—Government has warned of stern action against parents who prematurely marry off their daughters at the expense of education.
Luwingu District Commissioner, Mambwe Katontoka, said the practice was a violation of the girls’ right to education and must be stopped forthwith, adding that those found perpetrating the vice will be punished in accordance with the law.
She told Malekani residents to do away with the outdated cultural beliefs and practices that viewed girls as items of value to be exchanged like goods for money and livestock.
Mrs Katontoka was speaking yesterday at Malekani Primary School in senior chief Shimumbi’s area of the Bemba speaking people.
The DC said it was disheartening to note that three quarters of girl children at the school have been married off by disgruntled parents.
She appealed to the villagers to take education of their children seriously because it was unacceptable to continue clinging on retrogressive practices in the modern times.
Mrs Katontoka said government has embarked on construction of secondary schools countrywide in order to provide quality education to the children.
“Now if you marry off your children who will occupy these school infrastructures?” she questioned.
“My government has decided to give top priority to education to make sure that we give the best to our children,” she said.
She said early marriages were a violation of the children’s basic rights to a safe childhood, education, good health, and being able to make decisions about their own lives.
Mrs Katontoka observed that most girls are married off to older men and they have to live in abusive relationships while some of them suffer from various complications and die in the process and while giving birth.
But parents said they marry off their daughters early because government had abandoned the construction of two by three class room blocks which have been a playing ground for domesticated animals such as goats and chickens.
Village headman Malekani told Mrs Katontoka that the school was abandoned in 2006 when the community in Lubansenshi Constituency voted for Patriotic Front Member of Parliament, Lazarus Chota, by then.
The project to construct the school at Malekani was initiated by former education minister Andrew Mulenga and who lost the elections, forcing the MMD government to withdraw the support in Lubansenshi Constituency leaving the community stranded.
He said there were a number of schools whose support was withdrawn in 2006 by MMD which include Tolopa, Menga, Masabula and Malekani Primary Schools in the constituency.
“This is why parents are marrying off their children at the tender age because they cannot allow their children to go to schools which look like kraals,” he added.
And a school teacher said the institution had only three pupils attending grade six out of 19 pupils registered in January this year while eight pupils will sit for grade seven examinations later this year.
A Mr Bwapameshi explained that the situation is serious and needed agent attention from government.
He explained that the councillor and teachers have tried to sensitise the community about the importance of sending children to school but parents do not listen to them because they, too, are regarded as villagers.
And Mrs Katontoka read out the names of pupils who have stopped school in preference for marriage to report for school lessons next term, adding that any parent who will not
Obey will face the wrath of the law.
The District Commissioner was accompanied by the district administrative officer, Deodatus Munsungwe, and Health Planning Officer, Innocent Imboela.