Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is pleased to join the rest of the world in commemorating the Day of the African Child which falls today, the 16th of June, 2020. This day was instituted in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa. At that time, students marched in protest against the poor quality of education they received and demanded to be taught in their languages. Therefore this day serves to commemorate these children and the brave action they took in defense of their right to education. The Day of the African Child thus celebrates the children of Africa and calls for serious introspection and commitment towards addressing the numerous challenges facing children across the continent.
The theme for this year is “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children”. Indeed there is need to reflect on the gains that have been made and the challenges faced since the adoption of the Agenda 2040. The main objective of the Agenda 2040: is to have an Africa fit for children” and restore the dignity of the African child through assessing the achievements and challenges faced towards the effective implementation of the African Children’s Charter. Section 6 of the African Charter continental framework for advancing children’s rights and aspiration states that every child must benefit fully from quality education. It is important that every child has access to quality education in Africa, including Zambia which is a signatory to the African Charter on the Rights of the Child. Education is a fundamental human right that should be accessible by every child regardless of the gender, color, tribe, race and ability.
It is very sad that in this era of COVID 19, access to quality education by all children has worsened. The number of out of school children has also increased due to the long closure of schools in 2020 caused by the COVID 19 pandemic. A lot more needs to be done to sustain learning in our schools. We once again emphasise that schools should not close prematurely. Instead, it is important to tighten the COVID 19 prevention and mitigation measures in our schools for learning to continue.
It is ZANEC’s view that access to quality education cannot be achieved if funding to the education sector keeps reducing. Especially in this era of COVID 19, more resources are needed to build more classes and buy more desks that would allow for social distancing, deploy more teachers to allow for learning in small groups, purchase of prevention materials such as washing soaps, sanitizers, hand washing basins, and masks for vulnerable learners. More important also, we call for more innovative but safer ways to ensure continued learning for our Learners with Special Education Needs who are more affected. The provision of quality education amidst the COVID 19 pandemic is not cheap, delivery of quality education will require increased budgetary allocations to the education sector. Implementing programmes that ensure delivery of quality education for all children is the sure way of breaking the cycles of poverty.
Finally, ZANEC would like to wish all the African children great success as we commemorate their day today.