Text Size

Education, Health, Security/Crime, and the Public Order Act

 

Communique of the Catholic Bishops On Particular Social Concerns
 
Education, Health, Security/Crime, and the Public Order Act
 
28 January 2000
 
 

By the year 2000, the poverty levels in Zambia were around 80% of the population. This is poverty that was evidenced by most people not having access to essential services for their basic needs. Hospitals lacked medicines, the health workers were demoralised with slave-like conditions of service. The educational system was in a similar crisis. Furthermore, the Country faced a rising wave of crime leading to insecurity. This situation was deemed to be untenable by the Bishops. The Bishops used the occasion of their annual plenary Conference to address these issues.

We, members of the Zambia Episcopal Conference assembled at Kapingila House, Lusaka, for our plenary meeting from 25th to 28th January 2000 have reflected on many issues of national interest. We wish to share our great concern on the following issues:

Education

We note with sadness that instead of improving our educational system, Government’s recent policies seem to be only worsening the situation. In this vein, we are particularly concerned about the following:

    Government’s re-introduction of payment of rates for: (a) all property owned by registered charities, training centres intended for capacity building for youths, the homeless and persons with disabilities;(b) property comprising land used solely by a full-time educational institution, or for sporting purposes by that educational institution.
  1. We strongly feel that this requirement is not only retrogressive but also will have very devastating effects on the already deplorable state of our education. Where will noncommercial and non-profit making educational institutions and training centres for the disabled get money to pay exorbitant rates? We feel a matter of such National importance should not be left to the discretion of local authorities.
  2. The introduction of costly work permits for Missionaries working in our educational institutions is an antidote to quality education delivery. Why should somebody be required to pay so dearly for rendering voluntary service? We urge Government to take a leaf from the Malawian Government, which though not Christian, grants free employment permits to Missionaries.
  3. The reduction of basic Teachers’ training period to one year is a sure way of driving a final nail into our ailing educational system. How can we expect quasitrained teachers to offer quality education which they don’t possess themselves?
  4. The recently adopted policy of not renewing contracts for qualified and experienced missionary and expatriate teachers in the face of dwindling numbers of indigenous teachers due to the effects of HIV/AIDS pandemic and emigration is not a positive move and must be seriously re-examined with a view to revoking it.
  5. The ever worsening conditions of service for teachers have not only robbed the profession of its integrity and attraction, but has also led to serious brain-drain and vices such as corruption, bribery, etc. How can we improve educational standards with such a demoralized and demotivated group of teachers? We therefore urge Government to take serious measures to redress this situation.
  6. Poor Funding: - much as we sympathize with the Country’s poor economic position, we still think that education as the basic foundation for all human and economic development should be Government’s top priority when it comes to funding. It is baffling to see that in spite of the poor state of the economy, Government continues with its lavish spending on many non-essentials but not on education. It is not an exaggeration to say that poor funding is the root cause of most of problems in our educational system and we therefore urge the Government to address this problem once and for all.

    Health

    While we appreciate Government’s efforts to rehabilitate the physical structures of our health institutions, we feel that this exercise alone not enough. Hence we are particularly concerned with:

  7. The on-going Doctors’ strike and stand-off with Government. We add our voice to those of many others in supporting the doctors’ stand which is not based on selfishness, but on a serious desire for professional service to the Nation. We deplore the loss of many lives as a result of this scenario. We therefore call upon the Government to lead the way in resolving this impasse.
  8. Government’s continued withdrawal of financial and other support from Church health institutions is another serious failure on setting the proper priorities. This move has affected not only the capacity and efficiency of health care delivery service in our institutions, but also has antagonized the Church, its institutions and the people we serve. We are appalled by Government’s failure to appreciate the valuable contribution of the Church in this critical area of national development. While we would not like our religious men and women working in Church health institutions to join the Civil doctors in their stand-off with Government, we are afraid that this might inevitably be the natural consequence if Government fails to address these problems promptly.

    Security/Crime

  9. Never before in the history of this Nation have we witnessed such a high rate of crime as now. We are particularly appalled by the sophisticated nature and increase in the number of crimes. The situation is even more frightening when this is directed against poor innocent people including women and children.
  10. In this regard we wish to express our solidarity with the women from the NGOCC in their fight for a more professional, better-equipped and efficient Police Service that will be capable of ridding this Country of crime. We feel that the women are fighting for a very noble cause and request the authorities to handle their case with understanding.

    Public Order Act

  11. While we appreciate the necessity of the Public Order Act, we are disappointed with the biased manner of its implementation by the Police Service. While it has been very easy for Pro-MMD groups to obtain permits under this Act, opposition groups, NGO’s and others have found it almost impossible to obtain such permits.
  12. The arrest of women from the NGOCC for demonstrating without a permit is a typical example. As we issue this communiqué, our own Religious Sisters (nuns) have been denied a permit to lobby our Members of Parliament or to demonstrate peacefully to air their concerns on some important National issues. We feel that this is denying people their democratic right to freedom of Assembly and expression and Government should address this.
  13. Finally, we want to remind the Nation of two of the themes of this Jubilee Year, i.e. restoration and solidarity. Let us all work together in solidarity to restore this great Nation of ours to its glory and dignity. This can only be possible by ensuring perfect and efficient functioning of our educational, health and security systems.

    Wishing you God’s choicest blessings during this Jubilee Year.

The Catholic Bishops of Zambia

  Archbishop Medardo. Mazombwe,   Lusaka Archdiocese, Chairman ZEC   Bishop Noel O'Regan, S.M.A.,   Solwezi Diocese, Vice Chairman   Archbishop James. Spaita,   Kasama Archdiocese   Bishop Denis De Jong,   Ndola Diocese   Bishop Telesphore Mpundu,   Mpika Diocese   Bishop Raymond. Mpezele,   Livingstone Diocese   Bishop Aaron Chisha,   Mansa Diocese   Bishop P. Duffy, OMI   Mongu Diocese   Bishop Emilio Patriarca   Monze Diocese   Mgr. G. Lungu   Chipata Diocese