LIFE LONG LEARNING

Zambia 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to The Hon. Michael L. Kaingu, Minister of Education, Science, Vocational Training, and Early Education, on the new syllabus, hiring more teachers, and promoting education for adults.

The Hon. Michael L. Kaingu
BIOGRAPHY
The Hon. Michael L. Kaingu holds Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees in Business Administration, and has been a Member of Parliament for Mwandi Constituency since 2006 under the Movement for Multiparty Democracy. He has also served as Minister in the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, and the Ministry of Tourism.

The Ministry has recently updated the education syllabus. What was the main reason behind this decision?

We wanted to tackle the problem of our children coming into the school system unprepared, as well as to make the program more responsive to the future social and economic demands of our people. We have introduced ICT training into our schools now as we are aware of the importance of this technology. We also want to promote subjects like mathematics and science in secondary schools, and we want to introduce a two-tier system of education where a student, after the Grade 7 examination and moving to secondary school, can chose whether to take the academic route or a vocational route. We have also introduced adult literacy in our school system, so we are continuously promoting life-long learning.

How would you describe the quantity and quality of the teachers available in the education sector in Zambia?

The number needs to be improved to deal with our growing population, as does the quality. Quality is of course a relative term. Currently, we have teachers who are comfortable teaching at their schools, but there is a broader need for us to improve our teachers' qualifications. Our total staff body has around 94,000 teachers, but that remains insufficient. There is a need for us to raise this number, not only at the primary or secondary level, but even more so at the tertiary level. At the Master's and PhD level, we are also understaffed. And meanwhile, research is also an area that needs improvement.

How would you describe science and education in Zambia at this time?

The country has been focused on basic education to reach the Millenium Development Goal 2, which we have achieved. Because of that, other areas such as secondary education have been neglected. Today, only about 38-40% of those who finish primary school move on to secondary education centers, and only 8-10% of those finishing secondary school go into tertiary or higher learning. There is a need for us to invest in infrastructure, particularly at the upper secondary and tertiary levels. We are doing our best to build the brick and mortar infrastructure, but we need to find partners who will work with us in Public Private Partnerships.

To what extent is the government investing in e-Learning to reach more remote areas?

We have established the ICT component of our curriculum already, but ICT comes with a requirement for hardware and software equipment. We are able to develop software materials for our students, but are facing a challenge in sourcing the necessary hardware. To complement this, the government has launched an ambitious program for the establishment of new universities.

What is the Ministry's strategy for reducing the drop out rate after secondary education, especially among women?

Women have the choice to proceed to higher education or an institute of higher learning, but when they are not able to proceed, we have skills training institutions available within our Ministry, and from other ministries such as the Ministry of Youth and Sport, or the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, and even in the Ministry of Agriculture. At the secondary level of the curriculum we are promoting social subjects such as home economics, commercial subjects like accounting, business studies, and technical and vocational skills. Even if they fail to pass the process to enter tertiary studies, women are therefore able to learn life-sustaining skills.

How can the Ministry bring science closer to rural communities?

Science is taught in schools throughout the country, including minor environmental science. This is a general science curriculum that encompasses biology, chemistry, and physics. They are not just learning it as science, but as an applied science that they can use for innovation and creativity. For the general population, we educate people on hygiene, for example, which is also a kind of science. We have a problem with climate change, and are able to create a stronger awareness of that issue.