Sixty pupils drawn from rural schools around the country’s 10 provinces have participated in this year’s First Lady for a Day Programme, which mentors them on career choice and life skills and gives them a first-hand experience of working life in a corporate environment.
Over the past seven years, Stanbic Bank Zambia has sponsored this mentorship programme for school pupils in association with Junior Achievement Zambia, the office of the First Lady and the Forum for Women Educationalists in Zambia (FAWEZA) in its effort to provide guidance and mentorship to students.
The two-day programme that was held earlier this week targeted high-performing students from rural areas and takes them through three memorable and skill-building experiences. On the first day, the experiences included sessions of careers mentorship by Stanbic senior executives, which guides students through career choices and introduces them to the world of work through classroom activities. It also included job shadowing at the Stanbic Bank head office in Lusaka where the pupils appreciated the bank’s operations.
On the second day the learners took a tour of State House and then entered into a mentorship session by First Lady Esther Lungu at State House, which focused on making sound career decisions. This year, First Lady Esther Lungu invited former First Lady Thandiwe Banda who initiated the programme in 2010, to participate in mentoring children.
President Edgar Chagwa Lungu also joined the sessions and mingled with the children for most of the afternoon, encouraging them to believe in themselves and exert their energies on education.
“Believe in yourselves. I believe in myself, my cabinet and my government. I don’t think you can believe in us if you don’t believe in yourselves,” President Lungu told the pupils. “You have the potential locked up in you and you can’t realize it until you open it up. School is game changer; an equalizer, and when you look up to God, everything is possible.”
First Lady Esther Lungu said she was gratified that the First Lady for a Day Programme, which was initiated by former First Lady Thandiwe Banda seven years ago, was still running successfully because its sponsors believed in its long-term value to help society.
The First Lady commended Stanbic Bank for the generous financial support over the years and for using its senior staff to mentor young people through job shadowing. Stanbic has invested K1 million over the last five years in sponsoring the programme. On Tuesday, the bank renewed its financial commitment and donated K200,000 to the Esther Lungu Foundation Trust for the First Lady for day Programme.
“I’m proud that the former First Lady (Thandiwe Banda) accepted to come and address the children despite the short notice because she’s the initiator of the programme,” she said. “It is gratifying that most programmes initiated by former first ladies are still going on and still receiving corporate support. This is because they are not centered on individuals, but the sponsors are seeing the value of the programme and how they benefit society. I extend gratitude to Stanbic Bank for the generous financial support. Most CSR programme demand immediate results but Stanbic Bank has seen through this long-term programme.”
Mrs Lungu noted that most participants were drawn from rural areas where there were limited opportunities for boys and girls to excel, and implored the participants to take advantage of opportunity to make better choices for the future.
“Most of these leaners come from rural areas where there are limited career opportunities. I encourage you to work hard to aspire beyond the things that you see in your communities and to know the things that you didn’t know before. Work hard and make this programme a stepping stone to achieving their aspirations,” she said.
Minister of General Education Dennis Wanchinga said the First Lady for a Day Programme fitted well in the new two-tier school curriculum his ministry was rolling out, which encompasses academic and vocational career paths.
“The two-tier system will enable our children to have skills to fall back on when they leave the school system at any time. It’s for this reason that the Ministry has decided to make agricultural science a compulsory subject so that it is taught from early childhood to secondary school,” he said.
“We want our young people to have the essential life skills as well as knowledge and values to become our future leaders but this cannot be achieved without the involvement of guidance and counselling to ensure that young people are taught how to make good career choices.”
The Minister also urged pupils to keep away from illicit activities such as teenage pregnancies, drugs, alcohol, violence and destruction of public property.
Stanbic Board Chairperson Dr Austin Mwape said the bank’s continued support of the programme was testament to how seriously Stanbic took education of young people in Zambia.
“Investing in youth development is key to ensuring prosperity for Zambia. Youths are the future of this country, and the well-being of this country is proportional to how equipped the youth are today, to face the challenges of tomorrow,” he said.
Addressing the participants, Dr Mwape said the future of the country depended on a well-educated population that could rise above the challenges and realize the dream of the nation.
“This mentorship programme you are participating is of international standard and is a good motivation to help you to work hard and achieve your dreams. So, from this mentorship programme I’d like you to come out with positive attitudes to achieve your goals, bearing in mind that you can achieve your goal by taking small but positive actions which add up to something great for your future,” he said.
FAWEZA executive director Agness Mumba said the programme gave an opportunity for young people to be mentored, which guaranteed that they were not alone in dealing with day to day issues.
Since the programme started in 2010, 362 pupils have benefitted from the programme, said Junior Achievement Zambia board chairperson David Chakonta. Junior Achievement Zambia has rolled out other programmes teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship to leaners in Zambia as part of its global drive.