CHOMBA MUSIKA, Lusaka
FIRST Lady Esther Lungu yesterday officially opened the inaugural international conference on girls’ education in Africa with a call on delegates to devise strategies aimed at increasing chances of girls’ progression to higher levels of education.
Mrs Lungu challenged the over 500 delegates, who included education specialists, to help find ways of addressing challenges that hinder girls and women from accessing education.
The three-day conference has been organised by the Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE), in partnership with the Ministry of General Education.
“I am happy that this conference will focus on the girl-child education because education attainment among girls and women still remains very low, especially in rural areas.
“Some of the challenges faced by girls include economic constraints, forced and early child marriages and teen pregnancies, which lead to dropping out of school,” Mrs Lungu said.
The conference, which has attracted 32 African countries, is being held under the theme ‘Towards gender equality in education in Africa: Positioning the youth to champion Africa’s educationist agenda’.
Mrs Lungu said she is happy that special consideration will be given to girls’ low participation in science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, technical and vocational education training.
“I am also aware that the conference will also address school-related agenda-based violence and creation of school environments that support quality learning outcomes for boys and girls,” she said.
The First Lady commended traditional leaders for introducing by-laws to punish individuals found perpetrating vices that prevent girls from accessing education.
Mrs Lungu, however, said there is need to empower traditional leaders with vehicles and other resources to help them effectively implement programmes that champion girl-child education.
Chief Chamuka and Chieftainess Chiawa were among the delegates.
And Minister of Education Dennis Wanchinga commended the first family for championing empowerment of women and girls.
Dr Wanchinga said Mrs Lungu has used her Esther Lungu Foundation non-governmental organisation to empower the vulnerable in society, especially girls.
And FAWE chairperson Christine Dranzoa appealed to African governments to consider recognising FAWE’s pan-African status at all levels and support its 34 chapters.
Professor Dranzoa said FAWE, which is commemorating 25 years of existence, has provided scholarships to over 30,000 girls and women from primary to tertiary education.