THE National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) has called for enhanced investment in education infrastructure across the country to make it more resilient to pandemics such as COVID-19.

In an interview, NAQEZ executive director Aaron Chansa observed that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the weaknesses in the country’s education system.

“This pandemic has actually exposed the gaps or the weaknesses that we have as a country in terms of the education system; it has clearly shown us that our system is very weak and cannot stand these pandemics; and if we look at the pupils from non-examination classes, it is now very clear that we are in a limbo, we don’t know when these children are going to go back to school. We have seen a very sharp rise in the number of cases of the Coronavirus; we are getting more Coronavirus cases! Many people are testing positive and we have recorded more deaths. We have even heard of some schools in Rufunsa District where some teachers have been tested positive. We also hear some schools on the Copperbelt of having some cases…so this has clearly shown that because schools don’t have enough infrastructure, this is going to make the situation more complicated and eventually damage the entire calendar for the pupils in non-examination classes,” Chansa said.

“For those that are in examination classes, learning is going on well. But the fear is for those that are not in school now because their progression to the next grade is going to be affected; their academic standing will be disoriented because they are not learning as we speak. Even those that have access to Television are not able to learn properly because of load-shedding, which has affected the country. So, what we are saying is that we need to improve our electronic platforms. We need to make electronic education much more affordable by improving the electronic landscape, making sure that towers are planted across the country, schools have got computers and we also need to train teachers in alternative teaching methods because we need to make sure that electronic platforms of learning are brought on-board.”

Chansa also appealed to government to buy more desks and employ more teachers to address the challenges affecting schools.

“We have been pleading with the (General Education) Ministry to make sure that learning using local radio stations is introduced, but up to now, they haven’t done so. Our fear is that our learners in rural areas are going to be behind always. Schools have been closed and these people are not learning anything. So, we still appeal to the Ministry to make sure that they begin to teach on community radio stations and make sure that our people also in remote areas are catered for. Our other appeal is that the government must buy desks. If desks are not going to be bought, then it will be very difficult at any time to bring on-board pupils from non-examination classes because most schools have no desks. We also want the government to consider recruiting more teachers to help in reducing the pathetic teacher-pupil ratios that are very bad in most areas,” Chansa said.

He further noted that it would be difficult for learners in rural areas to continue learning and maintain the country’s academic standards if the pressing issues were not quickly addressed.

“COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses that we have in the education system. The calendar has almost been vandalized. But we feel that if electronic learning through radio, TV and other platforms is enhanced, then the effects could be reduced because at the moment, we don’t see light at the end of the tunnel for most pupils, especially those that are not in examination classes. It is difficult for those in rural areas to continue learning and maintain the academic characteristics. So, we appeal for more investment in the education sector,” said Chansa.