THE Teaching Profession (Code of Ethics) Regulations 2018 has renewed hope for improvement of Zambia's education system.
Coming on the back of the Teaching Profession Act No. 5 of 2013, the code stresses the attributes of practitioners in what is commonly referred to as a "noble profession".
Among the key demands in the regulations, a teacher should uphold and foster the integrity and dignity of the profession.
The values and principles that apply to the educators include impartiality and objectivity, loyalty and respect, and accountability.
Teachers bear the responsibility to promote confidentiality, selflessness, dedication and commitment.
The National Action for Quality Education (NAQE) acknowledges the importance of teachers as part-drivers of the national economy.
According to the association, the process of training and recruiting educators determines their classroom output.
NAQE national director, Aaron Chansa says the mushrooming of low-quality colleges and universities has greatly affected the performance of teachers.
A crucial tool that could be used to facilitate improved development in any nation is education.
It is widely acknowledged that some of the drivers in attaining this development are teachers, who largely shoulder the responsibility of moulding productive citizens.
However, due to reduced employment opportunities, teaching has in recent years attracted many Zambians, some of whom are ill-equipped to join the profession.
A number of unqualified teachers have entered the sector and if left unchecked, this may compromise the quality of education being offered in the country.
In 2018 alone, more than 500 teachers in Zambia were weeded out of the profession for possessing fraudulent qualifications.
In achieving some of the country's developmental programmes, the Seventh National Development Plan, which determines the course of action until 2021, places emphasis on education as a key component in producing an efficient and inclusive labour force, and ensures that everyone benefits from the nation's economic growth.
Furthermore, Vision 2030 encourages the development of quality human capital, including investing in quality education and skills development.
In view of constant changes in technology, teachers are expected to be above board and acquire new skills that would make them relevant to the rapidly-changing world.
There is a problem, though. The increasing number of trained teachers who are yet to find employment is a challenge that needs to be tackled actively.
Professional Teachers Union of Zambia (PROTUZ) Copperbelt chairperson, Boas Ngoma says the backlog dates back to between 2013 and 2014, when the number of training institutions shot up because of a weak legal environment.
He also expressed worry at the calibre of some teachers being employed, and appealed to the Teaching Council of Zambia (TCZ) to seriously screen those applying for jobs as educators.
The TCZ is a statutory body established in accordance with the Teaching Profession Act No. 5 of 2013.
It is a corporate body established to regulate the teaching profession through registration of teachers and accreditation of all colleges of education.
Mr Ngoma noted that, with the new regulations now in place, there was hope for "sanity" in the teaching profession.
But teachers require the necessary support in order to perform to expectations of society, more so as they work hard to keep abreast of the fast-paced technological and social changes.
They need better incentives and tools to pass on knowledge and understanding to learners.
The widening pupil-teacher ratio in Zambia is a matter that the teaching profession has grappled with in the past decade.
In addition to this, there has been growing pressure on teachers to make learners understand the importance of using technology for personal and academic development, beyond playing games and generally being hung on social media.
PROTUZ has also taken note of the hardships that teacher's face, which include shortage of decent accommodation, especially in rural areas.
"We are confident that the Council will restore sanity to the teaching fraternity, but we are also aware of the various challenges teachers face.
"For example, if the accommodation set-up in rural areas is addressed, teachers will be motivated and stop shunning rural postings," Mr Ngoma said.
In order to boost classroom morale, the union has called for teaching, learning and reading materials to be readily available in all schools.
Mr Ngoma said, within the free education spectrum, teachers struggle to meet their targets because of either fewer or lack of materials.
He further explained that there should be steady investments in curriculum development.
He said analysing local content carefully and matching it with the approved curriculum would be beneficial to the Zambian education sector.
"This will be cheaper as materials would be locally sourced, with no challenges of transport and only commission to be given," Mr Ngoma said.
The union also recognises the special place parents occupy in promoting excellence in the education sector.
Mr Ngoma said parents should be vigilant and take an active role in home work and other facets of teaching and learning.
"Teaching must continue at home, and this can be done by parents taking keen interest in how their children are learning. With the removal of corporal punishment, parents are sadly no longer vigilant," he said.
He also observed that some parents had contributed to examination malpractices by giving their children money to procure "leakages".
It is important to note that a Public Expenditure Review conducted by the World Bank in 2016 identified several hiccups within the education sector.
These included the shortage of classrooms, lack of textbooks for students, and low teaching quality.
"These challenges contribute to the consistently poor student learning outcomes, and hamper the efficient performance of the education sector," stated the World Bank.
Therefore, as the world embraces multi-cultural education, it is doubly necessary that all interest groups in receiving and imparting quality education are not left behind so as to achieve the best results that will spur Zambia's productivity.