Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts

Monday, 17 April 2017

Lack Of Libraries In Schools And How The Book Bus Is Helping

The Book Bus parked at Manyando community School in Kitwe
By Paul Shalala

It is a bus like any other, but this one is a special one.

It is a moving library.

It visits schools, providing books to schools were libraries don’t exist.

The Book Bus is an international non-governmental organisation which is providing this service in Malawi, Ecuador and Zambia.

In Zambia, The Book Bus drives to schools in Livingstone, Malambo and Kitwe where libraries do not exist.

And in Kitwe, Saint Anthony Community School was established in 1998 and this is the infrastructure where pupils have been learning from in the past 19 years.

When The Book Bus drives to the school, pupils at Saint Anthony Community School do not mind sitting on the ground to read the books.

All they want is to have a book which can help them learn.

Some times, children who are not enrolled at the school join in when they see the bus because they know that reading and learning is free of charge.
Pupils seated on the ground while reading books
at Saint Anthony Community School

"They teach us many things: how to read and write, we read different books which we don't have at our school," said Susan Mulowa, a Grade five pupil at Saint Anthony Community School.

According to management at this school, literacy levels have improved since the time The Book Bus started proving its mobile services here two years ago.

"This program is a good move. We have seen our learners improve in reading. There are some sounding letters, words and are able to read fluently. So we appreciate so much. If we compare last year and this year, there is change," said Saint Anthony Community School Headteacher Sydney Mankompa.

And in Bulangililo area within Kitwe, Manyando Community School is another beneficiary.

Here, the infrastructure is okay and pupils all learn while seated on desks.

The refurbished Children's Section at the
Kitwe City Library
And they have various stories to tell about this version of school work.

"I enjoy reading because it is very inspirational and The Book Bus helps me read every day," said Michelle Zulu, a pupil at Manyando Community School who dreams of becoming a journalist in future.

The lack of a library at Manyando Community School has been a challenge for management who have been making efforts to teach pupils without books.

Mwape Meki, the Headteacher at Manyando Community School had this to say: "In terms of literacy levels, we are a bit struggling like most schools but with the help of partners like The Book Bus, we are trying to get ourselves out of that." 

Michelle Zulu, a pupil at Manyando Community School
reading a book
Across the country, over two thousand pupils are receiving the services being offered by this mobile library for free.

The volunteers who work for The Book Bus combine reading and artistic lessons to help the pupils learn.

"We are trying to fill up the gap by providing this mobile library service because we get to drive to places where libraries are non existent. When we get into the bush like in Mfuwe which is 60 kilometers outside, we provide this service freely in areas where these kids don't have it," said The Book Bus Project Director Monica Mulenga.

At the Kitwe City Library, The Book Bus has refurbished the children section and stocked it with books.

However, very few pupils visit this section.

Most of the times, this section of the library remains underutilized despite being rich in books.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Cynthia Sichula: Stuck On Wheelchair But Teaches Five Grades

Cynthia Sichula in class with her pupils
By Paul Shalala in Luanshya

Hers, is a life lived against the odds.
With almost everything seeming to be against her, Cynthia Sichula has triumphed over her ills.

For years, she lived an ordinary and relatively healthy life of a teacher.
But little did she know, that she had a serious affliction.

She was struck with gangrene.
Gangrene is potentially a life threatening condition that happens when body tissues die,

At its worst a body part begins to rot and amputation is inevitable.
In April 2009, Cynthia’s gangrene had wasted both her legs at the knee and doctors had no option but to amputate.

"I got gangrene, i didn't know that disease. I was just told by the doctor, he explained to me. Both of my legs started drying up, i stopped feeling pain. Doctors decided to remove both legs so that in future i may wear those plastic limbs. I actually got sick on 31st December 2008 as we were going into 2009 and four months later i was amputated," said Cynthia.And so ended her life as a teacher.
Confined to a wheel chair, Cynthia had difficulties in getting a job as a teacher.

To make matters worse, her husband also lost his job at Luanshya Copper Mines when the company was placed under maintenance and care.
With both of them out of employment, Cynthia decided to form Zyuka Nursery and Primary School inside her two bedroom house in Luanshya’s Section 25 area.

