By Ben Kangwa, Press Secretary, Zambia Embassy, Washington DC.
Ambassador Siwela with Princess Kasune
In Boston, Massachussetts
When Zambian Ambassador to the United States of America, Her Excellency, Mrs. Sheila Siwela together with her counterpart Ambassador Amina S. Ali, the African Union Permanent Representative to the United States of America were invited to the “TILIPAMODZI DINNER” hosted by the Zambian Association of New England (ZANE) in Boston, Massachusetts recently, they both shared with their audience the importance of education in Africa and in Zambia in particular.
They emphasized on the need to achieve Millennium Development Goal number 2 , whose goal is “universal primary education by 2015,” They also discussed the impact of education on girl-child development. Additionally, they discussed the Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) vis-à-vis education , Investment In Education and also focused their attention on role of the Diaspora in supporting education in Africa,
Other speakers were Dr. Richard Bail, founder of the Communities Without Borders (CWB), an organization established in in 2000. He is a former consultant in Zambia for UNAIDS and did extensive work to estimate the costs of the Zambian National HIV/AIDS Program. CWB has been working closely with ZANE since 2009 in various projects related to Chimwemwe Trust School .
Another prominent speaker was Princess Kasune Zulu, a world renowned HIV and AIDS Advocate and spokesperson for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
In his welcome remarks, ZANE President Mr. Sekani Nkata noted that the TILIPAMODZI (meaning we stand together) Dinner was founded in the year 2008 by ZANE with a purpose of fundraising for its non-profit causes as well as host its partners, friends and the Zambian community in the Diaspora.
He said ZANE had identified and adopted Chimwemwe Trust School after a lot of consultations within its membership and other stakeholders in the Massachussetts area and that through Communities Without Borders (CWB), ZANE had struck a business relationship since the two organizations shared a common agenda - to educate AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children primarily in Africa and in this case, in Zambia.
Chimwemwe Trust School is located in Kabanana Compound, a needy area home to approximately 1,600 Chimwemwe residents, north of Lusaka. With an area of about 2080 square metres, the school has nine classrooms and the capacity to enroll up to 900 students from Grades One through to Grade Nine.
The school has 22 hard of hearing students has 40 per cent more girls than boys . It is non-governmental with volunteer teachers and solely depends on donations from well wishers. Chimwemwe also lacks essential educational tools and materials – from syllabus textbooks to reading literature, pens and pencils.
It was against this background that Mr. Sekani Nkata, at the dinner, encouraged partners and stakeholders to keep up their efforts and continue with their support towards Chimwemwe Trust School.
“ I have been so impressed by the response from organizations such as Communities Without Borders, the African Council in Boston, Lexington Public Schools, Network Afrique, the New England Malawian Association, the Africa for Improved Access HIV/AIDS Awareness Organization and the Harisson Scholars for their ever –green support over the last few years,” he said. “So far, the collaboration with CWB has resulted in 300 boxes full of books and other materials for the school,” he concluded.
The African Union (AU) Permanent Representative to the USA, Ambassador Amina S. Ali took the opportunity to commend ZANE for the job it was doing by supporting Chimwemwe Trust School in Zambia.
She said despite challenges like the lack of adequate teachers and enough classrooms to meet the school demand and a syllabus that needed to reflect the changing economic and political situations in Africa, a good deal had been accomplished according to the Millennium Development Goal Report 2010.
The Ambassador noted that although enrolment in sub-Saharan Africa remained the lowest of all regions, it had increased by 18 percentage points, from 58 per cent to 78 per cent between 1999 and 2008.
She added, “For example, the abolition of primary school fees in Burundi resulted in a threefold increase in primary-school enrolment since 1990, reaching 99 per cent in 2008. Similarly, Tanzania doubled its enrolment ratio over the same period to over 90 per cent. Meantime, Zambia also broke through the 90 per cent threshold towards greater access to primary education.”
