Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
FOR a long time now, the disabled have felt marginalised.They feel neglected. Institutions advocating the improvement of the welfare of the disabled are equally not so visible.
For instance, the plea for people with disabilities, especially the deaf, blind and intellectually challenged, to have their own curriculum is yet to be granted.
Pupils with disabilities are given the same curriculum with their able-bodied colleagues and they write the same examinations after the same period of learning.
Teachers who handle children with disabilities have for a long time been asking the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) to allow pupils whose finger dexterity makes it difficult to hold the pen during examinations to be aided by teachers on examination oath.
That has been granted.
First Lady Esther Lungu said during the Children with Autism Day that the syllabus/ curriculum and examinations for pupils with disabilities should be friendly.
Zambia has, however, made strides towards meeting some of the demands in the education sector.
At district level, the Ministry of General Education has created the position of education standards officer – special education (ESO-Special).
At provincial level, there is the senior education standards officer – special education (SESO-Special) while at ministry headquarters there is a director in charge of special education.
The problem, however, is that there is an uneven sharing as it is viewed as a bottomless pit.
Government should probably consider raising the visibility of special education by either creating the position of permanent secretary responsible for it or creating a separate ministry to look at the affairs of the disabled in general where they can have a department of education and another for those not in school.
There is also need for affirmative action, which will set aside a specific number of seats in Parliament for those representing the disabled.
Teachers in special education are not motivated as a special allowance they were receiving about 15 years ago was scrapped. They are remunerated just like other teachers who do not handle pupils with disabilities.
Despite some challenges in addressing issues of disabled citizens, Government has made a bold decision to host the Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Africa Network Conference on inclusive development in Lusaka from today up to Friday.
The conference, whose theme is ‘CBR for resilience building and sustainable development: Leave no one behind’, is jointly organised by CBR Africa Network (CAN) and Government.
The conference will influence stakeholder actions of the participating countries in ensuring disability issues are integrated in the development agenda.
“This is an opportunity for stakeholders to learn and share experiences on how to effectively ensure the quality of life of persons with disabilities. It is an important opportunity for Zambia to share her work in using the CBR approach to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities,” Minister of Community Development and Social Services Emerine Kabanshi said.
“I implore organisations from both the public and private sectors to sponsor delegates and support this conference in one way or another,” she said.
The conference will present an opportunity for stakeholders to share experiences on how to effectively ensure the quality of life of persons with disabilities.
It will provide a forum for dialoguing among CBR participants (Government, disabled people’s organisations, civil society and academia), and promote disability mainstreaming and inclusion in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Sustainable Development.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO