Lifeline Energy’s chief executive officer, Kristine Pearson visited community schools in Zambia this month. She’s convinced, now more than ever, that the Lifeplayer is urgently needed!
Read an excerpt from her Zambia Diary blog about the Lifeplayer’s importance for providing educational access, especially for difficult subjects:
With each school classroom I visit, I ask the children what they want to learn if they could learn anything. The most common responses of 8-13 year-olds surprised me. These are kids whose only clothes may be the ones on their backs and may eat just one meal of maize porridge per day. They may be orphaned, child labourers, or care givers to sick parents. The top response was science; the second was mathematics. They said that science would help them to better understand mysteries and to learn how many things work. Qualified teachers in science and math are scarce.
With the acute shortage of trained teachers, particularly in rural areas coupled with increasing student enrollment, obtaining a quality primary education presents a host of challenges for the Ministry of Education. More than a decade ago they began producing Learning at Taonga Market, a radio-based primary school programme which is broadcast on ZNBC, the national broadcaster, and community radio stations. In turn, we’ve provided our solar and wind-up radios to where ever children learn in Zambia, even if it’s under a tree. Radio offers the possibility of reaching the greatest number of learners the most cost effectively, especially for subjects like science. It’s a reliable distribution channel to deliver educational content to large audiences of learners and to teachers in need of upgrading their skills.
And like all technologies, radio has limitations, which is why we introduced MP3 capability into our device. Valleys and far flung communities might not receive a signal. If a girl misses a lesson, she can make it up. If a boy doesn’t understand a concept, he can listen again and again until he does. During the rainy season when roads or small streams might become impassable, entire classes can catch up once it becomes safe.
Broadcasting on ZNBC is expensive and eats deeply into the Ministry of Education’s budget. If it can’t pay for broadcasting fees, ZNBC simply stops airing the Taonga programmes. I discovered that after five months of being off the air around Lusaka, schools lessons will begin again later in October. Further, due to the high broadcasting costs, the ministry is scaling back Grades 4-7 on air, meaning that tens of thousands of learners might not receive an education, or certainly not the quality and consistency that Taonga Market offers.Even some community station fees are becoming unaffordable.