|Some of the children helped by Youth First Foundation|
By Paul Shalala in Chibombo
A Youth-led non-governmental organisation in Central Province has saved over 200 children from harmful child labour practices and taken them back to school for further education.
Youth First Foundation (YFD) has supported 237 children who it has sent back to various schools in Chibombo District since 2013.
The children will continue being supported and mentored for as long as the organisations donors keep offering their help.
Through a grant of US$10,000 (K100,000) from the Global Fund for Children, YFD has helped children who had lost hope on school, get a second chance in life.
Recently, the organisation hosted a public event where 50 of the children gathered to share their experiences on how the project had made an impact in their lives.
Through the Stay In School (SIS) initiative, children who had dropped out of school and started looking after cattle or selling by the roadside, or carrying heavy loads for business, were brought back to the classroom to continue literacy and numeracy lessons from where they had stopped.
At the event, their parents signed contracts which committed them to making sure that they allow their children to attend classes when school is in session.
During the event held at Nachibaya Primary School last week, Youth First Foundation Founder and Board Chairman Cooper Chibomba said the organisation was aiming at empowering children and changing lives.
|Parents signing contracts|
“Now, in advancing the education of our children, Youth First Development has committed itself to a number of life changing things and one of them is to work closely with the government in ensuring that children access education and to partner with every school to track the progress of children in their education. Its not enough to just send them to school, we must educate them. We are also entering into a binding social agreement with parents to ensure that NO CHILD is Left Behind, said Mr Chibomba, amid ululations from the parents.
He also announced that 50 orphans and vulnerable children would be given education support in the coming years to ensure that they continue furthering their education adding that empowering such children with education would help in improving quality of life and creating a bright future for them.
Mr Chibomba, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, revealed that the children will not only get education support but other support necessary for improving life.
“The children will continue to be reached with information and school programs on access to sexual reproductive health and rights, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, defilement and all forms of physical abuse,” he said.
And Chibombo District Commissioner Barnabas Musopelo commended Youth First Development for giving hope to the many children its working with.
Mr Musopelo said the Zambian government was happy that the local NGO is implementing its project through young people who live in the community especially that 80% of its board members were local villagers.
|Some of the parents who attended the meeting|
“I know that resources sometimes can be very difficult to mobilise but I am encouraged by the fact that the investment we are making today in our children through the Stay In School program will help make Chibombo a better place,"said Mr Musopelo.
He added that educating children is a direct way of fighting poverty, injustice, all forms of discrimination and giving equal opportunities to girls.
"I urge other NGOs working with children to learn from Youth First Development on how best they can tackle harmful child labour practices and how to work with children at risk of early marriage, teenage pregnancy and children that are at risk of dropping out of school due to poverty. I find that their model of rescuing, supporting and coaching provides long-term support to the children and their families is effective. Government alone cannot do these things, this is why Youth First Development has partnered with government to ensure that our children go back to school, stay in school and are progressing in their education".