MUNDIA WAMUNYIMA, Lusaka
SOCIETY today is immensely grappling with social vices such as under-age beer-drinking and thuggery. This is even more worrying as many parents don’t know what will become of their children.
Unfortunately, many of these parents are seriously faced with lack of knowledge on how best to raise and protect their offspring. This could probably be evidenced by the escalating numbers of street kids, some of whom unbelievably are as young as seven years.
Needless to say, incidences of such vices as substance abuse, kidnappings and defilement have continued to ravage society one way or the other.
In addition, information technology, particularly social media, has continued to affect and influence the way of life of children in and outside their homes.
To commemorate this year’s Youth Day, Chudleigh House School saw it fit to hold a girls, conference. The one-day event was designed to empower, inspire and uplift young girls to become aware of their personal strength and to be more confident in their own abilities.
In line with this year’s Youth Day theme, ‘I take the lead’, the school management took the lead in channelling girls through several skills and teachings that could see them mature into responsible citizens.
Chudleigh House School, opened in 1997, has a population of about one thousand pupils currently, with only about half in secondary school and the rest in primary school.
The school has put in place several measures to curb the afore-mentioned social vices which form part of its core curriculum. One such measure is a termly mentorship programme called ‘Girls’ Talk’.
Through this initiative, girls are mentored survival skills, entrepreneurship, leadership, assertiveness, sexual reproductive health and spiritual growth.
The girls’ conference, the first of its kind, and dubbed ‘We are Girls, We are Powerful’, was attended by students from several other schools across the city. It offered a full package of activities for the participants in the age range of six to 18.
Opening the event, school chief executive officer Patricia Siwila said today’s youth are exposed to many vices that are capable of influencing them negatively.
She said teachers and parents have a duty to prepare them for positive contribution to the well-being of society in any capacity they might find themselves in the near future, and that “children are never too small to learn”.
“Majority of our girls who are supposed to be the future leaders are now dropping out of school due to child marriages, defilements, early pregnancies and drug abuse. It is, therefore, important that parents play a big role in mentoring their children before giving them to the teachers,” she said.
Speaking at the same function, medical doctor Chikuba Mcleod addressed the girls on how to have safe relationships with the opposite sex without engaging in sex.
She told the girls that it is normal to observe change in their bodies as they grow. Dr Mcleod urged parents to understand their children as they approach puberty, which she said is too critical.
The girls were also taken through entrepreneurship lessons by Pingiwe Mutenge, a nurse and businesswoman. She mentored the girls on how to save the little their parents give them and that they could create wealth without entirely depending on their salaries.
The pressing issue of drug abuse, which has continued to be a concern in many families, schools and society was tackled. Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) representative Rehab Chikonde spoke to the girls about the effects of abusing drugs. In a power-point presentation, Mrs Chilando displayed several pictures of drugs and identified their names in local languages, advising parents to be on the lookout against negative behavioural change in their children.
“As parents, we have very important roles to play in this. Chances are that your children will never take any drug or alcohol. However, if you don’t get them hooked on something important and meaningful in their early years, someone will introduce them to drugs. So, let us try to keep the children busy and monitor who they befriend,”
In 2019, DEC recorded a 2.12 percentage increase in the number of arrests from a total of 5,352 persons, compared to 5,241 arrested in 2018.
Of the total number of people arrested, 294 were female while 5, 058 were male. Juveniles between the age of 11 and 17 accounted for 370 persons.
To inspire and motivate the girls to be their own bosses, the event organisers invited experts to assist young entrepreneurs with strategies on how to properly start and maintain a business. A representative from United Bank of Africa (UBA), a major sponsor of the event, mentored the girls on the basics of running a business and how to build their tomorrow by saving today.
“It’s not everyone who will grow up wanting to own a business. The bank pledged to supply piggy banks to every pupil in the school.
Given out to each girl was a goodie bag, while others won prizes including diaries.
“I feel privileged to be part of this programme which impacts lives of so many young girls. I have learnt that girls are also capable of facing some of the challenges society may impose on them and should not be intimidated by anything,” Mwila Kabamba, a fourth grader, said.
Natasha Mwale said the event taught her never to give up on dreams and face challenges as they come.
Several other inspirational speakers shared their stories on what paths they took to reach where they are today. The girls walked away inspired by what’s possible and with a new belief in their personal power, something to hold their hopes and dreams.
The event offered the girls an opportunity to build confidence, and make new friends and mentors for a lifetime.
Chudleigh House School is planning to hold a boys’ conference this year in August and expects a big turn-up.
It is encouraging that even in the face of so many social ills, there are people and institutions such as Chudleigh House School that have taken it upon themselves to prepare children to be responsible citizens. It’s an effort worth emulating by society.
MUNDIA WAMUNYIMA, Lusaka