Editor's Comment

Motivate rural teachers with decent housing

IT IS well known that the increase in the number of schools and the school-going population has outstripped the available housing units for teachers, leaving some of them without decent accommodation.
It is not uncommon to find teachers in primary or secondary schools lodging in disused classrooms, together with their families, in some cases for a long time because there is no residential accommodation.
In some cases, teachers work at far-off schools because there is no housing available for them. They have to commute every day.
The result of such an arrangement may be late going to the place of work or abandoning teaching when one has to contend with transport costs.
Ultimately, it is the pupils who end up as casualties in the teaching process because they are likely to come out as half-baked graduates at the end of their respective academic years.
We know that any employee whose conditions of service are unsatisfactory is bound to be demotivated and not perform to expectation.
Government has built a number of schools in rural areas in line with the Education For All policy (EFA). In embarking on a project like this one, Government wants children to access education from an early age as close to their homes as is possible.
But such an effort can only succeed with the help of teachers who form an important component in the whole gamut of education.
We believe it is on this basis that Minister of General Education David Mabumba said Government is sourcing funds to build more houses for teachers in rural areas to address the challenge of accommodation.
He was speaking when he officiated at the 2018 Lusaka Provincial Education Indaba aimed at developing creative ideas to reform procurement processes in the education sector.
This is a positive pointer to Government’s desire to make the work environment conducive for teachers.
Evidently, Government wants to give the best it can afford to its employees and that is why it is making efforts all the time to improve their conditions of service.
Government policy demands that teachers serve two years in rural areas before they can seek to be moved elsewhere. This is the reason the policy was adopted because fresh graduates shunned rural areas.
Rural areas, just like urban areas, are in need of development and so they should not be left behind because of lack of teachers.
Government trains teachers every year with a view to absorbing them so that they can give a service to the nation and help to move development forward.
As Mr Mabumba said, about 10 percent of the annual budget allocation is meant to cater for operational activities, among which is building decent housing for teachers.
This amount falls far short of meeting the teachers’ housing needs. It would do everyone a lot of good to increase the budgetary allocation for teachers’ residential accommodation, with a bias for rural districts.
It is also not too much to urge other stakeholders in the education sector to supplement Government efforts.
Such partnerships, in the form of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), can also look at ways of raising funds to alleviate the accommodation shortage in rural areas.
The retention of teachers and the provision of education for all will only be a reality if teachers in the rural schools are adequately accommodated.

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