Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is excited to join the rest of the World in commemorating the Global Action Week for Education (GAWE). GAWE is one of the key advocacy events for the education movement. The Global Action Week presents an opportunity for all stakeholders including government, cooperating partners, civil society organisations and the general public to reflect on the progress that we are making in the provision of quality education for all. The event is also aimed at raising awareness and promoting action towards the attainment of specific targets in the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 in line with the theme.
The theme for this year’s GAWE is “More and Better Financing for Education”. Indeed, there is a critical need for increased financing to the education sector as the current budget allocations leave much to be desired. The COVID 19 pandemic has also affected the education sector in that learning is no longer taking place the way it used to. For instance, the need for social distancing in schools has led to multiple shifts thereby reducing learning hours. Similarly, the reach for alternative modes of education provision involving radio, television and e-learning has remained low. These changes have also made education even more costly. Unfortunately for Zambia, the share of the education budget has dropped by about 43% in the last six years from 20.3% in 2015 to 11.5% in 2021. The reduction in the education budget notwithstanding, the quality of education at all levels has also experienced a steady decline over the last decade. It is for this reason that we would like to call upon government to consider increasing the 2022 education budget from the current 11.5% to at least 20% in line with the commitments the country has made through the SADC and Cairo Protocols on Education.
Additionally, because of the COVD 19 Pandemic, there are still around 260 million out-of-school children in the world. In Zambia alone there over 800, 000 out of school children. It is estimated that to reach SDG 4, and bring the 1 billion into a quality and inclusive education system, annual investments in education need to double from $1. 2 to $3 trillion. Many governments still don’t reach the international benchmark of 20% budget share for education which is a necessary step to achieve SDG 4.
In line with the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) theme, we therefore call upon the government and all stakeholders to:
- Increase state funding for education to at least 20% of public expenditure.
- Increase the tax base in order to increase resources, working towards a minimum tax-to-GDP ratio of 20%.
- Engage relevant agencies for urgent debt cancellation, while at the same time reducing borrowing to only critical areas;
- Ensure inclusive education systems through equitable financing and programmes that prioritises the most marginalised.
- Provide free quality education for all and improve the quality of teaching through adequate recruitment, remuneration and continued teacher training.
- Allowed space for individuals and civil society to speak up and listen and respond to the voices of those affected.
We also call upon developed countries to continue working towards the goal of 0.7% overseas aid and ensure that 20% of this is ring-fenced to be spent on education. Developed countries must also increase their contributions to the global partnership for education because education cannot wait.
ZANEC also takes this opportunity to applaud the Ministries of General and Higher Education for ensuring that learning continues amidst COVID 19 Pandemic as education is key to the wellbeing of individuals as well as national development. Therefore, it is important that all stakeholders collaborate by working with the two ministries to ensure that learning continues whilst at the same time observing COVID 19 prevention measures so that no one is left behind. We are also encouraging local companies and corporations to come in and contribute towards the domestic finance base to the education and skills sector.
Let us remember that education is the best equalizer and adequately financing it will lead to accelerated development and an equal society. We wish everyone God’s blessing as we commemorate the 2021 GAWE.