Gender Gender

Madiba’s love for children

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Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
DEAR Mrs Chilufya.
I read with interest your column of last week entitled ‘Madiba’s love for children’ on the importance of investing in the education of children in a nation.
I can testify on how education has changed my life and that of my family.
When I was about 10, I was sent to live with my uncle on the Copperbelt because there were no schools close to my village.
At first I resented how my uncle would push me to study, to learn to speak English and to develop interest in current affairs. I looked at it as some form of punishment and that he was being unfair to me because I was not his child.
Eventually, I started enjoying my studies and before I realised it, my performance improved and I was usually among the top five in my class until I finished high school.
Because my uncle had inculcated in me the importance of excelling in my studies, I was immediately accepted into an institution of higher learning when my Grade 12 results came out.
My uncle, just like former South African President Nelson Mandela, always emphasised that education was the most important and lasting legacy any parent could bestow on their children that could help change the world and alleviate poverty and all forms of abuse.
I am deeply indebted to my uncle for his commitment and dedication to send me to school because I don’t know how my life would have turned out had I stayed in the village with my single mother, who had never stepped inside a classroom.
After I graduated, I continued to invest in my personal development academically to add on to the foundation my uncle had generously given me. I am now able to take care of my mother and siblings and extended family. Furthermore, I have instilled the same principle – the importance of education – in my children, nieces and nephews. I owe so much to my uncle; he is my hero and remains my biggest supporter in all my successes. He saw potential and moulded me into the person I am today. Otherwise I would have been just one of the statistics of illiterate Zambians.
My experience shows that education is the best tool to change the world; it does not matter where one comes from, and it is a great leveller of all persons.
I can only imagine the economic benefits if those of us who were lucky enough to go to school also paid back to society by sponsoring vulnerable or less fortunate children the way others like my uncle and Mr Mandela have empowered others. Zambia would easily have enough human capital to help push forward the development agenda of our great nation. There would be less children and young people roaming the streets or getting involved in all manner of anti-social and mischievous behaviour.
In 1999, after stepping down from the presidency, Mr Mandela established the Nelson Mandela Foundation “to promote freedom and equality for all”. In 2004, his foundation launched a partnership with UNICEF, called the Schools for Africa campaign that promotes quality education across 13 African countries.
The campaign also supports the work of UNICEF to build and furnish schools, supply students with school materials, train teachers, facilitate school access for the most disadvantaged – especially girls and marginalised children – and provide access to clean water, which many students may lack at home. Since 2005, Schools for Africa has helped to ensure access to education for over 30 million children.
Last Wednesday, July 18, Mr Mandela would have celebrated his 100th birthday; he died aged 95 in 2013.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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