A NEW education scheme for vulnerable children has strengthened the networking between Barrick Lumwana Mining Company (LMC) and the host communities in the three chiefdoms in Solwezi.
The mining giant, which already has a series of pioneering programmes in health, education, business development and other social welfare activities, has now unfolded CanEducate sponsorship programme to cover tuition and uniforms for vulnerable children drawn from Mukumbi, Mumena and Matebo chiefdoms.
It is a boon for the local communities that Craig Williams, the former chief executive officer and president of Equinox Minerals (the founders of Lumwana Mining Company), considers an area closer to his heart.
The Craig Williams Family Foundation launched a teacher training scholarship programme aimed at upgrading teachers skills in North-Western Province.
To complement its high school scholarship scheme introduced in 2009 with the objective of motivating pupil excellence, the foundation also set up a tertiary scheme meant to improve skills levels in the province.
In addition to the scholarship programme, the foundation further initiated a KR240,000-capped Text Book Programme aimed at improving the currently low textbook per student ratio in basic schools in the Lumwana region, with a focus on key subject areas.
Craig Williams has for the past 13 years been actively involved in enhancing the welfare of communities in the Lumwana region.
Outgoing LMC community development coordinator Christopher Mukala says the Craig Williams Family Foundation will, through the Teacher Training Scholarship Programme ,provide an opportunity to increase teachers capacity for provision of quality education by focusing on those teachers serving at basic and secondary schools in the region.
The North-Western Province has lagged in attaining educational benchmarks. An analysis of Grade 12 national results by the Ministry of Education clearly shows the province ranking among the least performers year after year.
Low levels of teacher qualifications are a key factor, with most being at the certificate level rather than the preferred diploma level, and only a minority of them having achieved degree qualifications, says Mr Mukala.
The foundations Teacher Training Scholarship Programme is aimed at upgrading basic and secondary school teachers qualification in priority subjects.
While the foundation will be privately funded by Craig Williams and his family, for efficiency, the programme will be managed within the ambit of Lumwana Mining Company corporate social responsibility mandate.
Just recently, there was yet another programme that was unveiled for the local children, who are unable to continue with their education due to financial constraints.
Barrick Gold Corporation has launched CanEducate sponsorship programme for Lumwana to cover tuition and uniforms for vulnerable children drawn from the three chiefdoms.
The CanEducate sponsorship programme ,which was launched by Dave Elliott, the vice-president for the Copper Business Unit at Barrick Gold Corporation, is a registered Canadian charitable organisation which was independently created by the mining companys employees.
Elliott, who launched the CanEducate sponsorship programme at Lumwana Premier Resort recently, says the educational sponsorship programme will benefit vulnerable school-going children who pass from Grade 9 to 10 in the Lumwana area of Solwezi.
He says the recipients will have their tuition and uniforms covered from the US$10,000 available in the first year of the programme.
Vulnerable children residing in the three chiefdoms and drawn from 21 schools in the area, qualify for the sponsorship. For the first year, 62 pupils have benefitted from the sponsorship.
CanEducate is an independent organisation created by employees of Barrick Gold Corporation, which provides educational sponsorship to impoverished and at-risk children in developing countries. The programme in Zambia is administered through Lumwana Mining Company.
CanEducate is run by a group of volunteers who want their donated money to go directly to the children who need it most. They keep administrative costs low by delivering their sponsorships through partners with well-established community networks in target regions, Elliott explained.
CanEducate has pledged to contribute to sustainable socio-economic development in the Lumwana area through promotion of learning and ensuring access to education.
Elliott outlined the qualifications of vulnerable children for the sponsorship programme as: children who are looked after by the aged due to loss of parents, and children in the care of a young person below 18 year as a result of the loss of parents.
Others who qualify are those looked after by a parent or guardian who is physically or mentally handicapped or by a parent or guardian who cannot engage in any meaningful economic activity.
Elliott says his organisation is aware that, every year, many children are turned away from secondary school because of failure to afford fees.
He is also aware that the cost to send one child to secondary school in Zambia stands at roughly KR600 per term, which includes tuition fees and a mandatory uniform.
It is in this regard, he says, that the goal of the Lumwana CanEducate is to ensure that the number of children denied access to education because of prohibitive fees is drastically reduced.
During the launch of the educational sponsorship programme for 62 pupils from 21 schools across the three chiefdoms, Elliott gave the awards to five representatives, who represented other pupils. These were Chrispin Mpongolwani, Moses Ngambela, Juliet Kazembe, Selemani Mwaula and Joy Chilongu.
In his vote of thanks, Mwaula, from Mutanda Secondary School, lauded Barrick Lumwana Mining Company for the life-time opportunity availed to the vulnerable children in the area as they are privileged to qualify for the sponsorship.
As pupils, we can only pray that this spirit you have shown to us should also in future be extended to our other vulnerable friends. We want to assure you that we will study hard to protect and sustain the scholarship, he said.
Lumwana Mining Company community education support officer Joseph Pyele says the CanEducate sponsorship programme is an addition to other ongoing scholarships and a relief that vulnerable children are benefitting from such opportunities.
He says education is a cornerstone to the development of the country and is confident that the awards will help the beneficiaries perform better for them to contribute to Zambias development.-Story courtesy of SUMA SYSTEMS
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