General Education Permanent Secretary, Dr Jobbicks Kalumba, is one of the best civil servants occupying that government position. Those who have worked with him confess that he is very passionate about public service, such that if we had 15 of his type, there would be a complete transformation in service delivery.

Appearing on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview where he announced reduced school fees for government schools, Dr Jobbicks proved that, indeed, he is the best man for the job. But there is one argument he made, which we feel cannot hold water. The Permanent Secretary apportioned the blame for the falling education standards in the country to teachers who are in the profession because they couldn’t make it to their originally-planned careers.

“Today, a good number of my cadres (teachers) some of them, not all, they chose teaching as the last option, because they couldn’t go for nursing, they couldn’t go for any other profession but teaching became their last option. And these are the men and women who have compromised standards in our schools. And since they say ‘if you can’t win them [then] join them,’ as long as these men and women have joined the General Education whose mandate is to transform the lives of the children and to create an enabling environment in which learning should take place, these men and women must respond to the core of the Ministry. We are on top of things and that is why we have been moving from one place to another helping the teachers to begin appreciating the value of education in this profession,” said Dr Jobbicks.

We can assure Dr Jobbicks that even in his own case, he may have chosen teaching, but what has made him rise through the ranks in government is his hard work and sacrifice. It was not his original plan to serve as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of General Education, and if President Lungu moves him to the Ministry of Health in the same capacity, we will expect no excuse from him saying he is failing because he is a teacher not doctor.

In Zambia today, career prospects don’t really work unless you were born in a rich family that can control your destiny and make sure that you get the job that you always dreamed of. For an ordinary citizen who finishes Grade 12, the future is completely uncertain. Within a year of joining society, reality dawns and all dreams are shattered! You have to forget about whatever career you were telling your teacher and parents. If you are lucky, you get it, if not, you go with the wind.

At one point in life, we all said we wanted to be doctors, engineers, presidents, lawyers and all those fancy careers, but circumstances dictate a totally different destiny. These labourers we see burning in the sun, digging drainages for Chinese contractors, were once pilots and doctors in their heads when they were in High School. If recruitment comes up in the Police Service, they will do anything to be picked.

Life is too hard to stick to the original career you wanted. Firstly, if you are too ambitious, your grade 12 results will knock you out of contention for your first career option. Then if you are academically talented, your good results may send you to college or university, but there will be no one to pay for your tertiary education. And in an event that you are lucky to sail past those initial huddles, you will now face the wrath of corruption and nepotism in the employment industry.

It’s almost impossible to be what you want to be in this country. That is why you have people who wanted to be lawyers ending up as farmers, nurses are reporting news, while soldiers are injecting patients – you can tell from the bad temper. Today, in Zambia, a larger percent of teachers never wanted to be teachers, just like a majority of nurses did not originally desire to be health providers. Therefore, that cannot be the reason for the falling education standards in schools.

Dr Jobbicks should not get things twisted. Failure to perform in a career has more to do with laziness and lack of motivation than being in the profession by accident. We don’t think that a teacher who is lazy to prepare a lesson plan, for example, would provide the best health care as a nurse. On the other hand, a nurse who goes for work drunk and fails to perform his/her duties would not do any better in his/her original career as a teacher.

A practical example is Chibamba Kanyama, who is one of the most renowned and accomplished economists we have in the country today. Mr Kanyama’s original career choice was to become a lawyer and his second career option was to be a journalist. Using Dr Jobbicks formula, such a person is expected to be pathetic in the entrepreneurship world, but can that be said about Mr Kanyama? Hard work and sacrifice says he can actually establish Bridges Limited and use it through his third career option to educate lawyers and journalists.

What we are saying is that even an ordinary pauper who walks into a tavern as a professional drunkard and comes out as Head of State can still transform his country using hard work and self-sacrifice. All what he needs is a functioning skopodonono. Tasiliza!