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Zambia: Unprecedented teacher recruitment follows free education

By Douglas Munsaka Syakalima

Posted on April 8, 2022 08:12

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema
Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema

In its first six months in office Zambia’s New Dawn government delivered on its key election promise to make education free at the primary and secondary level. As of January 2022, thousands more children across the country have been enrolled for full time education.

This week marks the latest step on the path towards providing a world-class education for all citizens as the recruitment of 30,000 new teachers gets underway. As the biggest recruitment drive in Zambia’s history, it is an unprecedented milestone.

Plan in action

Years of underinvestment in the sector meant that even before free education was introduced, there was a shortage of teachers that required urgent action. This year, the government is recruiting new teachers equitably across the country to narrow that gap and reduce the teacher-pupil ratio. While more needs to be done and we estimate that another 15,000 are needed, this is nonetheless a significant step in the right direction in a relatively short space of time.

These advances are a reflection of the New Dawn government’s commitment to investing heavily in education across the board. The 2022 budget has allocated K18.1bn ($1bn) to the sector, which represents a 32% increase from the 2021 budget.

Education has long been the cornerstone of the United Party for National Development (UPND) manifesto. President Hakainde Hichilema is living proof of the transformative potential of a good education, having attended a village school barefoot before he was admitted to the University of Zambia on a full government bursary. Additionally, Vice President Mutale Nalumango is a teacher by training. As minister of education, I also have my own background as a university lecturer to draw on. Together, we are determined to use our expertise to ensure our youth have every opportunity to succeed.

New Dawn government approach

While this endeavour requires serious funding, we know that ignorance is more expensive. Not only do we have a duty to the Zambian youth, but it is also essential to deliver on our ambitions to turn the economy around and set Zambia on the path to prosperity. We need a population that has skills and expertise in areas that will help drive growth and development across sectors ranging from tourism to tech. It is our responsibility today to educate and empower Zambia’s entrepreneurs and business leaders of tomorrow.

We have been doing what we can in the field of tertiary education to increase the support available for students and we are looking at how more can be done. In February, we were able to announce the funding of an additional 2,323 university bursaries using funds recovered by the Anti-Corruption Commission to date. This was a significant achievement that demonstrated just how the anti-corruption efforts underway can help deliver life-changing impacts for our citizens.

Engagement with partners is also helping us do more and forms an important part of the New Dawn government approach, which places great value on working openly and collaboratively with a range of actors to unlock new opportunities for the country. In the education sector, a World Bank loan will help fund the building of 120 secondary schools across the country.

With every child that is newly enrolled in school and with every teacher that is recruited, we move one step closer to a bright future for Zambia. As an administration that prides itself on free-thinking, we believe that if our youth are educated and empowered, they will be our greatest national assets. Based on our latest investments, we believe there is good reason to be excited about tomorrow.

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