Citing the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), she said not all children who complete primary school enter secondary education. She noted that some families were not able to afford sending their children to school. She observed that girls in particular often faced greater obstacles to pursue their education than boys.
“And in some countries, there simply are not enough places in secondary schools and so authorities screen children through public examinations or by using other methods,” she stated.
Ambassador Ali concluded her remarks by stressing the role of the African Diaspora in the advancement of the African education agenda. She urged the African Diaspora and especially Zambians in the US to mobilize resources to build new classrooms, renovate existing buildings and to equip schools such as Chimwemwe in books and computers.
“ Mobilize funds for scholarships, especially for girls, sponsor specific activities and return home and volunteer in specific school activities.” She emphasized.
Meanwhile, in her keynote address entitled “The Value of Education in the New Millennium”, Zambian Ambassador to the United States of America, Mrs. Sheila Siwela said the Chimwemwe Trust School Project was a good example of positive Zambian Diaspora initiative adding that it complimented government’s efforts in providing universal education.
Ambassador Siwela said she was encouraged by ZANE’s initiative which aimed to offer more than 350 vulnerable children free education up to grade nine. She observed that Zambia was learning from the US focus on education, as evidenced by the numerous number of schools and universities and the “no child left behind policy.”
She said the objective of the Millennium Development Goal - Number2 was to ensure that children, boys and girls alike would be able to complete a full course of primary education by 2015. She noted sadly, however, that the current pace of progress was insufficient to meet the target by 2015.
Ambassador Siwela pointed out that drop-out rates in schools in Sub-Saharan Africa remained high, a situation that had led to more than 30 per cent of primary school students to drop out of school before reaching a final grade.
“Achieving universal primary education requires more than full enrollment. It also means ensuring that children continue to attend classes,” she said.
Her perception, however, of the 21st century African pupil to education would require an integrated approach which would involve the parent, the sponsor (of the child to school), the village setting as well as the community.
She said that the pupil would not have to be only “book smart”, but would be an ideas’ person and very innovative, thereby attracting Investment in talent development instead of concentrating only on the traditional academic curriculum. Additionally, she pointed out, value education would be at the centre of all primary education curricula.
Ambassador Siwela called on the Diaspora to help Africa in general and Zambia in particular to make the children realize their potential through relevant competence based education.
And Princess Kasune Zulu, a world renowned HIV and AIDS Advocate and spokesperson for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, called on all Zambians from all walks of life to work together in order to ensure that every child was given his or her basic human right – the access to education.
She said Africa and Zambia in particular could only be assured of development when young people were afforded good education. “When our young and youth are educated, we can be assured of development. Basic education and higher education must be a reality for every Zambian. Without it, we are stuck and the nation has no future,” she said.
Princess Kasune narrated how at age 35 she has lived as an HIV positive person and how she was forced into the role of care giver to eight children at the age of 17 in 1993 when both her parents passed on.
In a moving speech, she stated that it was important for Zambian children to go high as they can in education regardless of their status, rich or poor.
“Here lies Zambia’s future – Education!” she said. “ Let’s collaborate and make our children’s childhoods enjoyable and not what we could have gone through ourselves. Education must be one thing they should have.” She stressed.
Later, Ambassador Sheila Siwela presented awards to deserving Zambians in the Massachusetts area. Something new was the collaboration between ZANE and the Harrison Family, a Zambian family that sponsored a US$1,000 scholarship to a deserving Zambian student.
The Harrison family showcased “The Dorothy H. Harrison Passion and Persistence Scholarship Award for 2011. The award was won by Ms. Janet Mwale a nursing student in Boston .
A quick donation ceremony towards the school was then conducted by Princess Kasune and the funds raised were not disclosed to this writer.
TiliPamodzi is a second successful event that has been hosted by ZANE so far. In late 2009, the association organized a business conference which brought together American private business houses based in Massachusetts to discuss partnerships with their Zambian counter-parts from the surrounding areas such as New Jersey, Connecticut and New York.
At the end of it all, it was all a night full of fun and networking.