Thursday, April 13, 2006

Educating rural Zambia

I was just chatting with one of the Peace Corps volunteers to Zambia who is stationed in Mkushi. This young man has been faced with the complexities of education a-la- Zambian below is an excerpt of the conversation.
He wrote the first part and my response is at the bottom.

Heres a chance for you to actually help me with my work in africa. I have come across a problem, and im not exactly sure how to solve it. Here it is:Im am working with rural community school in central Zambia where the government doesnt have the money to pay the teachers. On of my biggest responsibilities is to mobilize the community to support the teacher monetarily. Heres the problem, in many of these villages, education is not valued. They have the attitudes that, "we are farmers, we dont need to know anything except how to farm." The parents would rather their children stay in the fields working all day than have them at school.I know however, that education is important. Literacy rates and education rates have proved to be some of the most influential factors for raising health and poverty levels. If I present this to the villagers, however, it will mean nothing, i need to put it into tangible, practical terms that they will understand, but I'm having a problem with that.Does anyone have any ideas on how i can get this point across?

The problems you are faced with in Mkushi are complex ones, as are most of the problems in Zambia.Education especially in rural areas is difficult because as you said, their way of life is farming and so the important factor in their community would be to learn how to farm. It is imperative that you understand that it's difficult for people who are from small communities to relate to the larger picture of their relationship with the rest of the world (Which happens in every country). I am originally from Zambia and have some roots in Mkushi. I live in Baltimore, MD and know that there are people here who have never been outside Baltimore and don't see the importance of the "outside world". There's a difference between education the American way and education the mkushi way. I think you need to find out what the mkushi way is, and work with what you have. Take your class room to the community and teach in the farms...put labels on trees, trucks...etc like in the movie the colour purple. Africans in general also like to you might want to learn how to sing your lessons.Let them understand that even as a farmer, you need to know how to calculate, and to read written material so you can better your skills or your marketing techniques.I can tell you right now that you have a challenge. They understand that post secondary education is limited unless you have money, and that it's rather pointless to send children to school for so long if they have no prospects after that. They would rather teach them a skill/ trade that will help them make money to support the family when they're adults- which makes sense.the teachers there are demoralized because they are underpaid. The government either geniunely doesn't have enough money to pay the teachers enough, or they choose to ignore the problem and use the money unwisely. The government is not allowed to subsidize education or health care because it is mandated by the IMF to help Zambia pay back its debt.hope this helps.... enjoy the mountain air. When you leave atleast you will know you tried your best.

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