14 February 2013

Zambia: Free Secondary School Education to Help Reduce Poverty

BOUNDLESS education is dangerous!

And so, affordable education to all faces of human race may as well be decoded as the very plea of the success of civilisation.

The international partnership for Education for All (EFA) has been in excess of more than the last two decades, a major swing of the World Bank's education strategy in some parts of Africa.

Nearly all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have implemented policies to ensure free universal primary education of acceptable quality, bringing a swelling command for access to post-primary education.

The recent Word Bank analysis EFA strategy says some countries are now declaring free universal secondary education.

Zambia is on track in this regard as the social and economic rationale for expanding learning opportunities beyond primary education becomes a reality.

Government says it will soon extend free education as is the case at primary level to secondary schools in line with the Patriotic Front (PF) manifesto.

Vice-President Guy Scott recently informed some residents on the Copperbelt Province that it is pointless to see citizens who are offered free primary school education fail to access secondary school education because of exorbitant fees.

The Vice-President knows better that education is an artillery of human success.

"We are working towards giving free education even in secondary schools. Secondary education should be free so that all citizens, regardless of their social standing in society, can access free but quality education," Dr Scott told his audience, amid a visible yet vibrating and momentous applause in support of the unexpected banner news.

That announcement humanised the souls of his audience!

In the preface of his 1942 English Social History, George Macaulay Trevelyan, the 18th Century poet, writes that curiosity is the lifeblood of real civilisation.

That is the reason the World Bank study on free education shows that some countries in Africa, those applying to realise free quality education in the true sense, have to work on mechanisms to finance the education secondary education system to improve learning and teaching, assessment, management and teacher training, equity and access.

Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general Roy Mwaba says education was a privatised sector under the MMD administration, something which disadvantaged the majority of poor Zambians who were unable to pay school fees.

Privatised education perhaps only managed to produce a people who were only able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading to develop the country.

Mr Mwaba argues that the previous Government committed the atrocious crime of privatising the education system something that continued to deny many citizens access to education and forcing them to wallow in abject poverty and perpetual human erosion.

"The majority of parents had the challenge to pay school fees, let alone buy uniforms. Government's plan to extend free primary school education to secondary level is a welcome development because it will allow more parents to send their children to school. It is the right decision at the right time," Mr Mwaba said.

He hopes that the free secondary education policy would also bring about quality in service provision.

For him, Government should deliberately put in place instruments to regulate and ensure free quality education and that national leaders should send their children to public schools to cultivate confidence in the learning facilities.

"Government should build more schools, colleges and universities because free education will produce more graduates which will translate into the need for more jobs. Job creation should be top priority," he said.

Education Deputy Minister David Mabumba says Government has embarked on a programme to start building more tertiary institutions in all the provinces to improve education standards in the country.

Mr Mabumba says so far, construction of two tertiary institutions in Muchinga Province has commenced and nearing completion while a university is being constructed in Chinsali district and a skills training institute in Isoka.

"It is in line with the PF Government's policy of building more learning institutions in order to allow more people to have access to education in the country.

"As PF Government we are committed to build more secondary schools and

colleges in the country," he said.

Education standards in the country had started going down because of the limited number of schools and it is against this backdrop that the PF Government embarked on the construction of more secondary schools and universities.

Mr Mwaba said under the Kenneth Kaunda reign, free education from primary to university level benefitted not only locals and foreigners.

To attain quality free education, he contends that Government should pay teachers a living wage and ensure about 40 learners are accommodated in a single classroom.

He added: "They must create more jobs since more people will be graduating."

It is the dream of Government to promote a free secondary education sector that is competitive and blessed with the ability to produce graduates with skills to foster development sustainably, expanding quality secondary education and training systems.

Many a stakeholder has hailed the intention to extend free primary school education to secondary level.

Citizens Forum programmes manager Chitalu Chela Ng'andu said in an interview that the initiative was in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing poverty and effectively fostering sustainable national development.

"The plan is commendable, poverty levels in our country are very high and most people fail to proceed to attain secondary education due to failure to pay their school fees," Mr Ng'andu said, further urging Government to apply a national education policy that would benefit disabled people.

He said the disabled members of society were in the past not able to access the entire education system for more than one reason.

Free education will allow society to produce more educated people and which is in line with strides to attain the MDG of reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development.

The improvement of education management plays an essential role in achieving the MDGs and ensuring prudent utilisation of resources also as a key concern for countries reforming their education systems.

Mr Ng'andu said free secondary education would put pressure on Government, as a matter of priority, to prioritise the development of disabled-friendly education infrastructure and environment.

Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT) secretary general Newman Bubala supports the intention to extend free education to secondary level.

Mr Bubala said as Government introduces free secondary education, more critical policy issues should be addressed.

His argument is that parents would take it for granted that free education entails that the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) would have little to contributing to the development and provision of quality education.

"The PTA may consider raising funds to build a wall fence around the school but this will be a problem with the parents who will say education is free and expecting that erection of the fence should be done by the Government. The Government will not be able to do meet all requirements of schools," he said.

That was the crux of the issue of free secondary school education policy because parents, as Mr Bubala argues, were expected to contribute to improving the learning environment of their children.

Senior Chief Kafwimbi of Isoka District said access to free secondary education would reduce poverty because many children failed to go to school because of lack of money to pay fees.

The traditional leader said introducing free education at secondary schools would increase learners who in turn would contribute to national development.

He believes that there was need to develop and improve the national policies and strategies for free secondary education and free training.

MMD Muchinga provincial chairperson Frank Bowa says Zambians have been crying for free education from primary to university level.

"We say well done. As MMD, I am not a praise singer but when a good deed is done who am I to say it is not good?" he said.

Mouza Mafemelele, a parent of Ndola's Chiwala area in Masaiti District, says free yet quality secondary education system is cardinal for the country to reduce unemployment.

Mr Mafemele said the system would also help reduce poverty among rural households as more people would have access to education from primary to secondary school.

free quality education remains the link to socio-economic growth and sustainable human development in Africa.

The World Bank says free education promotes national productivity and innovation and values of democracy and social cohesion.

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