July 2011: Education is a human right
By Mark Maseko
LUSAKA, Zambia – At a training programme on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) for Lusaka-based journalists, Hassan Ali Mohamed, chief of UNICEF Zambia’s education section, said that the provision of free and compulsory education should take into account the needs of marginalized children such as the disabled. He stressed that education should be available, accessible, acceptable, and adaptable.
Mohamed said that education is a human right which should be respected. He said that under the CRC, countries recognize the right of every child to education and to achieve this right progressively with equal opportunity. He said that countries are expected to make primary education compulsory and available free for all.
Since the introduction of the free basic education policy in 2002, primary school enrolment in Zambia has steadily increased. Student enrolment in basic education doubled from 1.6 million pupils in 2000 to 3.3 million in 2009. Gender parity at the lower basic levels reached around 0.97 in 2009 and is likely to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets by 2015.
“Quality education needs inputs. Some of the essential inputs include a reduced teacher-pupil ration, well trained teachers, a good and competency-based curriculum, good assessment, and effective monitoring” said Mr. Mohamed. UNICEF is supporting the Zambian Government to make the curriculum relevant and more child friendly. A curriculum needs to connect with what happens in the classroom and outside,” Mr Mohamed said.
A study to understand reasons why some Zambian children drop out of school is under way. This study, supported by UNICEF, is also being conducted in other African countries and findings are expected by September. It is hoped that the study will highlight the barriers and bottlenecks on retaining children in school.
Speaking during the same event, UNICEF Zambia Education Officer Munamuzunga Sikaulu commended the Zambian government for the re-entry policy which has allowed girls who fall pregnant to go back-to-school. “The re-entry policy is good from a rights perspective. It has provided opportunities to many girls to go back to school with many going on to university,” said Sikaulu.