Editor's Comment

Do more for youths

IT HAS been said time and again by politicians and the academia alike that education is the best equaliser, but whether the words are translated into equal opportunities for schooling is a question that begs answers. While the wisdom in the saying envisions a situation where education bridges the gap in terms of socio-economic status, the literacy gap between the young and adult population in Zambia is still a far cry from what is hoped for. The literacy levels for youths which stand at 55.3 percent as revealed by Minister of Education Douglas Syakalima, in comparison to 86.7 percent representing adults, shows the stark reality of inequality in the education sector. The minister has every reason to worry about the gap, especially that young people are often tipped to be future leaders. This shows that there are too many young people who cannot read and write and are at risk of not finding better opportunities in society for their livelihood. “Zambia has too many children, youths and adults who are unable to read, write and perform basic numeracy operations. This group of our population will struggle to find gainful employment or livelihoods and will be left in the margins of society,” the minister said.
Definitely there is cause for concern by everyone, especially parents who look forward to a better future for their children regardless of their financial status. There are many reasons attributed to the low literacy levels among children and youths, but the main one is lack of financial support from most parents. This situation is confirmed by the fact that recently the minister called for school authorities not to send learners who have not yet paid fees away when schools opened for the third term. It’s unfortunate that even within the fight for equality in terms of education there is always a wedge that widens inequality. Many young people would want to go to school but oftentimes they find themselves skipping classes to help their parents sell eggs or vegetables on the streets. For most of them the economic challenges at family level have reduced their interest in learning, thereby pushing them further to the echelons of illiteracy. It is also argued that the reduced standards of education in the country have played a part in young people lagging behind in education. But this is no cause for society to get discouraged and stop caring about the future of young people. Parents and government alike have a duty to push the young population to attain higher levels of education to secure their future. Being able to read and write should not be the end for young people, but they must be made aware that there is a lot to gain in education than just being semi-literate.
We urge pastoralists in rural areas to avail their children for school, not just confining them to looking after cattle because even taking care of animals nowadays requires some knowledge of animal husbandry. Parents and guardians should take advantage of government’s commitment to support literacy education among the country’s population. The technological world requires that everyone gets some form of education to move with modern times to make life easier. It must be borne in mind that an illiterate youth is a time bomb for criminal activities because they have no hope for a better future through normal means of eking out a living. We support the efforts by government to ensure that both the youth and adult populations get literacy skills to improve their employment opportunities. We also urge youths to focus on education while opportunities are still there for them to do so when they are young. They must realise that a better future starts with a better attitude towards life, having goals and being patient in the education journey. We agree with the minister’s statement that improving literacy levels among citizens is cardinal if Zambia is to meet its developmental goals and aspirations.

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