UNICEF reports that, in Zambia for children in the early years, the coverage of care, learning and education services remain persistently low, with a large number of them dropping out of school especially in rural areas.
At the height of this, barriers around the availability of menstrual hygiene facilities for girls, low value placed by some communities on girls’ education, teenage pregnancy, and child marriage, make primary education a ‘limping horse’ for children’s future. In addition, there is a huge problem of understaffing.
To shrink this gap, DAPP Zambia established Mkushi College of Education. With a strong belief in the right to access quality education for all, the college centres on ‘training another kind of a teacher’, with the passion and will, not just to teach in rural schools, but also stay and be part of trigger points in driving development with the communities, by making schools centres of collaborative efforts. It provides interactive and child-centred training that moulds a teacher who wants every child to succeed.
“My plan after graduating is to come back and teach in a rural school. I want to change the lives of these children. Where I did my first teaching practice for instance, there are only three teachers, at a school of Grade 1 to Grade 9. So for me, even if I am sent to teach at an urban school, I will still opt to come back and teach at a rural school because there are very few teachers, and these pupils need my services more than those in urban schools”, Mercy Chisanga, DAPP Mkushi College of Education student teacher revealed.
Three teachers running a Grade 1 to 9 school; with average of 30 pupils in each class, is a feat hard to believe. But, that is the face of most rural schools in Zambia. With most of the necessities lacking, very few teachers dream of plying their career in such an environment. Consequentially, the teacher-pupil ratio gap has widened, resulting in few rural pupils having access to quality education.
“Our program is different from other teacher-training colleges in the sense that we first change the mind set of students who come from school thinking that staying in an urban area is the only way they can enjoy the fruits of the teaching profession; and make them be change agents in communities where they will teach from”, College Principal, Kennedy Nga’ndu explained.
In providing the students with unique experiences that widens their understanding of the world, cultures and societies as well as building their ability to overcome difficulties found on the way; the college offers educational, national and international travels, under the ‘bussing’, concept called, ‘learn to travel, travel to learn’. At the 2019 flag off of this journey, Zambia’s General Education Permanent Secretary, Jobbicks Kalumba reiterated the need to have more of such training for it gave the correct definition of teaching.
“You are men and women who fit in my definition of teaching, because teaching is a commitment to make a difference in a community. When we go to teacher recruitment, I will plead that we identify some of these young men and women and consider them for teaching opportunities”, Dr. Kalumba said.
Running in cooperation with the Ministry of General Education, the college started with a two-year Zambia Teacher Education Course (ZATEC) with 31 first students in 2012, graduating in 2014 with 26 of them deployed to teach in rural primary schools.
“The program further, trains students to be the main navigators of their own learning and training, improving their ability and potential to plan, learn, and work both independently and collectively. It equips them with necessary knowledge, skills, and passion that enables them to offer quality education to learners in rural schools”, Mr. Nga’ndu said.
Currently offering a three-year primary teacher’s diploma affiliated to the University of Zambia (UNZA), the college champions the fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease by imparting students with necessary skills, knowledge and tools that show them how to cultivate problem-solving skills that encourage them to value rural life and understand how to overcome obstacles in rural primary schools.