Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
THE beginning of a new year signifies the time when children move onto the next grade in their quest to acquire a certain level of education to enable them to make it in life.
Education is critical in the life of children because it is no secret that a good education has the power to change the lives of learners and their families.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela believed that education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.
The power of education extends beyond the development of skills needed for economic success because it also contributes to national building and reconciliation.
Although it is widely acknowledged that education is the key to success in human development, there were a number of issues that impacted on the rights of Zambian children in 2019 and most likely 2020 will not be any different.
Some challenges included the increased use of alcohol or drugs. Substance and alcohol abuse affects young people’s general health, physical growth, and emotional and social development leading to increased disciplinary cases. When under the influence of substance or alcohol abuse, it is difficult for learners to control their actions or listen to the voice of reason.
Early and child marriages and teenage pregnancies also plagued the education sector. This is despite numerous interventions by stakeholders at all levels of society. It is crucial to encourage girls to stay in school for as long as possible to ensure that they are independent and empowered adults once they are adequately educated.
Examination malpractices and were another challenge; a vice that is slowly becoming the norm in secondary schools and to some extent in institutions of higher learning, too. It is disheartening to note that some pupils are not ashamed to indulge in examination malpractices or mwembeshi, as it is commonly referred to. Malpractice not only threatens the quality of education but it promotes laziness and does not encourage mental development of those who indulge in the vice.
The introduction of free education or abolition of fees has seen an increase in learners in schools, but the challenge is the inadequate number of teachers, teaching materials and infrastructure. Due to the shortage of teachers, especially in rural areas, the needs of the learners are not properly met.
However, to alleviate this challenge, Government has been actively trying to employ more teachers, though the calibre of some teachers leaves much to be desired, which has also contributed to poor performance of some learners. It is believed that some people opt to take up this noble profession due to the scarcity of jobs; this compromises teaching standards. Compromise should not be allowed because teachers have the critical responsibility of imparting knowledge to their learners, who are the future of any country. Teaching is a vocation and only those with the calling must be allowed to practice.
Another challenge for the poor quality education is the inadequate funding as seen in the 2020 budget where the Ministry of Education was only allocated 12.4 percent, representing a 39 percent reduction from the last four years.
Zambia National Educational Coalition (ZANEC) executive director George Hamusunga noted that if inadequate funding to the education sector is not addressed, there will be more illiterate citizens and Zambia will resort to importing its manpower from neighbouring countries.
ZANEC, which represents 72 members, feels that this is betrayal of future generations who will be unable to enjoy the sacrifices made to increase investment in education after Zambia gained independence because of the value that was attached to having an educated generation.
The list of challenges is not exhaustive. However, if they are not addressed, Zambia will fail to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, whose objective is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Wishing everyone a happy 2020!
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA