WELCOME REMARKS READ BY THE ZANEC CHAIRPERSON MR HENRY KABWE DURING THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON IMPROVING QUALITY OF EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES HELD AT CRESTA GOLFVIEW HOTEL ON 4TH DECEMBER, 2020

The Guest of Honour, Minister of General Education

Members of Parliament Present

Government Officials from various Ministries Present

Lusaka Provincial Education Officer

Lusaka District Education Board Secretary

Civil Society Organisations Present

Academicians and Teachers Present

Learners with Disabilities Present

ZANEC Board and Member Organisations Present

Members of the Press Present

May I simply say all protocols observed

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my singular honor and privilege to welcome you all in this symposium which is part of the commemoration of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is happy to host this symposium dubbed “Improving Quality Education for Children with Disabilities”.  Your presence shows your true commitment to the promotion of access to quality inclusive education for all our children.

For those of you who may not be aware, ZANEC is a Coalition of non-state actors working in the Education and Skills Sector. The organisation is involved in research, advocacy and member capacity building on different aspects of the Education and Skills Sector in Zambia. ZANEC members comprise of Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Faith Based Organizations (FBO’s), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Teacher Trade Unions and Student Unions. The membership of ZANEC currently stands at 81 Member Organizations spread across the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen

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.

However, it is sad to note that children with disabilities remain one of the main groups being widely excluded from access to quality education. Disability is recognised as one of the least visible yet most potent factors in educational marginalization. For ZANEC and many other progressive organisations as well as government, this scenario should not be the case. As stipulated in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4 which 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) emphasizes on the right to education for children with disabilities. It is important to mention that through the National Disability Policy, the Disability Act, the 7th National Development Plan and the Education and Skills Sector Plan (ESSP), government has prioritized the provision of quality inclusive education for children with disabilities. However, the main concern is around the poor implementation of the existing policies and plans.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Am happy to inform you that in this National Symposium we will  have children with disabilities displaying their various skills showing that they are talented and if properly empowered can contribute tremendously to national development. There will also be paper presentations from experts in disability and inclusive education.  Further, the Symposium will come up with actions that will be used to lobby government and other key stakeholders to improve the welfare and access to quality education for children with disabilities.

As ZANEC we are glad that the Ministries of General Education, Higher Education; Community Development and Social Services as well as Parliamentarians from the Education, Science and Technology Committee are present in this meeting. Therefore, lets feel free to discuss and bring out issues that the decision makers present will need to address in the education and skills sector pertaining to improving the education of children with disabilities.

Ladies and Gentlemen

As ZANEC we also take this opportunity to appreciate our funding partner Education Outloud (EOL) together with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for supporting this National Symposium.  We further thank them for many other funding support that they have given the Coalition to promote education through research and advocacy in Zambia.

With these few remarks, I welcome you all once again to this important meeting, more so those who have travelled from the various Provinces across the country.

Thank you all and may God Bless you

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