The Zambian government has finally approved the National Pension Scheme (Amendment) Bill of 2023, to the excitement of teachers across the country. The bill will soon be published and introduced in Parliament, following Cabinet approval.
Currently, the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) is perceived to increase poverty among teachers, and many educators have expressed their opposition to the way it operates. Retired teachers are denied lump-sum pension benefits, which can lead to destitution after years of hard work. However, the new bill seeks to amend section 19 of the current NAPSA Act, to enable teachers to receive part of their savings as pre-retirement benefits after serving for ten years.
According to the National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ), the pre-retirement benefits should not be pegged at 20% of one’s contributions to NAPSA, as this would be insufficient for most teachers to invest meaningfully or build houses. Instead, the proposed law should allow NAPSA members to withdraw 50% of their contributions.
NAQEZ believes that if the new law is well implemented, teachers will retire with handsome amounts of money, compared to the current arrangement where NAPSA only gives small monthly allowances as pension. They describe the current system as unfair, counterproductive, and meant to punish its members.
The new law, if passed, will not only benefit teachers but also enable them to venture into viable businesses and build decent houses without getting into expensive debts.
The Executive Director of NAQEZ, Aaron Chansa, expressed confidence that the National Assembly would pass the bill, and the Republican President, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, would cement his friendship with teachers in Zambia.
In addition, NAQEZ welcomes the approval of the Examinations Council of Zambia Bill of 2023 by Cabinet. They are pushing for the new law to squarely place the Examinations Council at the center of running examinations so that teachers who manage these exams can be motivated and allowanced. They believe it is unfair not to motivate teachers who spend hours running national exams. The new law should also incorporate civil society into the new Council since national examinations are public services, critical to the education system and command public interest from all stakeholders.
The Zambian government has a golden chance to correct the historical injustice and make the pension scheme fairer and more beneficial to teachers. The passing of the bill will go a long way in improving the welfare of educators in the country.