Zambia National Education Coalition is pleased to join the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of Persons with Disabilities which falls on 3rd December. This day is very important to everyone around the world because it is aimed at promoting understanding of disability issues and mobilizing support for the dignity, human rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”. This theme reminds us of the need to reflect on our interventions and achievements in advancing the plight of persons with disabilities in Zambia. It is a time for us to review what we have done to ensure that our children with disabilities are empowered to thrive economically, socially, politically and culturally. Currently, it is common knowledge that the COVID 19 pandemic has brought about a lot of challenges to the education sector and the most affected are children with disabilities. The premature closure of schools on 20th March, 2020 resulted in over 4 million children being out of school due to COVID 19. Therefore, in order to mitigate the loss of learning during the closure, government started implementing alternative modes of education which included the airing of radio programmes through the Education Broadcasting Services; provision of e-learning on the ZAMTEL platform and providing television education programmes on ZNBC TV 4. Although these initiatives managed to reach some of the children, majority of children with disabilities especially the blind and the deaf did not benefit enough. It is for this reason that government decided to first reopen the examination classes on 1st June, 2020 and later the non-examination classes on 14th September, 2020.
The challenges that have come as a result of the impact of COVID 19 on education have amplified the need for our government to invest in remote learning modes that reach children with various disabilities. Therefore, it is important that government prioritizes investment in Information Communications Technologies that reach all children, regardless of their disabilities.
ZANEC recognizes that Persons with Disabilities can contribute tremendously to the development of our Country if adequately empowered with the necessary knowledge and skills through education. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4 explicitly calls member states of the United Nations “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The SDGs call for access to quality education for all children by 2030, which requires strong action on inclusion of disadvantaged children, including those with disabilities. Further, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN) emphases on the right to education for children with disabilities. It is important to mention that through the National Disability Policy, the Disability Act, 7th National Development Plan, and the Education and Skills Sector Plan (ESSP), government has priorities for the provision of quality inclusive education for children with disabilities. However, the problem has been in the actual financing and implementation of the policy priorities. More still needs to be done to ensure that our school infrastructure is accessible to children with physical disabilities; adequate teachers with skills in special education are deployed in our schools; a flexible curriculum is developed and relevant special education materials are provided to our schools.
Finally, it is also important to mention that the commemoration of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities falls within the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV). This year’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism against GBV is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”. As we may be aware, children with disabilities face a lot of injustices in our societies that amount to GBV. Therefore, it is important we all take responsibility by mitigating violence against children and persons with disabilities in our schools, learning institutions, work places, communities as well as our homes.
ZANEC wishes everyone a happy International Day of Persons of Disabilities.