Tradition and education for all among the Baila people of Namwala in Southern Province, Zambia

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Muma, Chota Patrick
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The University of Zambia
The study investigated the Ila tradition in relation to the realisation of Education for All (EFA). The purpose of the study was to establish how the beliefs and traditions of the Baila people of Namwala affected the realisation of EFA in Namwala. The objectives of the study were to assess the influence of the Ila tradition on access to formal education and on academic performance. The other objective was to ascertain the compatibility of Ila tradition with modern formal education. The Baila people were chosen because of the general perception of some teachers in Namwala that the district performed relatively worse than other districts in Southern province in the Grade 7 and 9 national examinations because of the Ila traditions. Qualitative methodology of data collection and analysis process was used. Four data collection instruments were employed. I started the study with document analysis where I examined the trend of access to school and compared the Grade 7 and 9 results of Namwala to other districts in the province over a period of four years. I then used semi-structured interviews of diverse interest groups in education, namely, the four chiefs in Namwala, some Head teachers, teachers, pupils, parents, young people who had never been to school, World Vision Zambia representative and a FAWEZA official. The last two are NGO groups with noticeable presence and influence in the promotion of education in Namwala. In addition, Focus Group Discussions were held with some village headmen. The fourth and last data collection instrument was ethnography where I, as researcher, remained open and sensitive to everything of traditional nature of the Baila that I saw, heard and read during the whole period of the study. A total of 81 participants formed the study sample of a study population of all Baila in Namwala and stakeholders in the formal education in the district. The major findings of the study were that access to school as well as retention level was low in Namwala. In addition, Namwala featured poorly academically in Grades 7 and 9 posting in the bottom three out of eleven districts in the province in 2012 to 2015 for Grade 7 results and within the bottom five in the province in Grade 9 during the same period. In all the years reviewed (2012- 2015) Namwala never performed above the national mean in the two national examinations. The study established that the beliefs and traditions of the Baila, which basically oscillate around the rearing of cattle, had a negative impact on the Baila’s perception and appreciation of formal education and ultimately on the realisation of EFA. It was observed that many traditional Baila regarded formal education as irrelevant to their lives as cattle, which they rear in very large numbers, answered most of their economic and social needs. The study concluded that EFA in its Western hegemonic form and implementation mode of ‘one size fits all’ did not seem to answer the needs and aspirations of some societies like the Baila. The study, therefore, recommended the use of localized curriculum which took cognizance of local cultures and practices, like the rearing of cattle in the case of the Baila, to ignite the interest of the local people in formal education. The study recommended that further research be taken into the actualization of the concept of localized curriculum and its impact on the mind-set of the Baila concerning formal education.
Education--Law and legislation--Baila--Zambia , Education--Teaching and learning--Tradition--Zambia