55,000 skipping exams is a time bomb

TEMBO Benedict.

THAT over 55,000 grade seven pupils missed this year’s examinations is a sad affair even to talk about it. As a society we must ask ourselves where we are failing because with such statistics, there is something we are not doing right.
It will be unrealistic to say we can reduce all but with time it can happen.
As parents and guardians, teachers and leaders, we must take our part and take lead in reducing the numbers.
I think there are a number of factors that need to be looked at to address the situation.
We need to analyse the numbers. Where are we experiencing the biggest problem and what’s the most important contributing factor? I have read that Eastern Province ranks number one in child pregnancies and marriages in Zambia.
This could be an issue of culture.
It is culturally acceptable for parents to pull their child out of school and marry them off.
There is an opportunity to work with traditional leaders to address this area and offer some solutions.
I am aware that some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are on the ground working with teachers and traditional leaders.
But one NGO is not enough to tackle this issue given the breadth and width of the Eastern Province and how entrenched some of the cultural beliefs are, including the morbid poverty levels.
I am also aware that political leadership has already been demonstrated by President Edgar Lungu, who is spearheading the HeforShe campaign.
The Ministry of Gender, with the support of the United Nations Family, in particular UN Women with selected civil society organisations and the traditional leadership as the implementing partners, launched the “HeForShe” campaign as part of the global solidarity movement. The Ministry of Gender was privileged to have the ‘‘HeForShe” campaign under the theme: ‘Harnessing leadership for gender equality in Zambia’ was launched by President Lungu in Nyamphande chiefdom of Petauke district in 2015.
President Lungu has been consistent with the HeForShe campaign and has been meeting traditional leaders to discuss ways of ending early marriages and teen pregnancies.
First Lady Esther Lungu, too, has been hands-on, touring the countryside talking to mothers and pupils about the evils of early marriages and teen pregnancies.
But that too is not enough.
We also need to address poverty as some parents look at marrying off their daughters as a way out of their financial quagmire.
Corporates should join this campaign for the sake of the next generation and posterity.
Politicians should also invest a lot of their time, resources and energy in this campaign in the same manner they canvass for votes during elections.
Such issues should form part of the campaigns during elections because espousing infrastructure development at the expense of the girl-child dropping out of school is detrimental to the country’s development.
There could be a problem of inadequate secondary schools and such these girls do not know that there’s school after grade 7.
There may be limited ambitions as most of these cases happen in rural areas. This calls for role models to visit rural areas to encourage pupils that there is life beyond their boundaries.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child emphasises that one of the main goals and objectives is the right to education and the promotion of the social and economic developments of all children in a given state like Zambia.
Additionally, the UN Millennium Sustainable Development Goals have fully stressed that education is priority and Zambia has a required obligation to ensure that the country attains this objective by 2020.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.

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