"I just decided to open a school here in my living room. The school is three years old now and i have pupils from nursery to Grade four."

For the past three years that the school has been in operation, a number of pupils have passed through her hands and gone on to continue with higher education.
This is her consolation.

"I have taught many pupils at this school, some are even in upper schools. Even these who are here are very sharp. Very soon they will go to higher schools like Nkambo Primary School because here i don't have Grade five," she said.

Her condition does not make it easy for her to teach as she is confined to here wheel chair and movements restricted.

One of her challenges is writing on the board.
Cynthia Sichula listening to her pupils in class
"As for the Grades ones and the babies, someone has to move around and check what they are doing and how they are responding to the lessons. And the space here is too small, i cant move with my wheelchair to check them."

Her son, who is one of her pupils, helps out, though his assistance is limited.
But Cynthia is undaunted.

"I'm appealing to the First Lady Mrs Esther Lungu to help me with the building of the school, as you can see the classroom is too small. I only have two desks and a board," said Cynthia.
But her teaching has NOT been in vain.

Her pupils are sharp and very alive to current affairs.
When this blogger visited the school, he heard them recite the name of the President, names of all previous Presidents, Zambia's first female Vice President and the country's youngest ever diplomat Vernon Mwaanga.

The young boys and girls enjoy being taught by their sole teacher.

"She teaches very well and she is sharp," said one of the female Grade Two pupils.
And her neighbours marvel at her endurance.

"Children from this school are doing very well and the owner is making an impact in our neighbourhood. The lady needs alot of help from wellwishers," said James Katempa.
It is obvious that Cynthia is one of those rare souls, who remain undaunted and keep going even when it is darkest.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 6th April 2017 and it can be watched here.

Friday, 3 March 2017

41 Year Old Kitwe Mother Passes Grade 12 Exam But Son Fails

Given Mwila (right) during the interview with the author
By Paul Shalala

She first came into the limelight as a mature Grade 12 pupil at Parklands Secondary School in Kitwe who was in the same class with her teenage son.

And that was last year when this blogger broke the story of Given Mwila on this blog and on Zambia's state TV.

This year her story has even gotten better.

Given has completed her Grade Twelve with a pass.

She had been in the same class with her son Chishala from Grade 10 at Parklands.

Having dropped out of school 20 years ago, Given returned to the classroom to finish secondary school with the hope of becoming a nurse in the near future.

She initially started in Grade eight and passed her Grade nine exams before proceeding to Grade 10.

Her dream is now getting clearer though she is saddened that her 19 year old son and classmate Chishala failed to make it, he failed.

Despite this, Given is happy that she made it against all odds.

“I didn’t expect myself to do well in the exam because I had challenges. I haven’t even formally collected my results because I didn’t finish paying my tuition fees. I got three merits and a credit,” said Given in an interview at her home in Kitwe’s Chimwemwe compound.

In October 2016 i profiled Given, following her from the time she woke up and prepared for school.

At school, I interviewed some of her classmates and teachers.

Given (left), the author (middle) and
her son Chishala (right) in this
photo taken October 2016 at Parklands
 Secondary School in Kitwe
Given was an inspiration to all that’s why she was even selected as a Prefect.

And all that this mother of three wants to do in life is to be a nurse.

But due to lack of finances, she is appealing for sponsorship.

Her husband is partially blind and does not have an income

“Am appealing to anyone who is watching this interview, including the First Lady Mrs Esther Lungu to come and help me realize my dream of becoming a nurse. I want to excel higher than I have done,” she said.

With her results, Given can easily study nursing once she finds finances.

In Kitwe where she lives, there are nursing schools where she can enroll for the two year Zambia Enrolled Nurse (ZEN) certificate course or the three year Registered Nurse (RN) Diploma course.

In Zambia, women or girls who drop out of school can continue even after many years.

This is made possible through the Ministry of General Education’s new strategy called the Re-Entry Policy.

The policy is aimed at giving a second chance to those who are derailed in one way or another.

Given is a good example of the successful implementation of the Re-Entry policy.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blogger also did a TV report of this story which aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 2nd March 2017. The YouTube link to the video is here

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Kitwe Vocational Training Center And Its Operational Challenges

By Paul Shalala
Entrance to KVTC workshop -Pictures by Kelvin Kawana

The intention was good but the implementation veered completely off course.

