Humphrey Nkonde - Journalist, Ndola, Zambia
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China’s engagement in Africa is viewed negatively by many. However, it does have numerous benefits for the rural population, our author maintains.

Chinese companies have made valuable contributions towards the development of rural areas in Zambia most of which are in need of infrastructure. They are involved in constructing health posts, schools, roads, hydro-power stations and other infrastructure following decentralisation and the creation of several districts, mostly in rural areas, by the ruling Patriotic Front government since 2011. Among new districts benefiting from infrastructure development is Nsama, in the Northern Province.

Nsama used to be a village without any infrastructure until it was turned into a district in 2011. Its first boarding secondary school is now being built by the Chinese company Jiangxi Zhongmei Engineering Group at a cost of 43 million Zambian Kwacha (about 4.2 million US dollars). The school will have 59 blocks including classrooms, hostels for pupils, an ablution block, a kitchen and a dining hall. The design of the school includes 27 modern staff houses for teachers. While the company employed about 100 locals, construction initially stalled due to a shortage of skilled bricklayers among Zambians. Professionals were therefore brought in from China and from urban areas in Zambia. The school, which has been financed by the Zambian government, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), around four million of Zambia’s 16-million-plus population are of primary school age. However, over 250,000 of them do not go to school, while more than 45 per cent of those enrolled in primary school do not complete basic education. The situation is worse for girls, especially in rural areas where there are long distances between settlements and schools. To address the problem, the government has made seven-year primary education free-of-charge. It is also having new schools built by Chinese firms, particularly in rural areas and newly-created districts, to take state resources to the grassroots.

Zambia is grappling with child marriages and teen pregnancies, especially in rural areas, which are forcing girl students to leave school even if their families have financial resources.

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