Editor's Comment

We need more Grade One school places

EDUCATION is a right and that is why governments around the world have taken it upon themselves to offer it as a service to their citizens.
It has also been long recognised that, in fact, education is not a privilege, but a right and that is why every child who attains school going age is expected to be in school.
Of course, there are some circumstances which can prevent a child from being in school but that is not expected to be the norm to exclude many children from enjoying their right to education.
Everyone has long realised this right to education and the accompanying benefits of access to education.
What has happened this year at Chimwemwe Primary School in Lusaka’s Chawama, where mothers were sleeping in drainages just for them to get Grade One enrolment forms the following day for their children, is unfortunate.
In response, Minister of General Education David Mabumba, who visited the area, suspended the enrolment of Grade ones until modalities are put in place to facilitate a smooth enrolment process.
From Mr Mabumba’s statement, it can be deduced that the enrolment process was fraught with anomalies which disadvantaged some of the children who were ready to get into Grade One.
Primary school forms the best educational foundation for any learner to proceed to higher education, and any parent wants their child not to miss out, especially when it is no fault of their own.
While it may not be due to any anomalous process, it is also a sign that more children seeking to enter Grade One are chasing after fewer places in government schools.
Not everyone can afford to enrol their children in private schools, which are also limited, because they are normally smaller to absorb all the children.
The population of Zambia has been growing at the rate of 3.3 per cent and it is now estimated to be 17.86 million, meaning that such growth rate demands a corresponding increase in services such as education, health and others.
Moreover, Zambia is one of the highly urbanised countries in Africa. According to the 2017 statistics, Zambia has a rate of 43 per cent urbanisation.
While Government has put up more health facilities, school places still fall short of the required number to meet the demand for education in Zambia.
It is important that the right to education begins with access to the very basic level, Grade One, where children can be grounded and moulded and this can only happen if there are enough school places to accommodate them.
For example, Chawama has one primary school for the entire expanse of the township, whose population eight years ago was said to be 70,000.
Although there are some community schools which have come up to fill the gap, the situation in Chawama has shown that this school model is still far short to absorb all the pupils.
It is understood that Government has competing needs in its basket but education, just like health, is a priority and access to the service should be straightforward where a candidate measures up to the set yardstick.
And the need to revise the age of school entry is now apparent because some children, at five, are able to be in Grade One and learn, just like those who are seven years old.
Let us give our children a better foundation now by availing them school places so that they have a smooth transition in the different phases of academic life.

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