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How companies can help secondary schools

WE all know that education is a powerful and important tool any nation can rely up on for its development. It is the only key to open doors of prosperity and knowledge in an individual’s life. Governments all over the world are heavily investing in education.
Zambia has not been left out in the development of education. But the question is, “Can Government alone succeed in developing the education sector without the involvement of other stakeholders?” The country needs stakeholders like companies to invest especially in secondary school education.
According to research, of the 20 percent pupils who go through primary to secondary school, only two percent of those aged between 20 and 24 enter university or some other form of higher education.
We must all remember that pupils do not have the same intellectual ability, and society requires labourers at various levels of employment. What then are we doing as a country to equip school leavers with the necessary skills before they enter the labour market?
We are talking about various forms of vocational training at different levels. At the moment, secondary school education is looked at by both government and society as a stepping stone for post primary training which culminates in formal employment.
The country needs partners like mining companies and other big firms to collaborate with the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education at district and provincial levels. Such firms can be the Copperbelt ones such as Konkola Copper Mines, Mopani Copper Mines and Luanshya Copper Mines.
In North-Western Province, we have Kansanshi Copper Mines, Lumwana, Barrick Gold and Kalumbila. In Southern Province, we have non-mining companies like Zambia Sugar while in Lusaka there are many big companies such as Lafarge Cement.
These companies can adopt, for instance, a Grade 10 class at a school in their localities and monitor the pupils in those classes. While we appreciate that these firms may be running their own secondary schools, it is still important for them to extend their good will to government-run secondary schools like Chililabombwe, Mpatamatu, Mitondo and Kyawama in Chililabombwe, Luanshya and Solwezi respectively.
Once the companies adopt pupils, they can come up with a workable system of paying for their school fees and other requirements. To offer quality education, the adopted classes can only have a maximum number of about 30 pupils each.
These pupils should be subjected to proper aptitude tests before being adopted. Only the best cream must be accorded the chance to be in those adopted classes.
During the course of their stay at the schools, the companies in collaboration with school authorities and teachers, can start identifying the careers pupils may be interested in pursuing which should then be worked on by teachers handling these classes.
It is important that even the teachers giving lessons to pupils in adopted classes should be picked on merit. Since motivation is key in achieving desired results, the companies can also put the selected teachers on some kind of a ‘special’ responsibility allowance.
School head teachers should ensure that only hardworking and competent teachers are assigned to handle the adopted classes. Although some teachers may cry foul here and there for being left out, if well handled, the programme can achieve good results.
Upon completing secondary school education, the pupils can be employed by the adopting companies in their various departments. Depending on their performance in final secondary school examinations, the school leavers could be sponsored to either college or university.
As they are studying, the boys and girls should continue offering services to their sponsoring companies during industrial attachments. Now, what should happen to school leavers whose results cannot take them to college or university?
I feel that they should continue working for the company for a specific period of time, during which they should be encouraged to improve their secondary school qualifications by rewriting the subjects they failed.
After clearing, they could also be taken to college or university to pursue courses of their choice or those which are related to the work they do at sponsoring companies.
When this is done, it cannot only be good to corporate social responsibility on the part of companies, but it can also improve the relationship between the firms and communities in which they operate.
This way, the companies can also be helped in some ways as they may be able to employ people whose character they already know.
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