By Steve Chirombo:
Schools are considered second homes for every learner. It is, therefore, disheartening to see some learners taking things for granted while at school.
It is also a widely considered view that some school surroundings should be properly handled for every learner to find the environment accommodative.
When in class, a learner is expected to behave accordingly and pay attention to the teacher. Through creation of such an environment, both sides find it convenient in respect to one’s rights.
Over and above, learners find the school environment more welcoming when communities around it equally value the importance of education to the country’s socio-economic growth.
However, learners at Lundu Primary School in Traditional Authority Chapananga in Chikwawa, some 50 kilometres away from the districts main town centre, do not have this luxury.
Apart from being located a few metres from a busy and oftentimes noisy Chapananga Trading Centre, there are two drinking joints close to the school which operate 24 hours.
When songs such as General Kanene’s Mumala Mubaba, B1’s Kwa George and Master KG’s Jelusalema are played, some learners do not resist the temptation to join the fray. They start dancing even when a teacher is delivering a lesson.
The million-dollar question is who is at fault.
Concerned parties have attempted to deal with the issue by engaging bottle-store owners but the response has never been positive.
Some of the beer-hall owners argue that they remit tax to the district council so they cannot be stopped from playing loud music to attract customers.
A teacher and Mentor Mother Group Chairperson at Lundu Primary School Milca Phambale Chijoka says some bottle stores around the school operate without considering the welfare of learners.
“We have been reporting the issue to some traditional leaders and to Chief Chapananga but to no avail. Nothing tangible is happening and the situation remains the same,” Chijoka says.
She, therefore, says the Mother Group plans to hold a meeting that will bring several partners together to discuss the issue.
“We need to meet as a mother group, business community, police and traditional leaders to map the way forward,” Chijoka says.
To compound the problem, after classes, some of the learners from the school, girls inclusive, reportedly flock in droves to the pubs to participate in adult activities.
Kalambo Primary Education Advisor, Elias Khuku, in whose jurisdiction the school falls, says the situation is disturbing and that if left unattended, the future of most learners will be affected.
“As a school, we have tried to stop it. We have taken this matter to relevant authorities but we have not received any positive feedback.
“Every day, classes are disturbed due to some external forces, critical one being the sound from nearby beer halls. The development is affecting the academic performance as well as the behaviour of children,” he says.
Senior Chief Chapananga discloses that he has been approaching perpetrators of the vice who always fail to listen to his pleas.
“At one point, I conducted an operation to grab all sound equipment from those conducting entertainment activities during school time including those at Lundu Primary School. But it seems these people have no regard to the education of the children,” Chapananga says.
He adds that there have been some engagements recently and that he will call for another meeting with the community to decide on the next course of action.
Chikwawa District Council Market Supervisor Reuben Chozi says the council issues bar operating licences in three categories depending on the amount paid, saying others would close at 8 pm, 10 pm or at midnight.
The council’s chairperson Clement Kamoto expresses shock at the development, describing the situation as bad. He says such an environment contributes to poor performance of learners in class.
“We need concerted efforts to permanently address this matter. I would personally love to hear from those that collect revenue from beer halls the conditions and procedures they follow to issue the licences,” he says.
Kamoto further says the meeting will also call for an end to provision of opportunities to those plying businesses in areas close to learning institutions.
“Otherwise, we will have to agree on the time when they can operate so that there is no clash with school sessions because the current situation is killing the love of education among children,” he said.
Chikwawa District Social Welfare Officer Rosemary Mahata acknowledges that some drinking joints might have a permit but is still worried about operating them around the clock.
“The final intervention is to invite Senior Chief Chapananga and other partners together with the bar owners and agree on the possible adjustment of the time or just shut down the beer places,” Mahata says.—Mana