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Start barter system for school fees

AFRICAN icon Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor; that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine; that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”
And former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, “Upon the education of the people of this country, the fate of this country depends.”
As rightly observed by the two icons, education is a critical factor in the development of individual citizens and a country as a whole.
There is no country that can develop beyond the education levels of its citizens.
This is because today, human capital is estimated to be the most critical factor of production compared to a century ago.
Global wealth, for instance, is now concentrated less and less in factories, land, tools and machinery, but more than ever before, in the knowledge, skills, and resourcefulness of people which are increasingly critical to the world economy.
That is why countries across the globe, including Zambia, have put a premium on the education of citizens.
Government, through its Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP), has human development as one of the major pillars towards attaining the 2030 Vision of becoming a prosperous middle-income country.
In line with the 7NDP’s theme, “Accelerating development efforts towards the Vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”, and Sustainable development goal number four on education, Government has been working to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all.
While it acknowledged that progress has been made in infrastructure development, more still needs to be done to ensure that no child is left behind in terms of access to education.
It is for this reason we join the three teacher unions in welcoming Government’s intention to introduce a policy which will enable parents or guardians especially in rural areas to settle school fees using livestock.
Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT) general secretary Newton Bubala observed, and rightly so, that the move will allow more pupils in rural areas to have access to quality education.
“We are proponents of those who advocate for education being a right. This is in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Mr Bubala said.
He said pupils from underprivileged families should not be denied access to education because their parents can only afford livestock.
Given the importance of education in the development of citizens and the country as a whole, the need to ensure that no one is left out cannot be overemphasised.
It is a known fact that children in the rural areas are the most vulnerable and suffer the most exclusion from education due to lack of funds, among other reasons.
Yes, while most rural dwellers may not have cash at hand to settle school fees, most of them possess livestock, which is as valuable.
The challenge usually is finding clients to sell their livestock to within a shortest possible time and at competitive prices.
In desperation to sell their livestock to meet the deadline for payment of school fees many end up being duped.
Allowing parents to use livestock to pay school fees, will lessen the pressure on them and allow their children access education without inconveniences.
Actually, instead of limiting the policy to livestock, Government should extend it to farm produce such as maize, groundnuts, soya beans and other crops. This will help cater for those who may not have livestock.
This way many more rural children will be given an opportunity to be educated and break the cycle of poverty.
Schools should also see this as an opportunity to make even more money by raring some of the livestock for multiplication.
Schools can work with Government or co-operatives to find competitive markets for the livestock and crops.
Head teachers should therefore be open-minded to welcome this policy knowing that it will not only benefit pupils but schools as well.
For some schools, this could be the beginning of huge farming projects.
Schools just need to position themselves by putting in place necessary structures to allow them to effectively manage the livestock and crops collected.
It is hoped that Government will work expeditiously to introduce the policy so that more rural children are given an opportunity to realise their future dreams by attaining education.
This is especially so because this is an idea that has been floated before in the past but not fulfilled.