Undervaluing Teachers

IMF policies squeeze Zambian education system

Published: 10 January 2004

Zambia is a country on the brink. One in 5 people are infected with HIV, life expectancy has dropped to 33 years and young people aged 20-25 actually have less education than their parents’ generation. Therefore, the achievement of Zambia’s new government in getting more children into school holds out a critical glimmer of hope. Yet in order to qualify for long-delayed debt relief, Zambia been forced to stop hiring the teachers and health workers it desperately needs – placing its education success story in jeopardy, and threatening to plunge the country into political crisis.

At their meetings in Washington this week, the governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank can end this charade by announcing full cancellation of outstanding debt, ensuring macroeconomic targets don’t contradict poverty reduction needs, and urging rich countries to replace stop/start engagement with the predictable, long-term commitments needed to hire the teachers and health workers that countries like Zambia so desperately need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs).