IÑUTU MUSHAMBATWA, Lusaka
ONE of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four is to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys complete equitable, quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
The SDG number four replaced the Education for All Goals (EFA) which came to an end in 2015. It is with the EFA goals number two that Zambia recorded the best achievement.
In 2011, Zambia was applauded at the United Nations’ Education For All Goals summit for having successfully implemented this goal which stated that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities would have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.
The Ministry of General Education achieved this by having provided access to free primary education which resulted in accelerated enrolments after 2002. This was propelled by Government’s initiative to improve the supply of teachers while aiming to manage attrition by recruiting 5,000 teachers per annum, as well as the rapid expansion of school infrastructure countrywide.
The expansion of the school infrastructure was as a result of various programmes that the Ministry of General Education implemented. One of them being the Basic Education Sub-Sector Investment Programme (BESSIP) supported by Co-operating Partners (CPs). BESSIP was aimed at enhancing teacher education and training as well as improving access and the provision of quality education at basic level.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of General Education Henry Tukombe explained that BESSIP was designed to promote the procurement of learning materials, accelerate the training of teachers and the construction of teachers’ houses, including classrooms using community mode of construction.
“In community mode, Government provides the money and the design for the building, while the community provides all local building materials such as burnt bricks, river sand, building sand and water. Through this programme, the Ministry of General Education constructed 1,000 classrooms per year,” Mr Tukombe said.
He further noted that after five years, BESSIP was replaced by the Sector programme which had similar objectives as BESSIP and as at 2001 many classroom spaces were constructed at basic school level resulting in 6, 786 basic schools and only 98 secondary schools countrywide. This led to challenges at secondary school as there was lack of adequate classroom space from grade 10 to 12. The delivery of education then, was from Grade one to nine known as basic school and Grades 10 to 12, high school.
“To resolve this problem, Government started the construction of 100 secondary schools county wide in 2008 and by 2015, the number increased to 115 secondary schools, this included one technical secondary school constructed in each province except Muchinga”, Mr Tukombe explained.
The head of infrastructure Joseph Nthele, an engineer, explained that of the 115 secondary schools constructed across the country, four are located in Lusaka district. These include Twin Palm, Lilayi, Kabanana and Nyumba Yanga secondary schools.
It has been noted in past assessment surveys conducted among learners that poor learning environments for pupils and lack of other education facilities contribute to poor learning achievements. The dawning of these new schools in Lusaka district however, has shade a different light as there are recorded improvements in the delivery of secondary school education.
The new schools have not only brought relief to parents in nearby communities who would take their children to distant places, the schools have led to enhanced high performance of pupils in class.
Lilayi Secondary School for example, recorded quality learner performance in its inception. Head teacher Andrew Muchanga said that the school’s first intake of grade 12 was in 2015 with a pass rate of 73 percent.
“The first grade nine intake was in 2014, it was this stream that scored the highest among all grade nines in the province, also the best science and mathematics pupil in 2015 was from Lilayi Secondary School. He got a scholarship to study at a university in United States of America. So the school has a good reputation in the surrounding communities,” Mr Muchanga said.
In a similar incidence, Nyumba Yanga Secondary School which was opened three years ago, recorded 100 percent pass rate in 2015 leading to parents in nearby communities taking their children to this school in numbers, resulting in over-enrolments.
Over-enrolments of pupils have also been witnessed at Kabanana and Twin Palm Secondary School which opened over a year ago.
Provincial education officer for Lusaka Province, Paul Ngoma explained that in Lusaka alone, more learners can now access secondary education as a result of the new secondary schools. This is evidenced through the transition rates of learners from grade seven to eight, from 73 percent in 2012 before the construction of the new secondary schools, to 79 per cent in 2016.
He noted that another contributing factor to over-enrolments, is Lusaka Province’s massive population vis-à-vis limited space. The construction of new schools has to a large extent mitigated this challenge. These schools have been constructed near communities and this has improved access by learners because of reduced distance.
The new secondary schools have also led to improvements in attendance and a reduction in drop outs as pupils easily walk to school thus increasing access to secondary school.
Mr Ngoma further explained that teaching and learning materials have been procured by the ministry as well as at school level to improve the pupil book ratio. At primary school the number of pupils per book for English, mathematics and Zambian languages is 4, 5 and 5 respectively, while at secondary school it is 3, 4 and 4.
Furthermore, the 2015 Educational Statistical Bulletin indicates book pupil ratio that has reduced to desirable levels indicating that pupils now have adequate learning materials as opposed to 10 or 16 years ago when the ratio was at one text book per 68 learners.
This improvement can partly be attributed to the newly-constructed secondary schools, specifically classroom spaces, the supply of teaching and learning materials and other factors. It can therefore, be observed that the education sector is making strides towards the achievement of SDG number four.