Twenty one years ago, what was supposed to be a joyous moment for my family when I passed to go to Grade 10 turned out to be a nightmare for my parents. I scored 563 marks during my Junior Secondary Examinations and was selected to go to Hillcrest Technical Secondary School. Alas, the story changed so fast, my parents could not afford to pay for my school fees. Talk about the boarding fees that were out of reach for them. I cried on missing out from such an opportunity. These are my loving parents that always wanted the best for me, alas they could just not afford to pay for me on this one. As a parent now, I understand better their pain!

As a compromise, I was sent to Kabulonga Boys Secondary School where all those male pupils from my school that qualified to go to Grade 10 were sent. At first, I felt so happy, it was a good school and new environment in an all boys school. Besides, Kabulonga Boys Secondary School is a school in the high class residential area of Lusaka, several kilometers away from Chawama Ghetto where I was raised from. With this, it felt like my frustration not to go to Hillcrest Technical Secondary School was overcome.

Sadly, reality dawned for me, and it did so fast. Kabulonga Boys Secondary School was far from Chawama! Most times my parents could not afford to raise transport money for me to go to school from Chawama. I had to endure daily long tiring walks to and from School, and sadly so I was always late for class. During each of these days, I was greeted by aggressive whips of Mr. Stephen Ziwa, the then Head Teacher. He was a no nonsense man, uncompromising and so quick to discipline. My brief stay at Kabulonga Boys Secondary School was horrible.

Luckily, during the first week of the second term of my G10, Mr. Muzenge the Head Teacher announced during a parade session that there were some pupils from Libala Secondary School School that were looking for an opportunity to swap and that those interested to go to Libala Secondary School could see him. I grabbed this opportunity with both hands. Without thinking twice, I was away from class G10N and was comfortably seated in class G10H at Libala Secondary School.

The transfer to Libala Secondary School was so relieving. It was a walkable distance and had plenty other pupils from the Ghetto. I quickly settled and within no time I established myself as one of the top performers in school. Am a humble man, so I will not talk about how some people felt I was the best pupil as I always swept many prizes in the subjects that I took.
In 2004 I was awarded a 100% student loan to allow me to study at the University of Zambia (UNZA). During my study at UNZA, it became clear to me that I was still not going to make it to the University of Zambia had the Government failed to provide meal allowances. To many of the students at UNZA from vulnerable families, meal allowances meant everything. It liberated the parents and guardians from the struggle of meeting their school needs. Besides, it gave them room to focus on meeting the school needs of other family members. To some of us, we also used part of it to pay for our siblings’ school needs.

It is for this reason that we find the restoration of meal allowances by the New Dawn Administration as an emotional issue. Similarly, the introduction of free education from primary to secondary school level is a dream come true for me. It is a prayer that I sent to God in Heaven everyday during my time in school as I lived with the pain of seeing my parents struggle to pay for me and my siblings.

The UPND Government’s position on education has gotten me emotional, am living a time I prayed for; A time when a poor child shall go to school without worrying about the payment of school fees or that repeated humiliation of being sent packing from class for not paying school fees. It is the work of God that we have a President in Mr. Hakainde Hichilema that identifies himself with the sufferings of the vulnerable poor in villages and compounds as he himself is from such a background where free education and government bursary gave him this life he has today.

Swim or sink, float or perish the New Dawn Administration deserves our support. This is a Government that has the interest of the poor at heart. It is a certainly a pro-poor Government as evidenced by the policies it’s pursuing in the education sector. Without doubt, this is a government that is trying so hard to do enough for all of us in the midst of a bleeding economy inherited from the Patriotic Front regime.

Martin Mushumba
Quality Assurance Specialist
Higher Education Authority