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Student loan scheme commendable move

KONAYUMA

Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA
GOVERNMENT has announced that it will sponsor 2,000 out of a total of 6,000 University of Zambia students on the newly introduced loan scheme.
Considering that this is the first time the scheme is being operationalised, this is a commendable step towards helping university students access education.
Education is a nightmare for a number of Zambian families. While their children can be selected to pursue higher education, it is out of reach for many of them.
There are cases when the children who have been selected to university end up staying at home because their parents or guardians cannot meet the cost. And it ends there.
Some of those who are more fortunate opt to pursue other less expensive courses in the hope of going to university when they have set aside a handsome amount of money.
For those who fail to proceed with their studies, it can be depressing.
We remember the story of the Kalingalinga girl in 2014 who committed suicide because she had no means of proceeding to university education.
Recently, the Young Mail, an educational publication of the Zambia Daily Mail, carried a story about a Mumbwa Secondary school girl, who said she had not paid school fees this year because her parents could not afford.
On that day, she was not visited by her parents because they did not have the means to do so. She understood that resources for the family are scare but this did not dampen her desire to achieve her dream.
In fact it is propelling her to higher heights because, according to her, she wants her story to change.
The girl is a high flying grade 12 pupil who scooped the best overall in Science and best in mathematics during the Prize-giving Day.
Some children are determined and focussed in what they do and it can be a drawback for them when they fail to pursue their dream.
Because of the harsh economic situation, such children look up to government and hope they are among the lucky ones, in this case the 2,000 students who will find themselves on government’s sponsorship list.
It is not an overstatement to say that even some of those whose fees end up being paid for by their parents wish they were part of the 2,000 sponsored students. It is only because of the times we live in.
But this, notwithstanding, Government is always calling for partnerships with the corporate world, in a number of economic sectors.
Such partnerships are a good base for companies to exercise their corporate social responsibility while showing that they are participating in improving the economy.
A number of private companies in Zambia shy away from forging such partnerships where they adopt college or university students who they carry along until they finish their education.
Companies, whether private or public, exist to make a profit but this does not exclude them from helping the underprivileged in society. After all, if a society’s financial standing does not improve, that company may eventually fold up.
There are some companies that offer mentorship programmes to primary schoolchildren and this is commendable but the real trouble comes when such children proceed to university where fees are high.
While the times are hard and some companies are downsizing, they are still able to declare dividends at the end of their financial year.
They will need the graduates who leave university every year to run the companies and make a profit. How will they help companies become successful if they are not assisted to fulfil their dreams now”?
Some companies in the financial and mining sectors have lists of students they have placed on sponsorship programmes.
The majority of companies, both local and foreign, wait for the students to graduate and take them as management trainees.
This is like enjoying the fruits of the labours of others who have done most of the work. I am talking about beginning with students because they have the potential, to start with, to make it in their course but seeing them also as those who will offer a valuable service to the nation.
The fears that such sponsored students will not serve the company long enough to recover its funding should not be an excuse if the company has worked out a well thought out bonding plan with the students.
A sponsorship programme makes students have a feel of a work environment while they are still studying as every vacation, they spend their time at the company. This is real mentorship.
Zambian companies, at some levels, have an opportunity to save themselves the trouble of advertising job vacancies and let alone going through the process of interviewing before finally selecting the right candidates.
The author is Sunday Mail editor.

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