,520 girls in 2022.
To realise Government’s aspiration for free education from primary to secondary level, user fees such as Parent Teachers Association (PTA), examination fees and tuition fees will be abolished. Furthermore, to cover boarding facilities, bursary schemes will be introduced for vulnerable learners through the K792,226,102 reserved under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). To ensure this is realised, the provision of teaching and learning materials, grants to primary schools will be increased three-fold in 2022. Further, grants from the Government to public schools will be increased to meet the operational costs that were previously financed by the fees. The removal of school fees is a significant relief for many households as this money can contribute towards other basic needs for the family such as nutrition.
PMRC commends Government for the proposed recruitment of teachers and urges them to decentralize the recruitment process in order to reduce incidences of teachers requesting for transfers. Equally, there is need to look into issues that will act as incentives for more teachers to take up places in rural areas. This is critical for achieving the provision of equitable quality education and bridging the gap between urban and rural learners. Similarly, the removal of user fees in the education sector will allow for greater retention rates among learners from vulnerable households.
- PMRC urges Government to conduct curriculum assessments in order to adequately equip learners with the necessary skills such as those in Entrepreneurship, Science and Technology so as to effectively respond to societal needs.
- Government is urged to continuously conduct skills audits among teachers in order to build capacity to improve the quality of education imparted on learners.
- PMRC urges Government to apply the bursaries to be accessed under CDF on an equitable basis for learners in rural areas in order to improve progression rates.
Access to health care is a basic human right and a critical pillar towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, securing qualified health personnel and providing adequate funding to the sector will enhance the quality of care accessed and the provision of services.
Government has allocated K13.9 Billion representing 8% of the total 2022 budget. This is an increase by 44% in comparison to K9.7 Billion in 2021. Other allocations are towards drugs and medical supplies at K3.4 Billion which represents more than double the allocation in the 2021 budget towards drugs and medical supplies, COVID-19 vaccines at K704,275,000, operations for hospitals at K883,249,509 and health infrastructure at K1.6 Billion.
Furthermore, Government seeks to recruit 11,200 health care personnel as well as place health workers that have been working without a salary on payroll. This measure will not only help address the high unemployment rate but will also help Government achieve its goal of enhancing the quality of health care across the country. In light of the critical need for improved health care in the face of COVID-19, the recruitment of health personnel and securing funding towards acquiring more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will help Government reach its vaccination rollout targets.
Government will also continue to invest in health infrastructure development through the construction and completion of health facilities. This is a critical area of focus especially in rural areas where barriers in the access to health services continue to undermine the quality of life of citizens. Another key area that needs investment is in the provision of drugs, medical supplies in health facilities and specialised medical care and skills in order to respond to the health needs of the people. This will help Zambia become an attractive healthcare hub in the region. Facilities such as Maina Soko Military Hospital, Cancer Disease Hospital and Lusaka Specialist Hospital are key examples that can put Zambia on the map for health tourism. This will also help the Government save on medical evacuations to India and South Africa for specialized health services. Therefore, we urge Government to prioritise modernising and equipping of health facilities.
PMRC commends Government for setting up measures to improve supply management systems that will ensure availability of essential medicines and medical supplies through the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency in accordance with the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency Act No.9 of 2019. Further, PMRC commends Government for its commitment to attaining universal health coverage by reforming the National Health Insurance Scheme as this will make quality health services affordable and accessible to all.
- PMRC commends Government for an increased budgetary allocation towards the provision of health services, however, we urge Government to continue to strive towards attaining the 15% target as set in the Abuja Declaration.
- Further, PMRC urges Government to urgently strengthen procurement systems in the health sector to resolve the various challenges highlighted in the Auditor General’s report. This can be done through strict adherence to the Zambia Public Procurement Act and enforcement of measures to curb wastage of resources.
- Finally, there is need for Government to exploit public-private partnerships in order to advance Zambia’s health sector to become a hub for medical tourism. Equally, innovative ways of financing the health sector will improve the quality of services accessible to citizens.
Water and Sanitation
Government has been making significant strides in the water and sanitation sector as evidenced by the various projects it has embarked on such as the National Urban and Rural Water Supply Programme. These projects have been implemented in Kafue, Nakonde, Chinsali and Chongwe. Furthermore, projects such as the Lusaka Water Supply Sanitation and Drainage Projects are targeted to benefit about 90,000 residents once completed while similar projects are also being implemented in Kafulafuta, Serenje and Mufumbwe districts.
