MIKE MUGALA, Chongwe
DESPITE Government’s effort of improving the provision of quality education, access to secondary schools in most rural areas is still a matter of
concern and Katoba village in Chongwe district is not an exception.
According to Ernest Mweene, the village headman, the community has had no secondary school for over 40 years.
Pupils in Katoba used to walk 25 kilometres to Mukambo or Margaret Mwachiyeya schools just to access secondary education, a situation which could result in many dropping out of school.
“Our girl children here in Katoba village were very vulnerable to teen pregnancy and early marriage. They got discouraged to continue with secondary education because of the distance to the nearest secondary school,” he noted.
Mr Mweene said the rate of teenage pregnancy and early marriage in Katoba village is alarmingly high.
However, the situation will soon change as World Vision Zambia, in partnership with the South Korean government, has handed over the newly built Katoba Secondary School which gobbled US$474, 440.
The institution, which is the first secondary School in the area, is expected to improve access to secondary education in Katoba and surrounding villages.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, World Vision Zambia deputy country director Chikondi Phiri said his organisation is committed to supplementing Government’s effort of providing secondary education.
“We are alive to the challenges our country is facing in as far as access to secondary education especially in rural areas, is concerned.
“We will continue partnering with the Zambian government in the provision of secondary education, because we believe that an educated society is a developed one,” Mr Phiri explained.
He said World Vision Zambia will in the next five years focus on improving literacy levels of pupils from grade one to four to improve the reading culture.
Mr Phiri expressed optimism that Katoba Secondary School will go a long way providing access to secondary education among the people of Katoba and surrounding villages.
And a representative of the South Korean government, from the Dejong metropolitan education office, Lee Yong Kyon, said his government will continue strengthening bilateral ties with the Zambian government to improve the lives of citizens of the two countries.
Mr Lee said South Korea values the importance of education because it plays a huge role in promoting national development.
“During war, South Korea went through devastating situations but because of the value it places on education, the status of its people has now changed. I believe that education opens doors for great opportunities in life,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II of the Soli people commended World Vision Zambia and South Korea for the gesture.
She said the secondary school will go a long way in curbing early pregnancies and early marriages in her chiefdom.
“I believe that the coming of a secondary school in Katoba village will inspire our girl children especially to work hard and become successful. The escalating levels of early marriage and pregnancy will now be a thing of the past.” Chieftainess Nkomeshya said.
She said most girls in Katoba used to lodge in villages near the schools to counter the distance they walk which contributed to pregnancies.
Chieftainess Nkomeshya warned that she will not hesitate to discipline parents who force their girl children into marriage.
She urged the parents to partner with the Government in promoting girl-child education to enhance women’s participation in the country’s socio-economic development.
And Minister of General Education Dennis Wanchinga said the gesture by World Vision Zambia and the South Korean government is a step in the right direction.
Dr Wanchinga said access to secondary education is still a challenge and requires concerted efforts of all stakeholders.
“Our country has a population of approximately 15.9 million people out of which 3.2 are looking for school space. The country has 853 secondary schools and 833 primary schools,” he said.
Dr Wanchinga said about 17,000 children are looking for secondary school space and about 1,900 need primary school space.
He said appropriate partnership is required for the country to improve access to secondary education.
Secondary education is vital for economic development of a country as it prepares citizens for skills acquisition.
He urged the people of Katoba to guard the school jealously and avoid any form of vandalism for the benefit of the entire community.