By Dr Rozious Siatwambo
WITH Zambian schools set to remain closed for the rest of winter, and with an unknown path ahead for teaching for the remainder of the year, our children are facing a significant education challenge. For many students, particularly those in grades preceding important school transitions such as Grade 7, Grade 9 and Grade 12, this is particularly daunting, as the months lost to lockdown could potentially impact their readiness for next year.
It’s important to note that the time lost in the school year so far cannot be recovered. This will negatively impact all learners across all grades, and the time they have to finish important topics and syllabuses going forward. Students who have remained home have missed out on vast amounts of schoolwork. As a result, work that had to be covered in a single term will now take much longer to complete, adding further pressure to an already strained system. Added to this, many students need the support of their teachers and study groups to grasp key academic concepts. Learning alone, at home, deprives them of this support, making it that much more difficult for them to cope under the current conditions.
There is another critical factor to consider when assessing the impact of lockdown on education, and that is the mounting psychological pressure on students. Mentally and emotionally, our children are feeling the effects of not being in a classroom for months on end. Aside from the possible negative social impact, children’s behaviour has been affected, as they grapple with shifting their attention from progressive academic work to idleness in their communities.
It is against this unfolding backdrop to education in Zambia that I was delighted to hear that MultiChoice Zambia and the Ministry of General Education had taken the lead on e-learning and introduced a comprehensive new education channel called Edu TV. The channel is available on DStv channel 315 and GOtv channel 58, and broadcasts classroom-based learning and life skills programmes for children from primary school to secondary school level, based on the Zambian national curriculum.
This effectively extends national education services to almost every corner of our country, and offers the majority of our learners a valuable opportunity to keep abreast of academic work via TV. Learning through a digital platform like satellite-TV also reinforces the principle of staying home during this pandemic. Looking at this as a model for the future, there is potential for digital innovations to play a significant role in the transformation of Zambia’s education sector. Firstly, we can see this in the way Edu TV was specifically developed to fill the vital learning gap created by Covid-19 and the subsequent national lockdown.
We can also see it in MultiChoice Zambia’s wider bouquet of educational TV channels on DStv. This includes Mindset (channel 319), Mindset Pop (channel 317) and Da Vinci Kids (channel 318). While Mindset and Mindset Pop feature programming covering the entire spectrum of general education, from Early Childhood Learning to the current curriculums of Grades 4 to 9; Da Vinci Kids offers award-winning educational programming that is fun and stimulating, presenting inspired worldly views on important subjects.
Educational innovations like this are helping to change our children’s mindsets around learning, moving them out of the strict classroom landscape into more familiar digital territory. This is absolutely critical in preparing our youth for the innovations that will come in future – learning via video. Educational videos have the potential to provide theory instruction and enhance skills development, and as we have seen during lockdown, can be broadcast on multiple platforms, from TV to social and other online media.
While the future for lesson delivery will largely depend on how much capacity we can build into new technology systems, online is certainly one of the biggest future learning avenues Zambia will look to fully embracing. The launch of Edu TV on DStv and GOtv could not have come at more appropriate time. Considering the number of subscribers on these two platforms, the positive contribution this channel – along with DStv’s additional educational channels – will make in ensuring scholastic continuity during this difficult time cannot be overemphasised.
Learning is not attained by chance, it is attained through hard work and diligence. Technology, online and television-based learning broadens the arena in which we can encourage such hard work and diligence. These platforms provide invaluable support to Zambian educators, ultimately helping us to achieve our global education goals.
Dr Rozious Siatwambo is founder and CEO of Great North Road Academy Group of Companies, which includes Great North Road Academy, one of the leading private schools in Zambia. Dr Siatwambo is also an author, mentor and motivational speaker.
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US okays electronic cigarettes
WITH rising numbers of smokers in sub-Saharan Africa, concerns regarding risk exposure to tobacco have been well documented. The impact on the entire industry, from farmers to consumers has always been a source of concern: who will support the farmers earning a living through their trade? This could change after a landmark decision in the industry.
