Columnists Features

Do people know the ‘festive problem’?

EDUCATIONAL JOURNEY with EPHAT MUDENDA
HAPPY New Year! I hope your educational journey, or that of your children, was good in 2015.
I believe you are now looking forward to a prosperous 2016, education-wise, regardless of various challenges you have ‘walked’ with into the new year.
However, during this festive season, just like any other before it, many people have freely spent huge amounts of money on food and drink and other goods that are deemed necessary to make all celebrations worthwhile. Did you hear anyone talk about ‘the dollar’?
The major problem at this time has been the ‘festive problem’ whereby people, probably due to the nature of the excitement that characterises the season, just want to spend their money and deliberately forget about their other obligations. But January, the ‘month of worries’, will surely remind them of all the bills, rentals, loans, school fees that need to be settled and exercise books, uniforms and textbooks that have to be bought.
May I share with you my experience with regard to the Christmas/ New Year fever in the past two weeks? There are some people out there who have learnt lessons in the past and are careful not to be overtaken by events of the season at the expense of educational requirements either for themselves or their children. These truly understand the ‘festive problem’.
A man called Jethro (not real name) of Chipata township in Lusaka who is a bricklayer says even on Christmas Day, it is better to work for a wage which will go towards the education of his three children. He says in the 40 years of his life, he has seen many Christmas and New Year seasons during which many people have failed to learn a lesson or two when it comes to considering school-children as they spend their incomes in the festivities.
“When I had some cash during such a time [as Christmas or New Year], I never used to think about family, worse still about my children’s education,” he said. “I would spend all my money – my salary and bonus – on beer; just pleasing my friends and making merry.”
“And you know what?” he continued, “When time for the children to go to school came, I’d be under extreme pressure, besides owing other people some money. I learnt lessons the hard way in life. Today I’m very careful, I want the best for my children.
“Almost every January, I used to find myself by the roadside selling some household property: a TV set, stove, table, bed, kitchen utensils, just to find something that my children could take to school.”
Now the man is careful in terms of how he uses resources even when it is the young ones themselves that demand to be lavished with gifts. After all they are the ones who benefit when schools open, as they get all is needed while their peers lack certain things, including school fees and books.
On December 24, while on a bus around Lusaka’s Kamwala shopping area, I was surprised to hear the same sentiment from almost all the people on the minibus: wishing that the many people who were moving about from one shop to the other, buying different kinds of goods in preparation for Christmas and New Year, would also remember that schools would be opening soon, and that children would need financial support, too.
My hope that day on the minibus was that my fellow passengers were not just talking for the sake of it, but that even in their homes they should be able to consider the school-going children in terms of adequately preparing for their next academic year.
Finally, just this week I met a woman whom I will call Grace (not real name). She lives in Garden township in Lusaka with her husband, who is a foreman at a construction firm. Their second child has just qualified for Grade Eight. The woman’s complaint is that the husband has spent all the money on beer without thinking about school fees and other requirements for the girl.
“He says he is going to ‘sell’ her place to someone else and take her back to Grade Seven,” she complains, adding that her vegetable business at the market could not help matters in any way.
So, some people understand the ‘festive problem’ and seem to know how to handle it while for others it is just beyond their control.
Have a great educational experience in 2016.
emudenda@daily-mail.co.zm/ ephatm@yahoo.com

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