KELVIN KACHINGWE and JESSICA MWANSA, Lusaka
DURING an office discussion, a colleague mentioned how the daughter of their gardener was able to attend Roma Girls Secondary School in Lusaka and thereafter proceed to the University of Zambia.
The point she was driving was that education, even at reputable institutions as Roma Girls, was affordable even for a gardener’s daughter about 10 years ago. The discussion was prompted by revelations that St Mary’s Secondary School in Lusaka had set the project fee at K10, 000 for each pupil. Simply put, there was no way that gardener’s daughter was going to pay that K10, 000 today. Understandably so, some parents and other concerned members of the community were enraged and accused school authorities of turning a blind eye to those pupils coming from disadvantaged households. The St Mary’s Parents Teachers Committee (PTC) was called into action. Of particular concern was the news filtering through social media that some pupils who had not paid the project fees had been sent away. But St Mary’s PTC chairperson Mabvuso Sinda made some clarifications. Mr Sinda said no pupil had been sent away on account of not paying the fees. “This is evidenced by most pupils who have duly reported and are attending class. On the first day of opening a total of 85 pupils representing 68 percent out of the expected number of 125 pupils ranging from grades eight to nine had reported,” he said. Mr Sinda said despite pupils being asked to pay their school fees before reporting, the school has engaged with parents on flexible payment terms. The funds that will be raised from the project fees will go towards the K7million double storey classroom block at the school. The explanation was still not satisfactory for many people. One parent attacked the PTC accusing it of a bourgeois attitude. “Most of the people elected to the PTC are rich people, and they normally impose their wish on other parents. Poor parents have no say whatsoever,” Leah Tembo, who has two children at a government school, said. But even of more concern to most people is that a school like St Mary’s, with its background of being a mission school, could turn out to be that expensive. In any case, mission schools gave chance to pupils who ideally would not be able to get an education because of lack of money. No doubt, mission schools have played a pivotal role in the provision of education in Zambia. This is so even though their motive was for something else. “No doubt, the basic motive which prompted early missionaries to establish mission stations in Zambia was the evangelisation of the indigenous people, their conversion to the Christian faith and reclamation of their lives,” Mr Mwanakatwe, the first black Zambian to obtain a university degree, writes in his book The Growth of Education in Zambia Since Independence. “The provision, then, of schools and educational facilities by missionaries was fortuitous or, at best, merely complementary to their much desired objective of increasing the numbers of their Christian followers. “With very few notable exceptions, little was done by the early missionaries to stress the importance of education for its own sake.” The educational scene in Zambia was dominated by the missions almost up to independence in 1964. The vast majority of primary schools and a proportionately large number of secondary schools were under mission control in 1963. But with a majority government taking over in 1964, it was inevitable that the role of missions in providing education was always to diminish. The neglect of education before Zambia’s independence is well-catalogued. Therefore at independence, education had a very high priority among competing interests. In the foreword to Mr Mwanakatwe’s book, first President Kenneth Kaunda, writes that for one thing, the colonial government’s policy was not one of widening the scope of education to cover the majority of the people but was meant to cater for very few to provide, as it were, clerical, menial and other services. “The result is that at independence, the new UNIP government was committed to wiping out illiteracy to bring the benefits of education into every Zambian home by all means possible,” Dr Kaunda wrote. “Any educational system in Zambia must be geared to meet the needs of this nation in all stages of its development. Only through a sound educational system can national self-reliance be achieved. “Only through good education can we guarantee the building of a decent society in which every individual has a fair share of national wealth and services.” But the expansion of educational services was always going to be costly in money, buildings, equipment and personnel, which was even far beyond the capacity of missions to undertake on the basis of even a mere one-quarter contribution towards all capital projects. Mr Mwanakatwe, who served as the Minister of Education in the Independence Cabinet, anticipated that going forward, the influence of missions, at least in the field of education, will diminish gradually in direct proportion to the overall number of schools and institutions which will remain under their control. Still, he was grateful to their contribution. “As in many other African countries, the Africans in Zambia know and accept willingly that but for the pioneer efforts, missionaries’ education would have been very late in coming and very slow in its dispersion to every remote part of the country,” Mr Mwanakatwe wrote. “By learning in mission schools, in addition to religious education, our forefathers were at least introduced to the tools of progress.” At independence, the secondary education sector had four types of schools in terms of proprietorship. Mr Mwanakatwe names these as non-fee-paying government secondary schools, which were by far the largest in terms of size and pupil population and were mostly co-educational; and unaided missionary run secondary schools, most of which by the late 1960s became grant-aided. There were also the fee-paying schools which were particularly found in big towns. Examples of these were Kansenshi in Ndola, Luanshya Boys and Girls schools in Luanshya and Kitwe Boys and Girls schools in Kitwe; King George in Kabwe; Gilbert Rennie, Jean Rennie and Prince Philip in Lusaka; and Hillcrest in Livingstone. These schools were exclusively for white children except Prince Phillip and King George, which admitted Afro-Europeans and Asian children. In specific terms, there were on the Copperbelt, Trust schools which were owned and run by the mines. These include Mukuba High School in Kitwe, Roan High School in Luanshya, Kantanshi High School in Mufulira and Chikola High School in Chingola. After 1964, these schools were desegregated but maintained fee-paying status until about 1969, when tuition fees were altogether abolished. The fourth type of schools were run by either private individuals or organisations, and although few, the number was certainly higher than that of the fee-paying government schools. Prior to 1975, most public schools, both primary and secondary, were solely built by the use of Zambia’s own resources. Thereafter, they were augmented by two loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development also known as the World Bank, which were obtained in the 1970s. In fact, at schools like Luanshya Boys, some classrooms are called World Bank buildings. The third source of funding came from various communities. By 1976, the government had produced the Draft Statement on Education Reform that had recommended a 10-year basic education, which was altered to nine by its variant, the Education Reform Document of 1977. According to Mr Mwanakatwe’s book, this change had much influence on the development of schools in Zambia. Of particular importance was the stipulation that in line with the ideals of Humanism about self-reliance and people’s participation in issues of national development, Zambians must work together with the government in its efforts to provide free education by their contributions towards the construction of schools. Statutory Instrument No 45. of 1976: The Parent-Teacher Association Regulations under Cap 234 of the Laws of Zambia was passed in order to strengthen people’s participation in the development of education through PTAs. As a result of these measures, there was an unprecedented increase in the number of schools that were built on a self-help basis. Some schools were also able to renovate or build new classroom blocks to deal with the problem of over-enrolment. Some day-schools that had boarding facilities also had those facilities renovated and converted into either classrooms or teachers’ residences. Good examples of schools that fell in this category include none other than St Mary’s Secondary School. Overall, the contribution of parents to the growth of education over the years has been tremendous. Still, many parents feel that the K10,000 project fee St Mary’s is charging is too steep for an average family.