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Zambia struggles to keep teachers

Zambia’s move to upgrade its education system is floundering as teachers either leave the country for better pay and conditions or die of Aids.

The average qualified teacher in the southern African country earns about £250 a month, with housing and other allowances adding another £60 to their monthly pay.

Teachers say high inflation and the high cost of living, especially in places like Lusaka and the Copper belt, this amount is simply not enough to look after even a small family.

Many are voting with their feet and moving on to work in other countries, leaving a massive shortage of trained teachers in the nation which has vowed to improve its schooling.

The government faces a massive challenge to get and hold on to teachers, especially maths and science teachers to teach the country’s quarter million plus high school students. Right now the average ratio is about one teacher to 60 pupils in high schools.

Maths teacher Caroline Chisenga has 10 years of experience. She recently upgraded her teaching qualifications with a full degree. But she is thinking of leaving the country for better money.

After seven years teaching in Zambia's second largest city, Ndola, she left for neighbouring Botswana. "My salary was not to my satisfaction, so I went into Botswana and got myself a job. I served there for a year, and while I couldn't sign a second contract, I think I got away with some good money and decided to come back home," she said.

"Teachers that the government trained have since decided to leave the country and serve in other countries," Ms Chisenga told Inter Presse Service news wire. "That's how serious the situation is and this has actually led to a negative impact in schools, especially high schools. If anything, I still look forward to taking another chance out there because there is good money."

Despite having rich natural resources particularly of copper life expectancy for the average Zambian is 38 and unemployment is running at 50 per cent, according to figures from Oxfam.

All of this is worsened by the AIDS pandemic which has wiped out a generation: a report by the National AIDS Council indicates that fully 40 per cent of Zambian teachers are HIV positive. A thousand teachers die from AIDS each year. Also 21 per cent of Zambian schoolchildren themselves have HIV, according to figures from the US charity, USAID.

Hayley attribution