Zimbabwe has — for the third consecutive time — been ranked at the apex of the literacy rate in Africa, according to the latest rankings. The country has held pole position since 2010, taking over from Tunisia which is now ranked number 15.
According to the latest results, Zimbabwe’s literacy rate stands at 90.9 percent, down from 91.2 percent and it is the only country on the continent with a literacy rate of over 90 percent.
This is despite the economic challenges the country has endured in the last decade due to the West’s illegal economic sanctions regime that curtailed Government’s capacity to fund the education sector.
The embargo chipped away at investments made in education since 1980, but the sound policies initiated by President Mugabe that devoted the largest chunk of the national budget to education ensured that the education system remained intact.
In its election manifesto launched last year, Zanu-PF identifies education as a critical pillar of the indigenisation and economic empowerment agenda.
“The successful implementation of the indigenisation and people’s empowerment policy is essentially a boardroom challenge that requires the achievement-based skills not only to meet the demands of the emerging knowledge-driven Zimbabwean economy, but also be able to compete with positive results in the global telecommunications village.
“This is only possible through Zanu-PF’s policy of education for all,’’ reads the party’s 2013 Election manifesto.
On second position is Equatorial Guinea, with 87 percent while South Africa and Kenya follow with 86.4 and 85.1 percent respectively, making the tail end is Burkina Faso on 21.8 percent. Tunisia’s literacy rate now stands at 74.3 percent.
Nigeria (68 percent) and Ghana (57. 9 percent), which have had a long time reputation for good standards of education are now ranked number 22 and 33 respectively.
The latest results dovetail with the Zanu-PF election manifesto launched by President Mugabe last Friday ahead of the harmonised elections on July 31.
The manifesto points out that Zanu-PF has ensured that the fundamental architecture of the country’s internationally acclaimed system of education has remained intact despite the challenges Zimbabwe has faced in the last decade.
The revolutionary party said the sanctions tried to “demolish” the country’s education pillars but failed.
“This is explained in a dramatic way by the fact that during the height of the hyperinflation period in 2008, Zimbabwe recorded the highest literacy rate in Africa which was authoritatively put at 96.4 percent by the UNDP,” reads the manifesto.
“This achievement is the clearest testimony to the fact that Zimbabwe’s system of education is built on a profound and durable architecture enabled by Zanu-PF. This unquestionable architecture has tenaciously withstood the unprecedented regime change pressures that have among other things sought to make its subversive point by seeking to demolish the pillars of the country’s system of education.”
Due to the massive investments made by successive Zanu-PF governments into the education sector since 1980, Zimbabwe currently had 73,160 primary school teachers out of which 90 percent have requisite professional qualifications.
The secondary school system has 43,300 teachers whose qualified ranks are 72 percent.
“In 2005, Zanu-PF introduced an innovative primary school module called “Early Childhood Development” that is in two parts, targeting infants aged between two and three years and those aged between four and five years,” the manifesto reads.
The enrolment at ECDs is increasing tremendously and in 2007 it stood at 168,677pupils before jumping to 345,556 and 352,946 in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Primary school enrolment has increased from 1,235,994 in 1980 to 3,019,397 in 2012 while secondary school figures have increased from 74,321 in 1980 to 936,734 in 2012.
Zanu-PF’s commitment to education has also seen the country having 5 753 primary schools and 2 312 secondary schools to date.
“The figures were achieved as a result of Zanu-PF’s consistent commitment to devote the largest single proportion of the national budget to education and this accounts for the profound and durable architecture upon which the country’s system of education is built,” reads the manifesto.
Zimbabwe, which had one university at independence now boasts of 12 with an enrolment of over 69,000.
The number of teachers colleges has also increased from eight in 1980 to 14 in 2013 while polytechnics have increased from two to 13 during the same period.
Africa Literacy Ranking 2013
1. Zimbabwe 90.70
2.Equatorial Guinea 87.00
3.South Africa 86.40
6.Sao Tome and Principe 84.90
9. Congo, Republic of the 83.80
11. Swaziland 81.60
14.Cape Verde 76.60
25. D.R.C 67.20
27. Gabon 63.20
38.Cote d’Ivoire 48.70
39.Central African Republic 48.60
44.Gambia, The 40.10
47.Sierra Leone 35.10
52.Burkina Faso 21.80