CAROLINE KALOMBE, Lusaka
FOR a growing and large young population to drive any economy, it must have easy access to quality education and healthcare services.
Young people should be engaged in decent employment, without which many will not be able to escape social vices and poverty.
Skills development is, therefore, a necessary response to the challenge of youth unemployment.
Youths need guidance on how to sustain themselves and contribute to national development in the event that general education is not helpful.
They need to engage in entrepreneurial projects.
Information on various skills is, therefore, important.
There is need to include entrepreneurship programmes in education, which include basic business skills and linking would-be entrepreneurs to finance and market opportunities.
Such integrated approaches can help young people in their transition from school to the work environment and to tackle the multiple constraints they face in the labour market.
One of the organisataions that is employing this strategy is Petalozzi Zambia Childrenâ€™s Trust.
With two education centres in Kasisi and Ibex Hill, Petalozzi provides high quality education both for disadvantaged children.
Precious Simalundu, an alumna of Pestalozzi, says had it not been for the centre, she would still have been in her village in Gwembe district, Southern Province, uneducated and married off at an early age.
â€œI would be married with many children if I was still in the village. You know how it is in the village, especially without an education. Schools are far and you have to walk long distances to get to school,â€ the 28-year-old business administrator said.
Ms Simalundu said because schools in her village are far, she had to walk long distances to get to school, which was hard especially in the early years of her education.
â€œI had to walk long distances to school and when I got there, we had to share a class with two other grades. We had one teacher for all the three different grades and those were the dedicated ones,â€ she said.
Ms Simalundu noted that she was identified by officials from Pestallozi who were visiting the area and provided her with a scholarship to continue with her education.
She completed her secondary school in India and came back to Zambia in 2006.
The ambitious woman went on to do a degree in business administration at Westminster College in Missouri, United States, from 2006 to 2010 and returned to Zambia in 2011.
Ms Simalundu said if she had not received the scholarship she would have dropped out of school before finishing high school and would not have achieved anything academically.
The Pestalozziâ€™s goal is to break the cycle of poverty through the â€œeducation of the head, heart and handsâ€, which reflects the teachings of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, the philanthropist and educational pioneer after whom it is named.
Pestalozziâ€™s philosophy is that education should go beyond academics.
It must prepare each scholar for a life of service – not only by succeeding in academia but also by acquiring practical, vocational skills and a sense of purpose and social responsibility.
Pestalozzi World has engaged United Kingdom education management company ScholÃ© to manage the school in Lusaka this year.
ScholÃ©â€™s aims at improving standards through teacher training and development, to develop the skills programme alongside the boarding house team and market the school to new private students for both day and boarding.
Led by executive director Carole Hoskins, the ScholÃ© team brings experience from leading schools in the UK and is bringing international best practices into the classroom at Pestalozzi.
â€œOur aim is to enhance the skills of the children. We encourage the pupils to take part in clubs such as the marketing and work towards achieving different skills. They need to be more than academic,â€ Ms Hoskins said.
She said the centre believes that by helping to produce the leaders of tomorrow in science, business, the professions and government, it is making an important long-term contribution to development in Zambia and neighbouring countries.
Recently, the centre conducted a workshop with delegates from Zambia, India, Malawi, Switzerland and the UK who gathered to discuss the theme of entrepreneurship, so as to build on the global network that has been established by Pestalozzi World.
The delegates also included Pestalozzi alumni who provided entrepreneurial ideas and experiences to the workshop participants.
All studentsâ€™ academic education is supplemented with practical skills training and then development of social awareness based on the holistic Pestalozzi philosophy of head, heart and hands. Crucial to the Pestalozzi approach is the â€˜circle of successâ€™ – graduates are encouraged to become educators themselves, bringing their knowledge and skills back to their families and their communities, thus creating a ripple effect.
In Zambia, Pestalozzi brings children aged 10-11 – mostly girls – first to the Pestalozzi World centre at Kasisi (Kenneth Kaunda International Airport) for two to three years and then to the Pestalozzi Education Centre (PEC) at Ibex Hill in Lusaka for a further four to five years.
Another former student of the centre is Maria Ngoma, who runs a farm shop at the centre.
Ms Ngoma said she learnt entrepreneurial skills at the centre and that she had to sell mangoes when she completed her grade nine junior secondary education to raise money for school fees.
â€œWhen I went back to the village there was no one to help me. I was selling mangoes and bananas to save money for school fees. Here I have been taught how to run a business,â€ she said
Pestalozzi World Africa currently accommodates 278 children at these two centres from Malawi and Zambia, including refugees from neighbouring countries selected through a partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Scholarships are funded through the global charity Pestalozzi World. As well as providing scholarships, the school serves the local middle class community by providing private school education for fee-paying students from grades one to 12.
Students funded by other NGOs in Lusaka such as MacDonalds Farm, Arise Africa and Kucetekela Foundation also attend the school.
This is one example of how a holistic approach could help address the high levels of unemployment in our country.
Beating unemployment via holistic education
CAROLINE KALOMBE, Lusaka