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Weed out threats to education

EDUCATION, as a tool for human and socio-economic development, should never be compromised. Neither should anyone be allowed to tamper with efforts being made to ensure access to this right.
Little wonder governments all over the world invest colossal sums of money to ensure that the education machinery is up and running all the time.
Similarly, the Zambian government has prioritised education as a tool for citizens’ empowerment because it is a major factor in fighting poverty and hunger.
The Ministry of Education is one of the biggest Government departments because of the importance attached to education.
In rural areas, a huge portion of ongoing infrastructure development is on construction of education institutions, especially schools.
With the population growing, Government has been building more schools. Community schools are being upgraded into primary schools. On the other hand, most primary schools are now going up to Grade 12.
Upgrading of schools has become necessary for Government to cope with the unprecedented high demand for education by citizens.
Through this, Government is also complying with Universal Declaration of Human Rights promulgated over 60 years ago when education was declared a basic human right for every person.
The education sector, therefore, receives a fair share of the treasury.
Donors, too, such as the World Bank, the Department for International Development (a United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid), the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Irish Aid, the United States Agency for International Development and United Nations agencies such as UNICEF and UNESCO, among others, have been on board to supplement Government’s efforts to ensure that the education sector lives up to its billing.
Donors intervene in various ways such as keeping the school feeding programme going as way of encouraging attendance by pupils from vulnerable families.
Others have been providing equipment such as vehicles, computers, upgrading the curriculum and yet others such as the Japanese, through JICA, have made budget support under education sector pool fund used in the manufacturing of mobile science laboratories.
JICA also supported a programme called School Based Continuing Professional Development (SBCPD) through Lesson Study in Zambia for the past 10 years titled Strengthening of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (SMASTE).
SMASTE was aimed at improving teaching and learning in the classroom using school-based Lesson Study, as part of the Ministry of General Education’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme.
Through such interventions, the Ministry of Education became very liquid.
It seems, however, that some officials at the ministry could not resist the temptation of dipping their hands in the till.
This led to the DFID withdrawing funding because it appears that instead of pupils and teachers benefitting, it was a few greedy individuals stashing money intended for a good cause in their pockets for selfish gains.
Government has not sat back and has been cleansing the ministry to get rid of people with sticky fingers.
Getting rid of all criminal elements is critical to restoring donor confidence, and more importantly ensuring that the pupils get the quality education they deserve.
Ministry of General Education Permanent Secretary Jobbicks Kalumba has said the ministry’s focus this year is to restore confidence in the donor community owing to the financial irregularities witnessed in the past.
To do this, there is need to dig deep into the root causes, and then find solutions to the root causes.
To find out the root causes, there is need to carry out a comprehensive research or probe into factors that have been causing the misappropriations.
The research should unveil appropriate actions needed for addressing the root causes.
Even before a research is done, it is evident that there is need for a thorough review, if not complete overhaul, of the management system in the sector.
Dr Kalumba should ensure that checks are enhanced and these should be woven around regular and random audits.
Zambia should not be having headaches over management of funds.