Following 43 months of evaluation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorised the marketing of electrically heated tobacco system called IQOS by Philip Morris International (PMI) as a modified risk tobacco product (MRTP).
This decision by the US FDA marked the first time the agency has granted marketing orders for an electronic alternative to cigarettes. It found IQOS to be “appropriate to promote the public health and is expected to benefit the health of the population as a whole.”
Considering that cigarette smoking kills more than seven million people worldwide each year, the US FDA decision opens a public health opportunity in the fight against the global tobacco epidemic. Encouraging the rapid shift from smoking cigarettes to alternatives such as IQOS – for adult smokers who have been unable or unwilling to quit – could save many lives.
While the FDA does not endorse IQOS, its decision followed a scientific review of more than one million pages of evidence submitted by PMI and took into account independent studies. The federal agency concluded that non-combustible tobacco products such as IQOS differ from cigarettes in reducing the body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.
This is consistent with earlier conclusions of regulatory and scientific bodies, that the product emits lower levels of harmful toxicants than lit cigarettes.
The finding recognizes the harm-reduction effects of the “heat-not-burn” technology, which provides smokers with nicotine, while substantially reducing the risks associated with the combustion of conventional cigarettes.
While rates of smoking have decreased in wealthy countries, they have grown in poorer nations. In sub-Saharan Africa, cigarette consumption increased by over 50 percent between 1980 and 2016. Of deaths among African adults caused by second-hand smoke, over 60 percent are among women who live and work with smokers.
There are lessons to be learned from the decision by the US FDA and similar regulatory bodies in Europe. A dogmatic approach to tobacco control, which condemns all tobacco products as equally injurious to public health, has little chance of reducing the harm of cigarettes in today’s world.
It should lower the cost of reduced risk products and make them available to adult smokers in Africa. Countries should move to include harm reduction in their arsenal of tobacco-control measures and engage the tobacco industry to find the best ways to make the new products widely available to adult smokers unable or unwilling to quit, possibly including raising taxes on conventional cigarettes, while significantly lowering them on reduced risk products;
Across Africa, where the median age is under 25, very strict measures must be put in place to protect under-age youth from gaining access to the new products, considering that they have been shown to be only better alternatives but are not risk free.
In an ideal world, humans would avoid all unnecessary substances that have negative effects on their health. Unfortunately, that is not the case and will likely never be. It will require courage and political will, but it is a public health imperative to adopt measures to reduce risks to the more than one billion smokers worldwide.
MoH, UNICEF and SIDA announce a new US$ 5.2 million agreement in Zambia to boost essentials health services to mitigate the impact of COVID-19
THE Swedish International Development Agency in partnership with UNICEF and the Government of Zambia have signed a K94. 6 million worth agreement with a view to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the Zambian Health sector.
The partnership is also aimed at supporting existing health services in Zambia by providing essential commodities for reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH), by procuring oxygen concentrators for hospitals in Southern, Eastern, Luapula, and Muchinga Provinces.
And Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Kennedy Malama has thanked the partners for the support in the sector.
“This support comes at a crucial time for Zambia in the COVID-19 response and will go a long way to supporting essential health services. We thank the Government of Sweden for their generous support to the people of Zambia, especially our children,” Dr Malama said.
Part of the partnership is also lined up to provide personal protective equipment to 5,000 health workers in 983 primary health care facilities and 48 hospitals.
Swedish Ambassador to Zambia, Anna Maj Hultgård, said her country is happy to be able to make this important contribution to Zambia.
“We place great importance to supporting the health system in Zambia and essential health workers not only to empower them to safely respond to the Covid-19 Pandemic but also to ensure that essential services such as maternal, new-born, child and adolescent health and nutrition can continue with minimal disruption,” Hultgård said.
She said about one million people in Zambia are expected to benefit from essential health services and commodities supplied under the programme.