Saturday, May 18, 2013

The needs of rural people
By Editor
Tue 14 May 2013, 14:00 CAT

Professor Nkandu Luo, the Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, says there is need for civil servants to understand the needs of rural people.

We are certain that this is a matter that should concern all our leaders, all our public officers and all our people. It is a fact that our rural people have been left far behind. Forty-nine years after independence, most of our rural people have not seen electricity, have not seen a tarred road. They have no access to the services required in an organised society.

We also know that those who are deprived will inevitably act to demand a better life. The gnawing pain of persistent poverty and deprivation will, in the end, result in instability.

The simple point we are trying to make is that the dire poverty of our rural citizens is not an affliction which impacts only on those who are deprived, who are neglected simply because they live in the rural areas. It reverberates across our whole country and inevitably impacts negatively on the whole nation, including on those who live in conditions of comfort and plenty in the urban areas.

The inescapable conclusion from all this must surely be that our interdependence demands that we all combine to launch a national offensive for the development of our rural areas.

We are aware of, and respect the initiatives that have been undertaken in the past to address the problem of rural poverty in our country. But we are certain that none of us can assert that there does indeed exist a real and meaningful national offensive for rural development in our country, drawing into one concerted effort government, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and our people themselves.
We should always bear in mind that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live unless it's a good place for all of us to live in.

There is a disproportionate allocation of resources in favour of the urban areas. There is more access to clean water, electricity, health and education services in the urban areas than we have in the rural areas.
More money is being spent on maintaining roads in our rich suburbs while the rural areas are being ignored.

We understand that this is where the leaders, the donors and the investors live. And we are not in any way suggesting that the rural areas should have the same type of roads and other services as our urban areas. What we are trying to say is that as far as possible, let's narrow the gap, especially in education, health and other key sectors so that the rural people can also feel human and citizens of this country.

It shouldn't be a punishment to live in a rural area. A rural child should have a good opportunity of qualifying to our country's top universities. Actually, this was the way it was in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In those days, it didn't matter whether you went to Kalabo or Luwingu secondary school - you had an opportunity to make it to the University of Zambia.

Today, very few rural children are making it to our universities and higher colleges simply because the standards of their schools have really gone down. And in some cases, the schools that are being built for them are schools in name only.

They are not schools to take them anywhere. They are receiving second-class education. It's not unusual to hear of a rural school that goes up to grade nine having only four teachers teaching over 800 pupils. How possible is this? What type of education will a child get from such a school?

It is the same when it comes to health services. The rural hospitals or clinics are being manned by unqualified or semi-qualified personnel.
One can actually say they are second-class citizens of this country. We have rural clinics that are attended by more than two thousand patients in a month being serviced by only one clinical officer assisted by two unqualified personnel. And such clinics sometimes also have to attend to at least 25 deliveries per month. How is this possible for one clinical officer? These are facts and not mere fabrications. We have witnessed the situations we are talking about. They exist in our country.

There is need to attend to the needs of our rural people. Not everyone can flee to the city. The services we have in our urban areas should be equitably shared with our rural areas. And rural service should become an important part of the work of all our civil servants and other public workers.

The best of our teachers, the best of our medical personnel should be made to work for some time in our rural areas. This is the only way we can build a nation with pride in itself; a thriving community, rich in economic prosperity and secure in social justice.

We have to find ways of taking away the despair of our rural populations and of giving them hope. We shouldn't make the economic progress that is today taking place in our country benefit just a few. We must work unceasingly to lift our rural areas to a higher destiny. Everyone has to make a contribution and everyone can benefit. We have to do it together.

For our public service workers, service to Zambia means service of the millions who suffer poverty in our rural areas. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance, and disease and inequality of opportunity. And so they have to work hard to give reality to the dreams of our rural people. They have a lot of hard work ahead. There should be no resting for any of them until we make all our rural people what destiny intended them to be.

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