The idea was to train mechanics, electricians, metal fabricators and other specialists in like fields.

And that is why Kitwe Vocational Training Center (KVTC) was established.

KVTC was established in 1998 at the workshop for the now defunct United Bus Company of Zambia in Kitwe’s Racecourse area.

The institution enherited a state of the art workshop which over the years has been under utilized.

The institution is not living according to its ideals.

Over the years, equipment has run down, dust has gathered and the relevance of the institution is slowly being lost.

The students’ hostels are a sorry site.

Cooking is done on an element mounted on bricks.

Illegal electrical connections are the order of the day.
This is were male students cook their meals

Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo toured the institution last week and she was shocked with what she found.

In the male student’s hostel, she found first year students chatting on the veranda which is used as a kitchen.

She took to task the Principal Jolly Chembe for not providing proper cooking utensils and cleaning the hostels.

“Honourable Minister I didn’t know about this problem here. I wish the Maintenance Officer was here to tell me why this place is this dirty,” said Mr Chembe.

In the workshop, equipment is not properly stored.

Dust accumulates on the items used for lectures because most of them are not properly secured.

Clearly, KVTC is a mess.

“There is no order here. This institution is too dirty. If students are not taught to clean after they cook, they will also go with that habit in their homes. What society will we have?” said Professor Luo when she addressed members of staff and management.

However, in terms of potential, this institution can make money.
Higher Education Minister Prof Nkandu Luo talking to students  

In 2013, it won a contract and supplied 11,000 desks to the Ministry of General Education.

The institution wants more of such contracts to offset the K2.5 million debt it has accumulated.

“We have in the past few months submitted two separate tenders to supply 15,000 single sit desks and another 15,000 double sit desks to two separate institutions. We are asking for government to deliberately give such contracts to institutions like ours so that we can meet our financial obligations,” said KVTC Board Chairman Wilbroad Chisunka.

Problems at KVTC are many.

Workers called off their two weeks strike a few days ago.

They are owed their January and February salaries.

The institution also wrote to the Nkana Water and Sewerage Company to disconnect it from its water supply due to its failure to settle bills.

Currently, the institution uses water from boreholes.

In all these problems, government officials cite leadership as a contributing factors to the institution’s challenges.

“The board here at KVTC must start thinking outside the box. They will have themselves to blame if they are dissolved. This institution has the capacity to raise its own funds without relying on government grants,” said newly appointed Kitwe District Commissioner Binwell Mpundu when he toured the institution two weeks ago to familiarize himself with its operations.

Inside the KVTC workshop
Due to all these challenges, even the student enrolment for 2017 has dropped drastically.

The institution has a student capacity of 600 but only 300 have enrolled this year.

In terms of accommodation, KVTC has a bed capacity of 137 but only 93 students are in boarding.

Despite all these challenges, the good news is that the Ministry of Higher Education has increased its annual grant allocation to the institution.

For this financial year, the Ministry has added K500,000 to the institution’s grant which may help to turn around things at KVTC.

Hopefully, the institution will soon stand tall and weather the storm.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blogger also did this story as a documentary and it aired on TV1's Morning Live program on 23 February 2017. The YouTube link to the video is here: KVTC Documentary

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Kapiri Mposhi Mother Arrested For Burning Her Child Over Food

Mrs Nsongwe and her daughter Lillian at home
By Paul Shalala in Kapiri Mposhi

A 34 year old mother of Kapiri Mposhi in the Central Province has been arrested for burning the hands of her seven year old daughter after she ate sweet potatoes at a neighbour's house.

Doreen Nsongwe has been remanded at the Kapiri Mposhi Police Station where she has been charged for the offence of assaulting a child.

"We received a report of a seven year old girl of Kapiri Mposhi being burnt by her mother. The report was given to the Police by the girl's stepfather who said the mother was annoyed because the girl ate at her neighbour's house," said Central Province Police Commissioner Lombe Kamukoshi in an interview.

According to an officer who conducted the arrest in Material Compound, on 9th February,  Mrs Nsongwe got hot charcoal and placed it in the hands of her daughter Lillian which ended up burning her severely.

Lillian is a Grade one pupil at Material Primary School.

