By DERRICK SILIMINA
The first-ever graduation ceremony of 55 Grade Seven pupils from Grizzly Community School in Lufwanyama District of the Copperbelt Province has revived pupils and teachers now hope for a better future.
Pupils at the Grizzly Mining-sponsored community school have expressed gratitude to the emerald mining giant’s commitment to quality education in the district.
Speaking at the graduation on Thursday, Grizzly Group Human Resources Davy Phiri said considering the importance of education to any community’s socio-economic development, the mining firm will facilitate 100 per cent academic support to the school.
Phiri said the graduation of pupils in the area was a game-changer and an eye opener against early marriages. Girls’ completion of education would contribute to the future wellbeing of communities in the district.
“I would like to re-emphasise the company’s commitment to the continued 100 per cent sponsorship of the school, which is paying all the teachers’ salaries, buying books, shoes and uniforms for all the pupils,” Phiri said.
Phiri who is also the company’s Corporate Affairs Manager has affirmed that the mining firm has since purchased the uniforms for the 2022 school calendar year.
He saluted the school management, members of staff and PTA board for ensuring that quality education was sustained in the Pilala community as they are supporting academic progression of their learners.
He further urged community members to take good care of the education facility as it was Grizzly’s gift to the community at large.
“I implore all community members to take good care of the school infrastructure and if i can remind you, this is not a Grizzly mining property but a gift from Grizzly to the community here so that our children can continue to afford quality education,” Phiri noted.
Speaking at the same event, Grizzly Community School Head Teacher Paythias Kamukwambawas delighted that since the school’s inception in 1999, it had now achieved an academic milestone, courtesy of the mining company.
Kamukwamba has paid glowing tribute to the Grizzly mine management for ensuring that its CSR programme in education is bearing fruit in the community; and for settling teachers’ salaries, and providing books, shoes and uniform for all the pupils.
“May I take this rare opportunity to thank Grizzly management for their continued support to the school because as I speak today, the school has over 450 pupils from nursery level to Grade Seven, thanks to the mining giant’s support over the years,” he noted.
He further stated that after the school was approved as an examination centre by the Ministry of education in 2008, the academic facility had continued to record steady progress such that in 2020, it was ranked among the best schools in Lufwanyama District.
Kamukwamba stressed that this entails teachers’ tireless efforts and commitment to duty in a bid to enhance quality education among their pupils.
“This demonstrates that we are on the right track and for this occasion, apart from the graduation ceremony, we will also award four of our deserving pupils for their diligence to academic excellence,” he said.
“Grizzly is changing lives here as most pupils’ futures are guaranteed through the mining firms annual education support from the school’s inception,” said Monica Kitefu, one of the graduates.
Kitefu stressed that since the Lufwanyama area is known for most young girls who are forced into early marriages by their guardians, Grizzly Mine’s initiative to embark on a 100 per cent sponsorship of the pupils and teachers is the right step towards building enlightened future leaders in the district.
According to academic experts, the first community schools in Zambia were built in the 1990s to provide students living in rural communities with an opportunity to attend school. The country has more than 3000 community schools, and that number is growing as some schools are located in rugged buildings and educate hundreds of students. Some schools consist of a teacher and only a handful of children, and class takes place outside.
Further, most community schools’ classrooms across the country are grappling with overcrowding, as desks and books are usually in short supply, and about half of the teachers are also volunteers.
For Sarr Siradio, 36, one of the employees at Grizzly Mining said his future dream to go back to school is now a reality as the mining firm’s continued support of the community school in the area has helped facilitate him to graduate at Grade Seven.
“For me, I didn’t look at my age as a stumbling block to go back to school because education is the future. I look forward to progressing to Grade Eight until twelfth grade and writing my final exams. Thanks to Grizzly for this community school support initiative,” said Siradio.
“The mining firm’s academic support to teachers and teachers at the local community school is encouraging,” Penda Seck, one of the teachers said recently during the first-ever graduation ceremony of 55 Grade Seven pupils at Grizzly Community School in Lufwanyama District of the Copperbelt Province.
Seck noted that community school education provided a space to engage more teachers to deliver quality education and thereby enhanced the learning experience for everyone connected within the school.
She hinted that being a teacher with a passion, she loved what she did thanks to the mining company’s support of her future career endeavours.
“I feel glad to be part of Grizzly Community School because it builds children’s lives and it being a rural school, I feel it’s a blessing to work here because Grizzly is doing a lot at this school.”