THE EDITOR: It was Albert Einstein who said “whoever undertakes to set himself up a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” Well perhaps the gods are laughing now, given my recent commendations of the Education Minister, only to have her then close the education GATE in the faces of young professionals like myself.
Of course, the minister has stated that these decisions were not only warranted but necessary given the current economic situation facing the country – a position which, on first glance, may seem plausible, even supportable. However, this curtain of naivete falls away when compared to the Government’s commitment to continue expending millions on CEPEP, URP, Food Card and other dependency-syndrome programmes.
Why cut GATE and not expenditure on these programmes, which simply perpetuate dependence? Why not channel the funds towards more educationally uplifting initiatives? Isn’t education the key to success?
A more probative analysis of the issue raises even more concerns, given the current covid19 pandemic and associated economic impact as many young and no so young professionals may now be facing redundancy and unemployment. This therefore forces them to upskill and retool themselves towards participating in more economically viable fields such as the quickly evolving ICT and computer science that are projected be in high future demand.
So why not simply refocus GATE towards encouraging more people to enter those fields, whether they have prior qualification in another or not? Wouldn’t that assist the country in achieving its growth thrust, through its digital diversification and e-society mandates?
While I would be hard-pressed to disagree with the notion that there is a clear need for the Government to rationalise its expenditure on subsidies and transfers in general – partly achieved through its reduced expenditure on GATE and scholarships – such a blinkered, myopic approach appears to be a classic case of penny wise and pound foolish.
In these hard covid19 times, the Government would be better served in expanding GATE to target critical areas of the society, while implementing a more robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism that ensures beneficiaries fulfil their obligatory work service to the country. This not only promotes investment in our human capital, and guarantees a return on it, but also propagates independence from the dependence.