Republican First Lady Esther Lungu this week inspired 58 pupils from Zambia’s rural areas at State House under Stanbic Bank’s annual First Lady for a Day mentorship programme.
The First Lady for a Day initiative provides pupils with career guidance, financial education, entrepreneurship skills and more to help them prepare for life after school. The programme was launched eight years ago by the Office of the First Lady, in partnership with Stanbic Bank, Junior Achievement and Forum for African Women Educationalists of Zambia (FAWEZA), with 480 pupils benefiting from the initiative.
Six outstanding pupils from each province are brought to Lusaka on an all-expenses-paid trip to attend mentorship sessions led by sector experts at Stanbic’s leadership training centre and the bank’s management staff at the bank’s head office before heading to State House for a full day of mentorship with the First Lady.
The First Lady expressed pleasure at how inclusive the mentorship programme was as it also had differently-abled pupils. She urged the pupils to prioritise their education and career goals to increase their chances of a successful future.
“One of the main causes of gender based violence is lack of education. When you focus on your school work and growing your career, you avoid situations that may lead you into teenage pregnancies which are likely to disturb your future,” she said.
She expressed gratitude to FAWEZA and Junior Achievement for working tirelessly to make the event happen. “A special thanks goes out to Stanbic Bank for their generosity in sponsoring the programme as well as providing mentorship to the pupils and allow them to shadow their staff for a day. I am glad to see that the bank has taken a unique approach to its sustainability investment by investing in the future of our country as opposed to looking for immediate results. Pupils may forget most of what is said to them today as time goes by but the experience they got from shadowing your staff and getting a feel of a real life working environment will stay with them forever,” she concluded.
The First Lady donated two wheelchairs to some of the differently abled pupils in attendance. Each participant also walked away with a school bag, school shoes and a certificate from the programme organisers.
Stanbic Bank chairman Dr Austin Mwape, said the initiative provided pupils with a platform where they could interact and receive mentorship from successful professionals and the Republican First Lady to help them maintain a positive self-image and a ‘can do’ attitude as they build the foundations for their careers through education and hard work.
He said: “We recognise how easy it is for young people today to lose focus and get side-tracked by illicit activities that only serve to ruin their chances of a successful future. The knowledge the participants gain from the mentorship gives them capacity to make better life choices thereby giving them greater potential to excel in their studies and eventually contribute to national development.”
He added that one of the bank’s main business strategy pillars was making a difference in people’s lives.
“Because Zambia is our home, we will continue to drive her growth by investing in people, especially the youth, who make up over half the country’s population. We have aligned our social investment policies with the objectives of the recently launched National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which seeks to increase the rate of financial inclusion from the current 40% to 80% by 2022.
He added: Stanbic is commitment to promoting equity in the distribution of financial education to ensure no one is left behind in the country’s quest for universal financial inclusion by making financial literacy a big part of the mentorship. Financial literacy enables people, even those from low-income areas to save, Invest, and manage their assets.”
Education Minister, Honourable David Mabumba said the event came at an opportune time to supplement government programmes aimed at increasing the retention rate in schools. “We recognise that tuition fees are a challenge for most rural families and it is for this reason that my ministry has partnered with the World Bank to ease this burden by sponsoring over 8,818 girls. We hope to reach 14,000 pupils as soon as possible.
“Further, my ministry is implementing the new curriculum which promotes the two-tier education system encompassing the academic and the Vocational careers pathways. With this development, we want our young people to have the right skills, knowledge and values to economically empower themselves through entrepreneurship and business development as well as through their academic and career pathways.”
Hon. Mabumba said the mentorship programme was important because it recognised the importance and benefits of youth empowerment in essential life-skills, which promote youth retention within the education system and provides alternatives for those who cannot be retained within the formal schooling system through entrepreneurship.
He added: “With your obvious energy, enthusiasm and innovativeness, you all have the potential to contribute immensely to the social and economic development of Zambia if only you can exert your energies to positive activities.”
Stanbic Bank, donated ZMW215,000 to this year’s event, bringing the bank’s total investment in the programme to over ZMW1,415,000.
Junior Achievers Board chairperson David Chakonta said one of the programme’s objectives was to recognise and nurture the country’s talent to ensure sustainable development.