Educational Journey: A look at 2016

PRESIDENT Lungu and First Lady Esther, pose for a photograph with Junior Achievers during the First Lady’s Mentorship Programme at State House. 12042016 PICTURE: STAFRANCE ZULU

THE year 2016 has ended on a good note. To a large extent the educational journey has been successful. We can happily join the teachers throughout the country in celebrating the high achievement among grade seven and nine pupils who wrote their examinations between September and December this year.
From the results that were announced last week by Minister of General Education Dennis Wanchinga, the 340,791 grade seven pupils selected for grade eight out of 387,263 who sat for the exams, reflect a progression rate to 96.64 percent from 90.05 percent last year. And the selected number of grade nine candidates to grade 10 (156,027) represents a progression rate of 49.07 percent from 48.89 percent in 2015.
As Secondary School Teachers Union of Zambia (SESTUZ) general secretary Wamuyuwa Sitibekiso pointed out, the numerous educational projects that Government has continued implementing in both rural and urban areas have helped learners to make a remarkable progress in their academic pursuits. It is also true that, despite the various challenges facing the teaching fraternity, teachers managed to deliver without disruptions. It was a peaceful industrial year by the teachers.
Basic Education Teachers Union of Zambia (BETUZ) secretary general Jeffrey Simuntala said: “We would like to commend Government for ensuring that all textbooks and teaching materials were delivered in schools on time because this also helped our learners.” (‘Grade 7, 9 results cheer teachers’, Sunday Mail, December 25, 2016).
Of course, the newly recruited teachers are part of the success. Government did well to recruit 5,765 teachers, who were deployed countrywide, as the Ministry of General Education announced in August.
For pupils who travelled to and from boarding schools this year, we thank the parents, besides government, through the ministry and the Road Transport and Safety Agency, for ensuring that friendly modes of transport were used.
The Examinations Council of Zambia must also be commended for administering all examinations not only in a timely, efficient and effective manner, but also for ensuring that this year’s exams at all levels were almost 100 percent malpractice-free.
As the exams commenced in September/ October, we emphasised in this column that examination malpractice is a grave evil against society. Therefore, it must be fought right to its core. This requires concerted efforts of educational authorities, teachers, parents and other stakeholders. While most candidates exhibited self-discipline during this year’s exams, it is hoped that this shall be sustained even in the future.
As such progress is being recorded at both primary and secondary school levels, it means improvements at tertiary level can never be ignored. During the year, great attention has been paid by Government and other stakeholders towards higher learning institutions’ infrastructure development. It is the colleges and universities that must receive candidates from secondary schools. For instance, Government’s ambitious programme of building a university in each of the country’s 10 provinces took a huge step on Thursday July 28, 2016 when President Lungu commissioned the K107 million Robert Kapasa Makasa University in Chinsali, Muchinga Province.
During the event, Mr Lungu said the university, which is under Copperbelt University (CBU) management, would increase access to quality higher education and help decongest other universities. This is in conformity with Government’s revised National Development Plan. Other institutions that will surely offer a wide choice to high-performing learners are Frederick Chiluba University, formerly Luapula University, Paul Mushindo University in Muchinga, Lusaka’s Palabana and Chalimbana, Mukuba on the Copperbelt and Kwame Nkrumah in Central Province, among others.
All these, including colleges and trades training institutes dotted around the country, are aimed at bringing about socio-economic development in the land through the human resource that they prepare for industry in different fields. For instance, it is institutions of higher learning which must offer skills in science, innovation and technology for development to be attained. In a statement ahead of the World Science Day (Wednesday November 9, 2016), Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo emphasised that Zambia needs to focus on science, innovation and technology for it to become productive and advance its economic agenda. It is important that higher learning institutions seriously focus on science and technology, since it is the educational system itself that can play a big role in realising this important component of national development.
One other educational highlight this year was the need for us to always remember that women’s education is vital for development. In July, as Zambia commemorated the Heroes and Unity Days, it was reported that in Chongwe, 30 percent of girls opt for early marriage at the expense of education.
We were reminded that since girls and women have been part of the nation’s history, even from the time of the struggle for independence, they should always be encouraged and supported in the educational journey. This year the message has been that girls and women’s educational levels and standards must be prioritised in the country’s socio-economic agenda.
On a negative note, CBU Riverside campus and the University of Zambia Great East Road campus were closed in February due to violent protests by students over meal and other allowances. Their violence affected both the structures that support their road to success and the wider community.
Also, according to the Daily Mail (Wednesday November 23, 2016 edition, under the headline “Teachers’ conduct task force on cards”), four teachers, including a headmaster, in Mansa, Luapula Province, were allegedly caught drinking beer during working hours. This sad development was revealed when Mansa district commissioner Royd Chakaba informed the Minister of General Education about the happenings in the district.
Such trends which put the education sector in bad light – including high cases of sexual abuse during exams, as reported by the Zambia Police Victim Support Unit in October – can be overcome if only all stakeholders focus on a common goal – educating the nation. And the teachers have to be motivated in all areas. When this happens, we shall surely have a brighter 2017 and beyond. Happy New Year.
emudenda@daily-mail.co.zm/ ephatm@yahoo.com

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