Minister of General Education David Mabumba says government will engage private learning institutions being run by religious missions and other individuals to discuss how they could reduce fees and make education affordable even for the less privileged.

And Mabumba says the requirement of teaching license for all practicing teachers is mandatory for educators from both public and private schools and is not exclusive to those working for government institutions.

In an interview with News Diggers! Mabumba said government would engage the private colleges and schools over the kind of fees they were charging in their institutions, saying nobody running an educational institution in Zambia must have a leeway to charge whatever fees they wanted.

He added that school fees in both private and public colleges as well as secondary schools are not supposed to be a hindrance to access to education in the country.

“We will be engaging the private colleges at the right time over the kind of fees charged in their institutions. Because when you allow private colleges, you need to ensure that you’ve got a quality assurance system to ensure that a student who goes into a public institution and that one who goes into a private institution, at the end of the day when they graduate, they should speak one language. Not where when you go into a private college, the way they are teaching you is not good enough, such that when someone graduates and is asked to go in a classroom and stand before the children, you can’t even teach. So for me, that’s the principle idea of engaging the private colleges to ensure that we work together with them, build capacity and ensure that the quality assurance in those private colleges is more comparable with our government institutions,” Mabumba said.

“Furthermore, we want to engage the private colleges on the type of teachers they produce, we have a lot of teachers who have been trained already and are already on the market. We need to ensure that the quality assurance in terms of the teaching and learning in the private colleges and the public institution is almost at par. But of course that will be a journey, especially of engaging our colleagues in the private colleges to ensure that the methodology that they are using, the teachers that they have, the teaching materials that they have comply with what has been set by the Ministry of General Education.”

Mabumba appealed to individuals and religious groups running private colleges to reconsider the fees they were charging.

“Private colleges should begin to introspect and question their conscious to say can a poor person from Shang’ombo come into their school with the fees they are charging? So it’s on that basis that we want to have this conversation with them. My message to the private sector and the schools run by the missions especially those that have got an aided status is that they need to start interrogating the fees that they are charging our children. We don’t want the fees in our schools colleges to become a barrier to accessing education. President Lungu has said he wants inclusive development that does not leave anyone behind, therefore, we don’t want an education system that leaves some people behind,” he said.

“We want education where a parent who sales at Soweto market should be able to raise a K200 per term to go and pay for her children. If you look at schools in Lusaka, many of them were charging around K1,500 per annum. But today many of the parents will be required to pay only K600. So on the hand, this is going to help our schools to raise revenue, because if you charge K500 per term, many of the parents may not afford to pay and what does that mean? It means that the collection rate for the schools would be very minimal. But with these reduced user fees, the fees have become cheaper for them to pay,” Mabumba said.

Meanwhile, Mabumba insisted that the issuance of teaching licenses to all practicing teachers is mandatory and that any unlicensed person having contact with pupils whether in private or government institutions would be dealt with.

“The issuance of license to teachers across the Republic of Zambia is not exceptional. Both teachers in the private sector and in our public schools are supposed to be compliant because the Teaching Council of Zambia (TCZ) was established to ensure that they begin a journey of making teaching to become a professional and as part of creating that standard, every teacher is supposed to be licensed. You are supposed to meet some benchmarks and then you are issued with a license,” said Mabumba.

“So my word of encouragement to our teachers who are working in the private schools, it’s to ensure that they comply because if they don’t comply, what is likely to happen is that we can stop them from teaching because that law provides that you cannot teach in any school whether public or private if you don’t have a license but we don’t want to become confrontational. This is why the Teaching Council of Zambia has given them latitude and ample time to ensure that they comply. If they are missing a few credentials, they should engage TCZ to ask for a framework of time to ensure that they are able to meet those compliance levels.”