First Quantum Minerals has stepped up dialogue with local communities and civil society to enhance its support to local schools in Solwezi District in North-Western Province.
Through its Kansanshi Mine, the mining company has partnered with a consortium of civil society organisations, various governmental departments, and the community to come up with interventions to help local people access quality education in a way that aligns with their requirements.
Speaking on the sidelines of an information-sharing dialogue meeting on education organised by the Extractive Industry Transparency Alliance (EITA), FQM Kansanshi Foundation Manager Bruce Lewis said the mining firm was keen to complement the government’s efforts in providing access to a good education, which is key to building a strong foundation in the lives of children so they can flourish and grow to be productive members of society.
The organisations that took part in the information-sharing forum noted in a communique that there was an urgent need to construct infrastructure in schools in terms of classroom blocks, because pupil-to-teacher ratios remain high and there still remains demand for further desks. Further skills training centres were also needed, said the EITA group.
“We emphasise the vital role of education and skills training in addressing social, cultural, and economic challenges, and, therefore, further our commitment to encouraging international collaboration and the sharing of best practices to advance education systems across the globe. In this way, we will contribute to broader aims, including reducing poverty and inequality; promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth; advancing access to quality education for all, especially girls, and empowering women, youth, and vulnerable groups,” read the communique.
The forum was attended by civil society organizations including, FAWEZA, Civil Society for Poverty Reduction, Zambia Open Community Schools, ActionAid Zambia, DAPP Solwezi, Extractive Industry Transparency Alliance, Environment Africa Solwezi, Kansanshi Mine, USAID Learn to Read Project, Kansanshi Community Foundation, Provincial Administration, Ministry of Local Government, People Living with Disabilities, the district community development office, NGOCC, Solwezi District DEBS Office, Solwezi Municipal Council, members of the 12 ward development committees, head teachers from schools surrounding Kansanshi Mine and parents representing school associations in Solwezi.
The stakeholders also highlighted the importance of improving access to quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) as a foundation for the development of current and future generations and as a fundamental part of promoting equity and inclusion in education and encouraging lifelong learning.
“We recognise the value of distance and blended teaching and learning and underscore the importance of enhancing access to high-quality education, professional development for educators, digital infrastructure and content, cybersecurity awareness, appropriate teaching methodologies, and active learning while recognising that these approaches complement face-to-face learning. We stress the importance of research and data to assess the learning outcomes and quality of distance learning,” they continued.
Mr Lewis explained that FQM’s efforts to improve education standards and advance literacy levels were framed by a broader vision of how corporate support can have the most impact, and under its School Improvement Programme, the company is also supporting a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme, where teachers are provided with training on modern teaching methods, including action plans on implementation.
“First Quantum has to date spent more than US$100 million on corporate social investment programmes, which have been aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. And in this case, SDG 4, aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
This Goal encompasses FQM’s extensive education programmes at both its Kansanshi and FQM Trident Mines, including infrastructure support, the support for Early Childhood Education, the school feeding programme, and the Kansanshi Quality Education Improvement Programme (KanEQuIP), Kwambula and Solwezi Trades Training programmes,” he said.
Every year since 2013, Kansanshi Mine has acquired and donated a consignment of books to the government as part of the mining firm’s education development programme. So far, FQM has handed donated over 150,000 books – most of them textbooks – to the district.
The company also awarded scholarships to about 400 children in 2021, before the introduction of free education. The donation of exercise books now means that, rather than giving direct assistance to just 400 children, the mine is assisting the parents of more than 32,000 children, who will receive the books.
In line with the government’s policy of local procurement, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has also partnered with the Solwezi Trades Training Institute (SOTTI) to make 2,000 school desks.