When David Coltart took over as Zimbabwe's minister of education, only 2 percent of schools were open.
Last week, I sat down with David Coltart in the Cato Institute's new library in Washington, DC, to talk about Zimbabwe. I had not seen Coltart in three years and I was eager to find out what was the political and economic situation in his country since the 2008 power-sharing agreement that, among other things, made him into the only white member of Zimbabwe's cabinet.
Coltart was in town lobbying for the removal of targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe and his inner circle. While Coltart, a human rights lawyer, is a vocal opponent of Mugabe -- and a member of the rival political party -- he says he believes that the sanctions cause the country more harm than good and provide the autocrat with a convenient scapegoat. Dressed in a suit that has clearly seen better days and sipping a real coke (no ice!), Coltart opened up about his love for his country and hopes for a better future.
What was the state of education in Zimbabwe when you became the minister of education in February 2009?
In 2008, we only had 28 full teaching days. When I took office in February 2009, 98 percent of all schools were shut and 90,000 teachers were on strike. Exams from the previous year were still unmarked. There was no money for education in the government's budget, and textbook-to-pupil ratio was 15-to-one. My department was not computerized and our data collection system had collapsed. Basically, the education system was in an extreme crisis.