During her arrest yesterday which this blogger witnessed, Mrs Nsongwe cried, saying she was trying to discipline her daughter when she burnt her.

The arrest attracted a huge number of neighbours, some of whom wailed as she was led away into a vehicle by uniformed Police officers.

The victim, who was visibly traumatised, cried as she noticed that her mother was being led away by police officers.

And Kapiri Mposhi District Commissioner Peter Mwiinde vowed that parents who physically harm their children should be prosecuted.

"This is total stupidity. Such parents must be arrested and taken to court. Am ordering all the Police officers in the Victim Support Unit, do not release such culprits, take them to court and let them face the law," said the visibly annoyed Mr Mwiinde.
The GBV One Stop Center under construction 

Mrs Nsongwe was today expected to appear before a magistrate's court in Kapiri Mposhi.

Her child has now been taken by the District Social Welfare Office which will monitor her progress as she is being treated by medical personnel.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a major problem in Kapiri Mposhi.

This has led government to construct the first ever GBV One Stop Center in the District which will serve the whole province.

The center has so far reached roof level and the contractor Workman Limited is on schedule.

K1.4 million is being spent on the project.

"GBV cases here in Kapiri Mposhi are on the rise due to the location of the town. We need this GBV One Stop Center because currently, victims have nowhere to run to," said Kapiri Mposhi District Social Welfare Officer Moses Manasseh in an interview.

He added that once completed, the center will offer refuge to GBV victims and those who do not need shelter will be going there for counselling.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story on the construction of the GBV One Stop Center was also aired as a report on TV1's Morning Live program on 16 February 2017 and it can be watched here: GBV One Stop Center

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Japan, Zambia Retrain Lecturers, Teachers To Improve Pass Rate

General Education Permanent Secretary Henry Tukombe
By Paul Shalala in Mufulira

The figures were embarrassing.

Pupils failed and their failure was loud enough for the whole nation to notice.

Social media was full of ridicule for those provinces which did not do well.

Copperbelt and Western Provinces have been the shining examples in Grade seven, nine and twelve examinations.

But the results from last year’s exams have even embarrassed the teachers.

“The results where embarrassing, we hope to change the scenario in the coming years. As teachers, we promise to work hard and change the image,” said Bernard Kamfuli the Headteacher at Mufulira Secondary School during a meeting to discuss the performance of teachers in class.

With this confession in mind, education authorities are now left with a huge question.

What went wrong?

Those charged with the responsibility of ensuring that standards in the education system are enforced, have an idea of what happened.

“I think we need to intensify the inspection of teachers in schools. We also need to help our pupils grasp what they are taught in class. I must say am disappointed with the results Copperbelt recorded but we can do better,” said Copperbelt Provincial Education Officer Paul Ngoma at the same meeting.

In order to avoid the report of the disastrous school results, the Zambia government has since instituted a number of measures to improve examination performance by pupils.

So far, a new strategy called the 16 Hour Policy is being implemented.

The strategy forces pupils to spend one hour studying after they knock off on a daily basis.

Teachers too are also forced to spend a further one hour after classes in order for them to prepare their lesson plans.

This policy is being piloted in Mufulira District on the Copperbelt.

“So far, the 16 Hour Policy is working well. Pupils are having prep shortly after class and this gives them an opportunity to revise what they have ust learnt. But we also need to check teachers and see how many lesson plans they had the whole term,” said Mufulira District Education Standards Officer Henry Mwale.

The failure late in last year’s exams cannot be solely blamed on the pupils.

A recently conducted survey  by two researchers shows that the quality of teachers and lecturers graduating from the country’s 106 colleges and over 25 universities are some how below par.

The research, which sampled hundreds of students from across Zambia, showed that the learners do not get the education needed for them to pass and implement in their day to day life.

“We discovered that when we asked the pupils if they were satisfied with what they were taught in class, most of them said no. Most of the learners do not think outside the box because we have not taught them adequately. So there is need for the teacher to be prepared too,” revealed Grace Chilekwa the lead researcher who is also the Principal at Mufulira College of Education, an institution which is the premier trainer of teachers on the Copperbelt.

In order to fight this inadequacy in the teaching profession, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Ministry of General Education have launched a K2.8 million program called IPECK.

