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UPND’s free education policy is a zero sum game- Bowman Lusambo

Filed under: Education,Latest News |
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When the UPND government first pronounced its decision to offer what it called free education to all learners in public schools, almost the whole nation celebrated. We didn’t, instead we urged caution.

Having served in government, we were fully aware of the state of our fiscus and the harsh realities of funding our education sector. We even went to an extent of offering suggestions to the government to approach this policy in a gradual and scalable manner to allow for effective implementation.

The UPND government removed all manners of feeds payable to the schools including PTA fees which were essential in the smooth running of schools.

As we speak, most schools have not even serviced their utility bills, their support staff such as Drivers and General Workers have not been paid. Some Head Teachers and Head Mistress have now approached us requesting that we appeal to government to reverse this policy because it is killing the standard of education.

Schools are now broke, classrooms are over crowded, classroom populations are now ranging 120 per class with inadequate desks. Scenes of children sitting on the floor are now very common. Some staff toilets in some schools in Lusaka don’t even have toilet paper.

The K2.1 billion appropriated for schools in the 2022 national budget is a drop in the ocean. By removing user fees and grossly underfunding the schools, the UPND government is killing the education sector and the consequences of this maladministration will only become evident after 10 years or so years when the UPND government is long gone.

This government ought to be reminded that delivering free education goes beyond the mere removal of user fees. There is need to take care of both the hard and soft infrastructure for this policy to success.

The warning from the National Action for Quality Education in Zambia ( NAQEZ) that the unprecedented overcrowding in classes across the country is threatening the very essence of attending school and that the schools and teachers are now stunned and overwhelmed beyond measure and that the education system was clearly not ready for this policy confirms our fears.

When we first spoke about this issue, most citizens did not understating why we felt that the policy was counter productive for Zambia.

Now NAQEZ, whose members work in these schools are telling us that this free education is making the teacher/ pupil ratios in classes much more unhealthy, creating uncharacteristic environments for teaching and learning. They are also telling us that even the best teachers are failing to teach and that this is dangerous for Zambia because poorly educated people are very dangerous to society.

Shifting the funding to schools to the CDF is lopsided thinking because CDF will only be released in truncated format after meeting very tedious funding requirements making it difficult for schools to plan.

As it stands, Zambia risks raising a whole generation of people that are poorly educated but who thinks they actually went to school. This free education policy is a zero sum game that nobody wins.

B.C.L

28.02.22

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