(By Tobias Phiri and Melony Chisanga)
ORDINARY Zambians are suffering while foreigners are taking away the country’s natural resources, says FDD president Edith Nawakwi.
In an exclusive interview with The Mast, Nawakwi said the solution to the current problems in the country needed Zambians to be creative and grow the economy.
She said Zambians have to learn that the natural resources in the country have to be protected against being looted by foreign nationals.
“We have to grow our economy. We have to be creative. We need to understand that. We cannot allow someone from Senegal, Russia or Israel collecting our emeralds in their pockets and we are watching and saying we are going to investigate, that should never be allowed,” Nawakwi said.
“We have allowed ourselves to be looted and ransacked by foreigners. The money which foreigners are sprinting away with in pockets, in trunks is the money we are supposed to be investing in the education sector, in the hospital system.”
Nawakwi said medical personnel were suffering together with patients in medical centres due to lack of proper and adequate treatment equipment.
“I spent the whole evening with a relative who passed-on in UTH, my heart goes out to those young men and women who are doctors and nurses. They sit at a small desk and use strings to tie wheelchairs for patients to put their legs on. And I sat there saying to myself, ‘as I sit here, the Chinese are collecting mukula, they are taking my manganese, someone is carrying copper to some destination, and the emeralds are disappearing and yet the owners are suffering,” Nawakwi lamented.
“I was extremely saddened. And when you say I don’t comment, part of it is the inner feeling that we need to do more and then you are not in a position to change things.”
Nawakwi said she had decided to remain quiet on some issues because the outcome for some cases was obvious.
“On the political space, I think there is wisdom in withdrawing. I tend to say even in the bible, Jesus would withdraw to reflect, there are many issues, some of them do not even require commentary. You just watch and observe and we don’t need to say anything about that because it is evident as to where we are going. Maybe we are going to crash at Knife Edge Bridge! For instance, did you ever think that the grade nine exams would yield the results that we have seen this year?”4 Nawakwi asked.
“55 per cent of our children under the age of 13 have been offloaded onto the streets, and look at our streets, they have nothing. They are empty, there is misery on the streets and I have been agonising as to what these will children do. You get people who are offloaded from the universities, they are on the streets with their degrees. Maybe they can be retrained into entrepreneurs but what can you do with a 10-year-old who has been offloaded and pushed on the streets?”
Nawakwi said the current education system had a number of problems which needed to be ironed out.
“These Grade 7s, 9s and Grade 12s, they are not failures. They have been pushed out of the education system. Take a school in Mpika for example, I was trying to talk to the authorities to feel as to how Muchinga [Province] is faring with education. At Kampamba Primary School, 59 kids sat for the Grade 9 exams, only 5 have proceeded,” she narrated. “At Chilufya Primary School, they were 80-something and only about 10 have proceeded to grade 10. These figures are an indication of something rotten in our education system. Therefore, when you look at the non-recruitment of teachers, that is one of the issue.”
Nawakwi said the current teaching curriculum needed to be relooked because learners were not receiving the best education from it.
“The curriculum that we are following in the primary schools is not churning out grade 12s who are astute in their doing and these are the people we are pushing to be teacher trainees, offloading them to teach our children. They are half-baked,” she said. “Some of these failures cannot all be attributed to the teaching skills. It was the abrupt change of the curriculum by the Patriotic Front. When they come in, they abruptly changed the curriculum, they pushed teachers to start teaching without teaching materials, these things take time, they have to evolve overtime.”
Nawakwi stressed that any change to the education system needs preparation.
“If you want to change the curriculum, plan for it. In 10 years this is where we are going to be, train your teachers, have enough teaching materials and then you can achieve results. What we are seeing now is the result of poor planning by PF,” she said.
“It has reflected countrywide. The first grade 12 graduands of the PF experiment are this year’s grade 12s where they took kids from all and sundry and threw them at schools which were high schools and said you start teaching grade 8s and there is a difference between a kindergarten teacher and a skills teacher for higher schools. So they pushed these children to these particular systems and the teachers were left aghast because they did not have teaching resources. So this is going to reflect for a long time.”
And Nawakwi said the failure to recruit all available teachers and nurses, for lack of resources on the part of the government, was forcing graduates to engage in other jobs.
“The non-recruitment of nurses and teachers is a fact that our civil service is not able to absorb this cadre of new professionals. There is no money despite the fact that in most schools you will find that there is one teacher to 100 students or pupils. We have a need for all the trained teachers but there is no financial space to accommodate them,” she said.
“Look at the teachers, they get their certificates… I have seen teachers with diplomas doing menial jobs, some of them trying to sell on the streets. Some of them trying to do guard work and it is miserable and you try to say to yourself well is this worth commenting? What are the solutions? That is what I have been thinking about to be able to get over this misery that we find ourselves in.”
Nawakwi said her absence from the media in the recent past was a way to understand the Zambian media landscape.
“It’s important to reflect, it’s not always that you should to be there…. I think people know that I am okay and I’m working very hard. It’s not like I have withdrawn from politics. I’m still the leader of the Forum for Democracy and Development and if people want my opinion they can find me,” she said.
“It’s not always that every day you must be in the media talking. Sometimes it’s important to talk by observing and feeling and watching, that is talking also, it’s a statement. I have been off the media, I wanted to study the way the media in Zambia works. I have been in the media since the 90s and I have always been intrigued by how the media creates news and so I have been studying that and trying to appreciate the position of the media in Zambia.”
Nawakwi said journalists needed to specialise and there was need for investment in the media.
“What I have noticed is that we need a bit more investment in our private and public media space, our training programmes are not adequate. For example, we don’t have specific economic reporters who can take an issue and analyse it for the information of the public,” she observed.
“If you take the political arena, I tend to think that the media in Zambia required a bit more of understanding of where we should be, as a family. Whether in the media or in politics, we should think of cardinal questions; what is our objective? Where are we going as citizens?”
Nawakwi said she hoped to see a time when the people would appreciate the role of the press in the delivery of development.
“I have been studying that and trying to appreciate which way forward in terms of the media. I yearn for a time when we can appreciate the role of the media in national development,” said Nawakwi.
“Therefore, there would be need to put more investment in both the public and private media either through education or through financing of activities within the media. For example, there are some media houses where you literally find that there are no resources and yet these houses are struggling to be able to work in the interest of the nation.”