IPECK stands for Improvement of Pedagogical Content Knowledge among teachers and lecturers.

The program targets those who teach pupils and the aim is to improve quality of what is being taught in class.

“Copperbelt and Western Provinces used to be the provinces to watch. But now the results are bad. We hope that with the coming of the Japanese, we will improve our record. Please teachers I urge you to change your mindset and deliver,” said General Education Permanent Secretary Henry Tukombe when he launched the program.

For the next five years, dozens of teachers and lecturers from across the country will be retrained to sharpen their teaching skills and in the end raise the pass rate.

Some Japanese experts in the education system are already in the country and they have embarked on the capacity building for the teachers and lecturers.

Currently, they are doing their activities at Mufulira College of Education.

Hopefully, at the end of this year when pupils sit for their exams, the pass rate on the Copperbelt and Western Province will go up with the help of IPECK.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was aired as a documentary on Morning Live program on TV2 on 2nd February 2017 and on Newsline program on TV1 on 3rd February 2017. The documentary can be watched on this YouTube link: Copperbelt Poor Exam Results Documentary

Friday, 27 January 2017

Despite Dilapidated School, Kamakonde Pupils Score High

Agness Nkomeshya with her mother sitting outside their house
By Paul Shalala

Sometimes, good fortunes come from humble beginnings.

Men and women have risen from squalid existence to make it in life.

And even the schools they may have attended are nothing to talk about.

This perhaps is the road on which Agness Nkomeshya is trotting along.

From her home in Kamakonde area to her school in the same neighbourhood, nothing eases her daily hardships.

Kamakonde is a slum in the western part of Kitwe, the second largest city in Zambia.

This 13-year girl old who lost her father two years ago, has only her mother to fend for her.

And she is not alone because her unemployed mother has to look after five other children.

The 19 year old classroom block at Kamakonde Primary School
The family live in a mud brick house whose roof leaks when it rains.

At home, her life is a battle of survival and while at school, it is all about endurance.

The only structure which the Grade one, twos, threes and fours use at Kamakonde Primary School is dilapidated and unfit for learners.

But Agness and her fellow pupils have defied the odds.

For close to 20 years, the school has received little attention.
The years have now taken their toll on this lonely structure built in 1998 when the community decided to open their own community school.

The two classrooms are overcrowded and pupils literally sit on the floor because the school lacks desks.

The four grades take turns in sharing the two classrooms every day.

In each class session, there are about 70 pupils being taught by a teacher.

Mary Kasanga (right) in class
And the heat is unbearable and poor ventilation forces pupils to use their books as fans to get some fresh air.

And to make matters worse, the classrooms get flooded when it rains.

When the water takes over, classes are conducted under nearby trees.

“The situation here is bad. When it rains, water flows into these classrooms and we abandon this structure. We conduct lessons under trees. It is pathetic during the rain season,” said Hillary Muyoba, the Headteacher at Kamakonde Primary School.

But despite these problems the pupils are undaunted.

They are aiming high.

“I want to be an account when I finish school because I want to be counting money in a bank. When am an accountant, l help me my mother, my father and my brothers,” said Mary Kasanga, a 10 year old Grade four pupil who was interviewed while seated on a brick.

Another pupil Lweendo Malambo hopes to work in the medical field.

The tree under which pupils learn during floods 
“My ambition is to be a doctor. I will help the sick,” said Lweendo while seated on the floor.

During the 2016 Grade Seven examinations, whose results were announced two weeks ago, Agness surprised everyone, she got 711 marks.

This result made her one of the best pupils to have scored well in the whole of Kitwe District at a time when the Copperbelt Province has scored the least among provinces in the Grade seven results.

“I want to encourage other pupils who may go through the hardships I went through. I encourage them to be strong and pray to God. He will bless them also,” said Agness in an interview at her home.

 Her mother Sara Sipula is with her all the way despite the hurdles she faces everyday to fork a living for the children.

“When I got news that Agness passed her Grade Seven exam with flying colours, I was happy. But a minute later I started crying, thinking about my husband who should have seen her success. My only worry is how I will pay her school fees because am unemployed,” said the 41 year old Mrs Sipula.

The school administration revealed that Agness was not the only pupil to have scored such high marks from the school in the past few years.

