Analysis: GERALD KAPUTO
IN SEPTEMBER 2015, the 193 member states of the United Nations signed to a principled and ambitious 15- year global development agenda dubbed, “Transforming our world; the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development’’ where each nation promised to follow the tenets of the 17 sustainable development goals.
For purposes of improving child welfare, the SDGs place emphasis on poverty reduction, increased access to health, nutrition, education and justice and child protection. Since then, the Zambian government has continued to tread on the path of providing the much-needed education to the citizens. However, at this stage, the question which we should ask ourselves is; is Government providing this inclusive and equitable quality education, to the children of Zambia?
The report entitled, “UNESCO Education Policy Review of 2016 shows that the country has made substantive progress in improving access and equity, but faces challenges on ensuring quality and relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the education sector.
The relevance of inclusive and equitable quality education to the development of a child and the nation cannot be over-emphasised, in that access to education is a fundamental human right and a cornerstone to sustainable development. The education review policy report by UNESCO, argues that each year of schooling raises the average GDP growth of a country by 0.37 percent. Further, each year of schooling increases individual earnings up to 10 percent. As such, if people in low income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty resulting in a 12 percent decrease in global poverty.
The right to education is also reinforced by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights article 26(1) which covers access and (2) which covers content by declaring, that “all girls and boys should complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes’’.
The international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR) article 13 and 14 equally notes that secondary education must not only be generally available, but also accessible to all by every appropriate means and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.
SDG # 4 is also linked with Zambia’s commitment to state’s commitment under the UN Convention on the rights of the child which has been widely ratified. Article 28 of the UNCRC recognises that while the right to education may be achieved progressively, it must be achieved on the basis of equal opportunity.
The UNESCO report further indicates that, there is remarkable progress in enrolment ratios as seen in 2014 where the gross enrolment reached 127 percent for primary education with completion rate of 99 percent. In the same year, 89.4 percent of children who completed primary education transited to lower secondary, an increase of nearly 36 percent over 10 years.
In terms of attaining gender parity, Zambia is rated among the best in sub-Saharan Africa at both primary and secondary levels. Although a lot of success is recorded in this area, challenges still exist on implementation of pre-service and in-service training programmes for teachers.
The report also points out that with regard to quality and relevance of education, Zambia has a high teacher-pupil ratio at 48:1 and is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The other notable challenges include; limited classroom space, prevalence of double or triple shifts among teachers resulting into restriction of instructional hours, and shortage of qualified teachers, low standards of education and training, ineffective use of curricula and lack of text books which have led to poor performance in national examinations as well as in large scale national and international assessments.
Despite recording remarkable education equity levels, it is estimated that 195,582 children were not in school in 2013 (World Bank, 2015). Additionally, many disparities exist with regard to geographical location, social class and cultural behaviour, while the plight of orphans and vulnerable children remain a major obstacle to equity in education.
The challenges outlined above are clearly manifested in some community schools as well as in some government schools both in urban and rural areas of the country. The gravity of poor sanitation in some schools could easily degenerate into various sicknesses for children. Consequently, this may defeat the realisation of the right to learn in a healthy environment for children. Therefore, Government should prioritise improving the learning environment in schools by providing all necessary learning materials and adequate sanitation.
The author is National Advocacy Officer at SOS Zambia.