By Chola Chifukushi
During the first 10 years of the country’s independence, Zambians of all walks of life participated in the annual independence celebrations, which were characterized by dancing, eating and other forms of merrymaking. The government then used Independence Day as a time to engage children and youth in many social and cultural activities as a way of identifying and promoting their various talents in sports, music and dance as well as other creative activities. Children and youth were also taught the virtues of being a good Zambian citizen. During this day, the government also promoted feeding programs in schools, as a means of improving children’s nutrition.
“Our government made independence celebrations a joy for all, as it marks a memorable day in the history of our country,” says 75-year-old John, a former counselor during the UNIP (United National Independence Party) Government. “Our policy of inclusive participation in the celebrations of independence especially for young people was based on the understanding that the future of Zambia lies in the children and youth of the country,” he notes, adding that the country should not lose sight of this premise.
However, over the years, the diminishing economic fortunes of the country have made it difficult for Zambia to continue with the celebration of independence in the manner it was originally celebrated. Today, very few children and youth, if any, participate in the celebrations of their country’s independence. The anniversary has now become a symbolic gesture restricted to few people fortunate enough to be invited to the statehouse, where the president hosts some dignitaries and cadres, mostly from the ruling party.
It is therefore no surprise that although Zambia’s independence forms part of the curriculum for both primary and secondary schools, very few young people know well the facts and figures about their country. For some children like Taonga, a 10-year-old student at a private school in Lusaka, Independence Day is only a “holiday.”
“Teacher only told us that Independence Day is usually a holiday,” Taonga says innocently.
As a part of its strategy to help children understand some significant days on their country’s calendar, ChildFund Zambia plans to start holding community-based celebrations on days like Independence Day. It is envisioned that once implemented, such a strategy would contribute to the preservation of Zambia’s historic heritage as well as contributing to bringing up knowledgeable children, thus contributing to ChildFund’s achieving two core outcomes — educated and confident children as well as skilled and involved youth.
For more information about our work in Zambia, click here.
More on Zambia
Population: 11.5 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 810,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Zambia’s national flag holds much symbolism: Green represents the country’s abundant natural resources; red symbolizes the blood that was shed during the liberation; black stands for the people of Zambia; orange represents the country’s rich mineral deposits; and the eagle is the national symbol of unity and Zambia’s resolve to “rise” above all social, political, economic and other challenges.
What’s next: Timor-Leste, where independence is still quite new.