Today we join the teaching fraternity in commemorating World Teachers Day. We commend these hardworking men and women for their contribution to the unity and social development of our country. As the theme states, “Unite for quality education, better education for a better world.” I will add that as we unite for quality education, let that education be affordable.
Education is one of the main pillars in our manifesto, alongside effective economic management, quality and affordable health care, as well as good agriculture and food security policies.
As we commend the role our teachers play in our society, we urge government to seriously pay attention to the poor conditions existing in our schools so that our teachers can produce highly competitive students that can make our country self-reliant. Fifty (50) years after independence, Zambia is still lagging on a number of social indicators which would make us self-reliant. The lack of self-reliance manifests itself in so many ways, including lack of manufacturing ability, lack of skilled labour to mention but a few. Zambia has remained an importing country due to a dysfunctional education system that has largely been too theoretical to respond to modern needs.
In today’s complex world, the challenges Zambia faces need an education system and curriculum that places emphasis on practical experience that equips graduates with the basic and necessary skills. This skills development will then translate into making our own products and reduce the importation of basic items which include tooth picks, bolts and nuts, handbags etc. when we have all the raw materials in country. This is the real independence that will make Zambians and Zambia at 50, more proud and free economically
I am aware that there are good workshops in Kabwe, Mpika and other parts of the country, some under TAZARA and Zambia Railways, that can easily be transformed into manufacturing centres for basic motor vehicle spare parts such as shock absorbers, brake pads and effectively reduce imports. But we cannot venture into manufacturing if we do not have the right skills emanating from an appropriate education system.
At 50 years, it is high time government provided political will by reducing or zero-rating
imported education aids, especially those related to skills development. I am also requesting Government to zero rate all manufacturing equipment so as to expand the manufacturing base, create employment for our graduates and broaden the tax base for generating revenue locally. This single act will reduce on borrowing and aid handouts.
Under the theme, “Unite for quality education, better education for a better world”, UPND still emphasises that it is the government’s responsibility to create an enabling environment for a conducive teaching and learning environment. We also urge Government to address the bursary system so that more citizens can access education, needless to say, no citizen should take his or her own life because they cannot afford education.