Nkana MP Alexander Chiteme handing over shoes to a parent
“Agness has made us proud, she is a pupil who is easy to mentor and has a passion for education. Her 711 marks is a reminder that even pupils from poor communities can make it. Actually we have been having an increasing number of pupils getting over 700 marks in the last five years,” said Mr Muyoba.

But Agness’ achievement has not gone unnoticed.

It has caught the attention of the Member of Parliament for Nkana, the constituency where the slum of Kamakonde belongs.

Nkana MP Alexander Chiteme recently pledged to sponsor all her school fees until she completes her senior secondary school.

“I have been told that one of your pupils Agness Nkomeshya got 711 marks in Grade seven. Sure a child who was sitting on the floor while in class can get such high marks? As a way of motivating her, I will be paying for her school from today onwards until she completes Grade 12,” said Mr Chiteme amid ululations from residents of Kamakonde.

This was during a recent community meeting in the area were the lawmaker also donated 50 pairs of shoes for the boys and the girls at the school.

Some of the pupils had never known what it feels like to wears shoes.

The lawmaker also gave the school footballs and replica jerseys. 

Next week, Agness is expected to join her Grade eight class at Chimwemwe Secondary School within Kitwe.

Pupils seated on the floor during a class at Kamakonde
Back at Kamakonde Primary School, not every pupil wears the navy blue uniform.

This is because their parents cannot afford to buy them uniforms but school management does not turn them away.

In Zambian government schools, pupils cannot be chased from school on account of lacking uniforms or school fees.

The school’s plight also forced government to take over the school last year and construct a new classroom block which also has a staff room.

The new building has two classrooms which are used by Grades five, six and sevens.

Kamakonde Primary School has over 700 pupils with only 10 teachers who take turns in teaching the seven classes.

Despite all these challenges, the learners exceed the community’s expectations in their academic performance.

In the coming years, these determined children from Kamakonde Primary School may become the country’s captain of industries despite their daily struggle to gain an education.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired as a documentary on TV2's Morning Live program on 26 January 2017 and repeated on TV1's Newsline program on 27 January 2017. The link to the YouTube documentary aired on Morning Live is here: Kamakonde Primary School Documentary

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Youth NGO Saves Over 200 Chibombo Kids From Child Labour

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".

In Zambia, a person under the age of 16 cannot be employed.

According to the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act, employing a person under the age of 16 is illegal in Zambia.

Despite this law and similar others like the Employment Amendment Act of 2015, child labour is still a major problem in the country.

For example, the 2015 Child Labour and Forced Labour Report by the United States Department of Labour reveals that children in Zambia continue to engage in labour practices in the production of tobacco and commercial sexual exploitation.

The Zambian government has been placing billboards and running TV adverts to fight child labour.

Further, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has also been implementing several projects aimed at withdrawing children from labour across the country.

Through its Achieving Reduction of Child Labour in Support of Education (ARISE) Project, ILO withdrew 575 children from child labour and a further 4,327 were prevented from engaging in child labour.

The biggest challenge to fighting child labour in Zambia is the deep rooted culture were children are supposed to help their parents do house chores.

This ends up taking the children to full time jobs and activities which are meant for adults.

To win this fight, stakeholders must engage chiefs and other traditional authorities to try and change people's day to day way of life.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Church Condom Restrictions In Rural Zimbabwe Linked To Rise In Teen Pregnancy Rate

Women dance at parliament demanding condoms in schools
By Ray Mwareya in Harare, Zimbabwe

"If ever I’m spotted walking into a beer hall to buy a pack of Durex condoms, my father will beat me with a rubber belt, my teachers would banish me from the classroom, our church pastor will expel me from the Sunday choir band.”

Nancy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is a 17-year-old  biology student at a Baptist-run school in Chimanimani, a mostly rural part of eastern Zimbabwe.

“Condoms are a banned word in our church youth seminars,” she said. “On rare occasions our church pastor speaks, he shouts, ‘condoms are full of holes, beware! Condoms stick inside women! Abortion is Satan´s invention!”

“I, my family, would earn the scorn of the community if a teacher or pastor discovers a pack of condoms in your school bag,” says Nancy.

