Free education meaningless without infrastructure, teachers – Choongo

CHIEF Choongo of Monze district says free education without proper infrastructure and enough teachers is meaningless.

In an interview, Choongo said Zambians must understand that even if government was to offer free education today, it would be meaningless as long as it was offered in an environment which was not conducive.

“Free education without proper infrastructure and enough teachers is meaningless. It is not free education when pupils don’t have books. Yes, it can be free education but what is the use of that education when pupils do not have books, desks to sit on, when pupils do not have teachers?” he asked.

Choongo said as Zambians remind their government to work on the promise of free education, it would be important for them to understand that even if that education was to be offered in an environment which is not conducive will be meaningless.

“The curriculum in education encompasses everything starting from where the education will be offered. Who is going to offer that education, how will that education be offered? That’s why I’m saying let’s answer all these questions as we talk about free education,” he said. “Let’s ask ourselves where this free education will be offered. I’m happy that the new dawn government has taken the first stance of building neglected secondary schools.”

Choongo urged the government to employ a lot of teachers as it was addressing infrastructure issues so as to defeat the issue of poor teacher-pupil ratio.

“You can say I’m offering free education and a teacher is standing in front of 100 pupils in one classroom and in 40 minutes’ period do you expect free education to be meaningful? No! This issue about education, let’s looks at infrastructure. Let’s look at teachers who are going to offer that education. Do we have the teachers? The answer is yes, we have a lot of teachers who are unemployed,” he said. “Let’s see how we can get these teachers on board and see how things will be and then now we look at the content. The content that we have, is it answering to the modern problems that we have in Zambia and Africa? We need to look at that as well then we shall say indeed we have quality education.”

Choongo advised citizens to encourage government to do the right thing unlike just demanding for the sake of it.

“There is no harm in reminding our government to remain awake, alive to the challenges that we as Zambians are facing. And these are challenges that this government wants to fix. Let people not tire but give constructive criticism,” he said. “We don’t want the new dawn government to go into slumber. We want it to be awake but it is important that we give positive criticism and understand that Rome was not built in a day. What was important was to understand that building a strong foundation is key.”

And Choongo expressed happiness that the government was responding quickly to some areas that needed urgent response adding that the decision to prioritise infrastructure development in education was cardinal.

“When you talk about development of a country, it’s something that we cannot put forward for debate. It begins with education and that education must be quality education. So for government to acquire a loan from World Bank and decide to channel that loan to issues to do with education is very welcome,” he said. “If we are to talk about serving people equally there should be no secondary school which is more secondary school than the other – that is animal farm. There are some secondary schools that you wonder if pupils write the same examination with pupils from Hillcrest, Kabulonga and many other urban schools. Most secondary schools in rural areas are just secondary school by name. They don’t qualify to be. We want our children to get equal benefits from government.”

Choongo said secondary schools must have a laboratory and well stocked libraries.

“But you find that in some areas those that are called secondary schools don’t even have such facilities,” he noted. “So government by deciding to acquire a loan from World Bank to build neglected secondary schools is a response to cries from people.”

Choongo said as Zambians were yearning for free education, it was cardinal that all secondary schools meet the standard requirements to be secondary schools not just by name.

“These standards must include required number of teachers, libraries, laboratories, desks and other prerequisites,” he said.

Choongo urged Zambians to support the government stance to refurbish neglected secondary schools to enable them meet the standards.

“We need to level the playing field before we start calling for free education,” said Choongo.

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