The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) welcomes the introduction of an Education Channel on the Zambia National Service Channel 4 by the Ministry of General Education which is being aired on channel 9 of the Topstar decoder. This is a very progressive development to bridge the learning gaps caused by the closure of schools due to the COVID 19. Indeed this channel will go a long way in helping and assisting our learners to learn while they are at home as well as prepare for examinations. The UN estimates that 1.25 billion children are currently at home as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. Therefore, the need to sustain learning from home should be a must.
It is important however to note that there is urgent need to widen the reach of the education channel by ensuring that it is aired on other decoders like Go TV, MUVI TV, DSTV and popular free to air decoders to allow for more learners with access to television to be reached. Furthermore, there is need for sign language interpretation in order to carter for the deaf learners in the spirit of leaving no one behind. ZANEC is further concerned that the rural based learners, majority of whom are vulnerable and under-privileged will be left out on the lessons, as they do not have access to either the Topstar decoders or television in general. Therefore, we would like to propose that education programmes be extended to radio channels such as community radio stations as well as radio stations that reach all places in Zambia such as ZNBC Radio two and Radio one. The teaching for pupils in the lower primary level should also be in local languages, in line with the national education curriculum to allow for learners to understand.
In our view as ZANEC it is actually the learners from vulnerable homes that need this service more. If Zambia has to leave no one behind as stipulated in the 7th National Development Plan and the vision 2030, it has to ensure that all learners are reached regardless of their geographical or social status. The approaches for sustaining learning at home should be all inclusive as provided for under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 which calls on states to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The Coalition also appeals to the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) to reduce on the load shedding during the airing of the education programmes in order to produce positive results for our learners. The statement by the Permanent Secretary Dr. Jobbicks Kalumba that printed education materials will supplement those that will be televised on TV and Radio in rural areas is very important innovation that should be supported by all citizens. We therefore urge the Ministry of General Education to work swiftly in distributing the printed education materials to allow the learners in rural areas to have access to learning.
It also becomes important to state that development is important for all areas in the country including rural ones. It is very sad that at this time and age in our country we still have places that have no access to electricity. It is high time that our government prioritized the development of our rural areas. We urge the Rural Electrification Authority to expedite the process of electrifying all our rural areas. History has shown that the use of computers by our learners did not work well because of lack of electricity and computers in our rural areas. Statistics have also shown that there is high staff turnover of teachers leaving the rural areas because of the same problem of development. It is sad that even areas that are connected to electricity are now subjected to load shedding, while most rural areas have remained without electricity. Whether we like it or not, the electrification of the entire country is important in order for our education system to be more effective and efficient.
Education is key to success and therefore, ZANEC calls upon all stakeholders to support the effort by government by sponsoring education programmes to be aired on more community radio and television stations to enable more children benefit from this important intervention. In addition, more stakeholders can also help in the translation, printing and distribution of the learning material to rural or vulnerable learners.
ZANEC would also like to take this opportunity to encourage parents and guardians to ensure that their children are learning while they are at home during this period when schools are closed because of COVID 19. Ensure that your children watch the ZNBC TV 4 Education Channel and better still encourage them to supplement what they are learning with reading. Remember, educating a child is everyone’s responsibility.