[By Masuzyo Chakwe in Petauke]
HERDING cattle at a young age is tough, I can advise my friends to go to school instead, says 14-year-old Chimwemwe Banda.
Chimwemwe is from Nyatuondo village and has never been to school.
Chimwemwe was working for a family herding their cattle under a system called chibeta.
Under this practice (herd boy), boys acquire cattle by working for other families on a three to a four-year contract, after which they are paid a cow.
This arrangement, dating back over half a century, increases the rate of cattle ownership among male household members.
Chimwemwe said he initially worked for a family for two years then two more years were added. In total he worked four years. However, he has not been paid his cattle yet. He was told he would be paid after they harvest the maize.
Chimwemwe says he wants to go to school but his mother tells him that there is no money for a uniform.
“I want to go to school but my mother says I should wait till the maize is harvested. I want to start in grade one at Nyamia Primary School. Herding cattle at a young age and abandoning school is not good. It is tough in the field and you get pricked and hurt there,” he said. “I can advise my friends to go to school instead of herding cattle because the fields are tough.”
Speaking earlier during a meeting on child rights and child participation in decision-making, Panos Institute Southern Africa programmes manager Nervious Siantombo said children should nurture their talents while they are still young.
One of the children complained that there were only three computers at her school which were supposed to cater for everyone writing examinations this year.
Another girl said she had passed her grade nine exams but had been unable to proceed to grade 10 due to lack of money.
Another girl said western culture had contributed to bad lifestyles.
Panos child rights and governance project officer Changwe Chibuye told the children that it was fine to dream big.
“Begin having ideas. Your parents might not have gone to university but you can work hard and go. I want you to begin dreaming big. Dreaming is about imagining,” said Chibuye.
Panos with support from Save the Children Zambia is implementing a Child Rights Governance (CRG) project which promotes the participation of children in governance processes at district, provincial and national levels.
The Radio Listening Clubs are platforms for children to know about their rights as enshrined in the national and international instruments. They also provide a platform for children to develop leadership and life skills.