Government with the help of its cooperating partners will continue to undertake a number of water and sanitation projects to improve access to clean and safe drinking water as well as to provide sanitation services. The 2022 budget has increased the allocation in this by 9% from K2.2 Billion in 2021 to K2.4 Billion with additional financing of K145,323,866 under the Millenium Challenge Account.
PMRC commends Government for its continued efforts to improve access to clean water and sanitation, particularly in rural areas in order to address challenges of long distance to points of safe drinking water for communities.
Moreover, the removal of application and registration fees to drill domestic boreholes will help increase access to water across the country. However, more efforts need to be made to safeguard the quality of underground water and reduce contamination. Similarly, there is need to improve drainage systems and solid waste management systems across the country to address issues such as flooding and the indiscriminate disposal of waste as this impacts sanitation particularly in urban and peri-urban areas. There is also an urgent need to scale-up efforts to reach vulnerable sections of society, as basic sanitation has continued to be a challenge in many communities.
- Government is encouraged to expedite the implementation and completion of various water and sanitation projects across the country in order to achieve equitable access to clean water and decent sanitation for all.
- Government is urged to improve the drainage systems and solid waste management systems in order address the challenges faced from flooding during the rainy season and the indiscriminate disposal of waste as this impacts on sanitation.
Social protection is key in reducing vulnerability among poorer sections of society and is a critical policy measure to promote access to basic social amenities that impact on the quality of life. Social protection programming supports development through building human capital, thus breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty and promoting the reduction of both social and economic inequalities. Programmes such as the Social Cash Transfer, Food Security Pack are essential social safety nets that safeguard livelihoods.
In the 2022 budget, social protection has received an allocation of K6.3 Billion representing 3.6% of the National Budget. This allocation is an increase by 31% from the K4.8 Billon allocated in 2021. The Social Cash Transfer (SCT) has been allocated K3.1 Billion, while the Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF) stands at K2.1 Billion and Food Security Pack (FSP) at K1.1 Billion.
The budgetary increment on various programmes will facilitate the upscaling of beneficiaries. Under the SCT, beneficiaries will be adjusted upwards from 880,539 to over one million in 2022. Equally, the transfer amounts will be increased from K150 to K200 per month and from K300 to K400 per month for households with persons with disabilities. In order to support the most needy in society, PMRC notes that there is need for strengthening human resources in the department of social welfare at ward level to improve the targeting of beneficiaries with the help of community members. While scaling up beneficiaries is commendable especially given the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on many households which further exacerbated their vulnerability through loss of income, PMRC suggests the need to link vulnerable households on various social protection programmes to empowerment programmes in order to progressively uplift them from poverty and enable them to effectively participate in development. In addition, PMRC has been advocating for Government to shift from the traditional cash pay-outs to beneficiaries to a more cost effective and efficient electronic pay-out of SCT benefits as a cost saving measure. Furthermore, there is need to strengthen measures aimed at providing timely and predictable disbursement of funds in order to cushion further vulnerability on beneficiary households.
The Food Security Pack Programme has also been earmarked for upscaling from 263,700 to 290,000 households in 2022. This Programme is targeted at the vulnerable but viable farmer households. Similarly, other social protection interventions that will be scaled up include the Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Programme, the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, Public Welfare Assistance Scheme, and Child Welfare Programmes.
In order to safeguard the livelihoods of pensioners, the 2022 budget has committed funds towards the settlement of pension benefit arrears for retired public service workers that stood at K1.2 Billion. The allocation towards this settlement is K2.1 Billion which is in excess of the arrears in order to curtail further accumulation of arrears. This also indicates that Government has prepared for the next cohort set to retire. Therefore, PMRC commends Government for its efforts to dismantle the arrears owed to pensioners as this will enable them to live dignified lives after work and improve their quality of life. Further, Government is set to review and amend legislation such as the Public Service Pensions Act Cap 260 of the Laws of Zambia, Local Authorities Superannuation Fund Act Cap 284 of the Laws of Zambia and the Pension Scheme Regulation Act No. 27 of 2005 in order to restructure the current pension system to allow workers to access accrued benefits before retirement. This is a commendable measure that will empower citizens to access their pension contributions for personal investment and development. In addition, the funds accessed under this programme will act as a source of capital for personal ventures that will contribute to uplifting their livelihoods and enable them to continue contributing to the growth of the economy.
- PMRC recommends that Government expedites the shift to electronic platforms for the administration of the social cash transfer in order to improve the security of funds as well as cut down on administrative costs.
- PMRC urges Government to link beneficiaries of various social protection programmes to empowerment programmes in order to sustainably uplift beneficiaries out of poverty.
- PMRC recommends that Government expedites legislative reforms governing pension benefits in order to further empower citizens to access pension contributions for personal investment and development.