Between February and September of this year, Nancy says 10 of her classmates became pregnant and were kicked out of school despite directives from the Zimbabwe Education Ministry and constitutional court mandating that pregnant girls must not be excluded from finishing high school.

“I know for sure religious stigma towards condoms put girls in harm here,” Nancy said of her classmates. 

Teenage pregnancies fire and church condom apathy:

Rural eastern Zimbabwe, a bastion of church authority, is witnessing the country´s fastest growing rate of teenage pregnancies.

According to Zimbabwe’s Demographic Health Survey, the fertility rate among regional teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 increased from 99 per 1,000 to 115 per 1,000 between 2005 and 2015.

Observers and some experts attribute the rate rise to church restrictions and stigma around condoms and other forms of contraception.

With Zimbabwe´s government deep in debt, churches play a critical role in providing free or subsidized sexual health clinics, maternity homes, surgeries and schools in this region.

“And churches strictly discourage the debate on condoms within their assemblies,” said Bishop Fani Moyo, a sociologist and founder of The Progressive Churches Sexual Health Forum of Zimbabwe.

“It is seen as a profanity for Sunday school girls to introduce a sermon on condoms publicly.”

But authorities take a relaxed view. “Parents are free to drop in condoms when they pack food and books in their children´s schoolbags,” encourages Zimbabwe´s education minister, Mr. Lazarus Dokora.

At Rusitu Mission Hospital, a large institution run by United Baptists Church in Zimbabwe, nurses motion patients to participate in morning prayer sessions before giving out medication.

“If you ask for condoms when you get into a relationship, church nurses will report you to the church school principal. A beating follows. We girls endure sex without protection.”

Many businesses and tribal courts in the region also restrict the distribution of condoms to teenage girls.

“It is an offense punishable by a fine of two goats if a school girl is seen buying condoms in a beer tavern in my village,” explains Sam Chirandu, a tribal village head in east Zimbabwe. “School girls mustn’t do sex before marriage. It is against our social values.”

Unlike in neighboring South Africa where condoms are widely available, often for free, in rural Zimbabwe they are almost hidden.

“For fear of stigma and beating, I have to cleverly send my 18-year-old boyfriend to buy us condoms from supermarkets, and hope the pastor or his parents don’t see him with them. Each pack costs $1. The price is too much for teenage girls,” Nancy said.

Child marriages fueling churches:

Rural east Zimbabwe is home to the Johane Marine Apostolic Church denomination, a strictly Africanist church sect that draws tens of thousands of followers and is wildly popular among Zimbabwe´s influential government ministers, security chefs and diplomats.

The denomination is famous for its promotion of polygamy and child marriage and for its fiery dislike of condoms and other forms of contraception.

In the district where this church thrives, the majority of school girls, some as young as 10, have been married to older men from their church.

“Most marriages are arranged between adult church men and underage girls. Request for condoms can result in a teenage bride being divorced harshly,” said Edson Tsvakai, a community health project coordinator at The Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe-Africa (UDA-CIZA).

Zimbabwe´s Ministry of Education and Culture says only 1/3 of the 10,000 local girls who enroll in high school graduate after four years.

Tsvakai pins the high dropout rate on “runaway teenage pregnancies,”

“The police are the biggest let down in early forced child marriages and pregnancies, as they have continued to turn a blind eye to these religious crimes,” he said. “Prosecutions die down quickly. Church sect leaders are secretive, and in high favor with political elites."

The country´s Domestic Violence Act prohibits marriage under the age of 16 for both girls and boys, but enforcement is weak in rural districts where poverty incentivizes underreporting.

Noah Pashapa, a bishop of the Pentecostals Liberty Churches International, in Harare and one of Zimbabwe’s most famous preachers holds a pragmatic view on contraception.

Condoms are a necessary evil. They save lives and marriages,” he said.

Pashapa keeps condoms in his office for needy couples and sexually active youth. He says Zimbabwe´s HIV/AIDS crisis, which contributed to 29,000 deaths in 2015 according to UNAIDS, is slowly breaking down the Church's high moral ground on sexual abstinence among youths.

He would like to see a future in which “condoms should be distributed in churches – accompanied by information promoting abstinence and informed choices among the youth.”

About the writer: Ray Mwareya is the editor of the Women Taboos Radio. He tweets at @RMwareya