Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) joins the rest of the World in commemorating Teachers’ Day which falls on 5th October, 2017. As we are all aware, teachers play a very critical role in the Education and Skills Sector for social, cultural, political and economic development of any given country as they mould and prepare everyone.
Indeed everyone has passed through a classroom of some kind. It goes without saying that the teaching profession is at the center of any meaningful development of human resource. Therefore, ZANEC salutes teachers and lecturers that have labored and continue to educate the nation.
This year’s theme “Teaching in Freedom Empowering Teachers” is well received as it contains two critical words: Freedom and Empowering. Freedom means the right to act while empowering means helping someone to realize their full potential. As ZANEC, we believe that a teacher and a lecturer should have the freedom to adequately teach and provide guidance to his or her pupils and students without fear or favor. On one hand empowerment means that effective teaching can only be made a reality if teachers and lecturers are empowered in terms of their earnings as well as continuous professional development.
ZANEC notes with serious concern that the conditions of our teachers have remained unattractive. As such, the teaching profession has lost a lot of brilliant teachers to other professions as a result of poor conditions of service. It has also come to our attention that some private schools’ management in Zambia are taking advantage of our teachers by paying them very low salaries and subjecting them to bad conditions of service. ZANEC therefore, urges government and Teacher Trade Unions to strongly advocate for better conditions of service for our teachers in private schools.
We call upon government to ensure that teachers are given living wages and empowered with conducive teaching environments with sufficient teaching aids, increased teacher recruitment to mitigate against the high pupil teacher ratios to allow them execute their duties passionately and diligently. ZANEC is further concerned that in a statement by the Minister of General Education (MoGE) to Parliament it was stated that only 2000 teachers will be recruited in 2017. The Coalition
is of the considered view that this will adversely affect and worsen the current high teacher pupil ratios in schools. This is because the 2016 Education Statistical Bulletin shows that a total number of 8,139 teachers left teaching in 2015 and 6,475 left in 2016. The reduction in the number of teachers recruited affects the quality of education when enrolment of pupils has continued to increase.
One of the targets in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four (4) states that “By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States.” The fact that teachers are fundamental for equitable and quality education means that teachers should be “adequately trained, recruited and remunerated, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems. For Zambia to achieve this target, it is necessary not only to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers but to motivate them by valuing their work through appropriate remuneration.
We use this opportunity therefore, to commend the efforts by the Teaching Council of Zambia (TCZ) in ensuring that Zambia has qualified teachers in our schools. The Coalition hopes that TCZ will expeditiously put in place measures to ensure that our teachers in community schools are recognized and empowered like those in public and private schools.
It is important to note that the 2017 Teachers Day commemoration also coincides with the commemoration of 20th anniversary of the 1997 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel. The recommendation underscores the necessity of academic freedoms and university autonomy for both teaching and research and articulates the rights academic staff should have. It is important therefore to add that lecturers’ academic freedoms are very critical for Institutions of Higher Learning to meaningfully contribute to national development.
As we commemorate this year’s World Teachers’ Day, we challenge teachers and lecturers alike to critically reflect on their role as we are sadly confronted with reality of the fact that the quality of the pupils being produced in the Education and Skills Sector has gone down. This is evidenced by the 2016 Education Statistical Bulletin which indicates that the number of candidates that got full Grade 12 certificates declined from 125,686 in 2015 to 78, 337 in 2016. We therefore, urge our teachers to ensure that they impart teaching that will impact on learners beyond examinations to applicable knowledge and skills for everyday living and relevant to the current industrial needs.
Lastly we wish all teachers including those in community schools and lecturers a fruitful 2017 Teachers Day.
Grace M. Sinkamba
Issued on 5th October 2017