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Real national development impossible minus investment in education sector

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Zambia has undergone a massive digital transformation in the last two decades. The country’s digital revolution has been billed as a key factor in helping propel the country towards becoming a prosperous middle-income economy by 2030, in line with Vision 2023.

Zambia’s digital edge has brought trading partners, markets and various sectors closer, while making interactions more efficient. Digital technology makes access to information easier than ever before.

However, the availability of information has done little to improve the reputation of Zambia’s reading culture, often lambasted by various stakeholders including the Ministry of Education.

Stanbic Bank understands education is vital to creating the prosperous nation envisioned under the Vision 2023 blueprint, underpinned by high levels of literacy.

The bank invests heavily in the local education sector, pumping in more than K2 million into support for community schools.

It has bolstered an education charity’s efforts to the tune of US$100,000 in the last decade. The Kucetekela Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides scholarships to disadvantaged children, helping academically promising students without the financial means to attend secondary schools. Stanbic helps fund these scholarships.

The forward-thinking bank also hosts an initiative entitled “First Lady for a Day” that targets pupils from low income neighbourhoods with inspirational mentorship sessions at its Lusaka headquarters.

The focus is appreciated by Rhodes Park School Chief Librarian and Stanbic customer Yakhiwe Zulu, who says the “poor reading culture” prevalent in Zambia, especially among young people, can be attributed to low levels of guidance from the older generation.

Rhodes Park School Chief Librarian and Stanbic customer Yakhiwe Zulu – “Poor reading culture is the result of poor guidance”.

She said: “As a librarian, the biggest challenge I face is breaking students free from the poor reading culture. I often encounter children who are not interested in reading, which I feel stems from inadequate guidance from adults. Nowadays, children watch TV more than reading a book. They are growing up with little appreciation for the value books have for them. They easily get bored when they read.

Rhodes Park School Chief Librarian and Stanbic customer Yakhiwe Zulu – “Poor reading culture is the result of poor guidance”.

She stressed the important role parents have to play in changing the retrogressive mindset. “Teachers and parents need to work together to promote a healthier reading culture in pupils. Reading with children from a tender age helps build an interest in reading.”

Ms Zulu, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Zambia, says she became a librarian to help people access information, so they might improve themselves and achieve their goals.

“Most people do not appreciate the role of a librarian despite us having a critical role to play in national development especially in an information-driven economy,” she added.

“I want to do my best to improve myself and the people around me. One sure way you can do this is by filling yourself with new information, learning new things and reading. The most satisfying thing about this job is seeing children who initially struggled to read leave school able to read and confidently express themselves.”

Over the years, the profession has evolved into collecting and disseminating information, making it a multi-sectoral position.

Ms Zulu notes that developing a strong reading culture cannot be achieved by the education sector alone, but will need concerted efforts from various stakeholders to grow generations that embrace reading.

“There is need for all stakeholders – including key economic players like banks – to play a bigger role in supporting the country’s reading culture and education system,” she said.

She suggested one way the banking sector can help support the local education system is to create products that will assist teachers – and of course librarians and other information sector workers – in raising funds to advance their qualifications.

“I know Stanbic has a facility that allows parents to save up for their children’s education, for which they must be applauded, as it plays an important role in securing our children’s education. But I would love to see a similar product developed specifically for people working in the education system,” said the librarian.

“We cannot hope to achieve sustainable development as a country if we don’t invest in our education system. So far Stanbic is doing a commendable job in terms of investments in education as well as education products.”

Earlier this year, Stanbic Bank was awarded an Insurance Brokerage license becoming the first bank in Zambia to hold the permit. Ms Zulu is among the growing number of people taking out protection with Stanbic’s latest range of insurance products.

“I know of several colleagues from the teaching fraternity who have benefited from having Stanbic’s Ubuntu Funeral policy in place after losing a loved one,” she said, adding: “They were able to claim and receive money within a short period of time, which really helped in financing the funeral. Having seen how well Ubuntu has worked for my colleagues, I plan on upgrading my policy plan to increase the amount I’m covered for.

“There is a need for improved awareness about the benefits of insurance which remain somewhat taboo in Zambia,” concluded the librarian.

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