Sunday, March 16, 2008
Sunday March 16, 2008 [03:00]
ZAMBIAN youths constitute the most numerous group in the population and show themselves to be a new social body with their own ideas and values desiring to create a more just society. The youthful presence is a positive contribution that must be incorporated into the nation's development plans. Education is a major factor for social change. We think it is very important that our schools and universities accept their role as active agents of national integration and social justice in Zambia.
We will not have development for all until we have integral education for all. Our education centres should be awakening an awareness that the whole nation benefits from their services, and that the whole nation should therefore join in providing the resources they need to carry out their task.
Most young people are seeking personal training that would ensure
a place in the present social order. For most part, we have fallen in with this individualistic outlook and its attendant traces of class prejudice.
The present situation in Zambia calls for some radical changes. First and foremost, we must instil an attitude of service to society in our students and a genuine concern for marginal groups.
Our students must participate in the transformation of present-day society and in the wake of bettering the human condition.
We should also do what we can to see to it that our students engage in some real social service before graduation. This service should form part of the school curriculum. In this way, the families of our students will commit themselves to working with our schools in their concern for societal problems.
As far as our universities are concerned, the difficult task of maintaining them poses a serious challenge.
Their academic and economic difficulties are aggravated even more by the fact that they must now provide high-quality training and that they should provide a broader-based opportunity for education to all.
We feel our universities should excel in the sciences relating to human nature, since these have a vital role to play in the overall project of changing our society.
We must not forget that a lack of equal education opportunities lies at the base of the unjust social structures in Zambia.
We must do all we can to ensure that education may be within the reach of all. And for the same reason we must also engage in serious studies to ensure a fairer distribution of funds in government educational budgets.
Our Minister of Education, Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa, says the traditional belief that government will always provide all requirements of schools and institutions of higher learning is a misconception that must be removed from the minds of our students, teachers and lecturers.
Well, the task of educating belongs fundamentally and primarily to the family.
The function of the state is subsidiary:
its role is to guarantee, protect, promote and supplement. Whenever the state lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice.
It is parents who have the right to choose the school to which they send their children and the right to set up and support educational centres in accordance with their own beliefs.
The state cannot, without injustice, merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to government assistance.
It shouldn't be forgotten that children are not only born in a family, they are all born in a community, in a nation. And this being the case, it cannot be said to be the sole responsibility of the parent to educate the child. It should be a joint responsibility.
It can correctly be said that the family is looking after the child on behalf of the community, of the nation. We say this because government is the instrument by which people corporate together in order to achieve the common good.
An authority is needed to guide the energies of all toward the common good.
We agree with President Levy Mwanawasa that the growing population of young people is challenging us to improve the education sector and strive for excellence in the education of our children as this is the foundation for our future.
Education quality is an issue, as is equitable access to the limited number of places in our schools, colleges and universities.
Education in Zambia has long been a focus of government and donor support. In the early years of our independence, efforts concentrated on expanding services and increasing the percentage of children who attended school. Education became more available.
Now, even as the government tries to invest more generously in education, this early promise has stalled. Across the country, concern is growing that too many students do not complete a basic primary education or make a transition to secondary school.
Secondary school places are in scarce supply. Not everyone who completes primary school can expect to find a seat in secondary school.
These coveted places are determined by gate-keeping examinations. For example, selective exams in Grade 7 force at least half the cohort out of education: there are no places for them in Grade 8.
With access to secondary school constrained, equity issues inevitably arise. Generally, students who are poor are typically less well-prepared and, predictably, score less well on secondary school entrance examinations.
This often eliminates them from further education entirely or from attending the most affordable schools - the high competitive free government schools.
A further consequence of the selective secondary education system is the way in which it limits access to post-secondary education opportunities.
We believe our Ministry of Education has responsibility for management activities that can improve education outcomes. And these include better alignment of resources and priorities and reforms related to teacher development and standards and curriculum.
Clearly, government acts in the place of parents in the provision of education for children. Education is a right that must not be denied to our young people or we throw away their lives. But it must be an empowering education of the whole person, addressing the creative, critical, intellectual, moral, physical and spiritual dimensions.
In our country today, too many of our young people don't have a chance for a good education and this is a great injustice. A nation which values its future affords the highest priority to providing education for all its young people - and not just leaving this as a family responsibility.
Therefore, let us pay a lot of attention to all aspects of education in our country. Not paying a lot of attention to the education for these young people constitutes a crime against the future of these youths as well as against the interest of the nation.
Young people should either be studying, doing productive work, particularly in agriculture, or serving in our armed forces. It is hard to conceive that a young person today should fail to participate in one or more of these activities.
Let us struggle permanently and systematically to have these young people study or do productive work, if possible in agriculture. Actually, there should be more 'ruralisation' and less 'urbanisation' of our young people.
This may sound cruel to the young people but agriculture is the only sure productive activity we have for them.
How can we have unemployment of young people when there is so much bare land that needs to be farmed and when there is such a critical shortage of agriculture produce, of food? Instead of wasting so much calories in the gym they can use this productively in agriculture.