Children raise their voices to transform education in Zambia
130 students share insights ahead of global Transforming Education Summit
In the lead up to the Transforming Education Summit (TES) convened by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 19 September in New York, 130 students aged 11 to 21 from different provinces and backgrounds shared their valuable insights on how to ensure quality education for all in Zambia.
Girls and boys from urban and rural secondary schools in six provinces participated in a series of child-friendly consultations in which they discussed the challenges they face in their learning path and proposed solutions to make sure every child in Zambia has access to quality education.
The Transforming Education Summit (TES) has been convened in response to a global crisis in education – one of equity, and inclusion, quality and relevance and will help elevate education to the top of the global political agenda. The education crisis is having a devastating impact on the future of children and youth worldwide, including Zambia. The progress towards the Education-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4) is badly off track. COVID-19 has interrupted the education of more than 90% of the world’s children and for some, especially girls, the break in education might become permanent.
In preparation for the Summit, consultations with key stakeholders and young people have taken place around the world, including in Zambia. These have offered an opportunity for young people to express their concerns and ideas to improve education.
Learners’ voices are key to transform education and they have a clear message: #LetMeLearn
It is crucial to listen to children and young people’s voices when creating education policies to ensure that the policies and practice reflect their needs.
Throughout the consultations, participants shared why education is important to them.
“Education is important because it builds the future of young people and they get to achieve their dreams”, said Catherine, a participant in the consultation.
Children’s Dream school
When students shared their ideas about their dream school, they addressed both challenges and solutions to transform the education system in Zambia.
“It’s wonderful that the Government of Zambia has introduced free education. Thank you, now we can all learn!”, shared a learner from Chingola secondary school, while other peers said that this was a great thing, but more support is needed to provide them with uniforms and books.
Participants mentioned that their dream school has educated teachers who want to be teachers. According to them, the quality of teachers plays a major role in learning. “We want teachers who are passionate about their teaching. Because some teachers just teach. We want teachers that teach from their hearts, because we notice the difference,” said learners at High Ridge Secondary School.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) was another important topic in the discussions. “Our dream school has safe water and sanitation facilities, because it affects school attendance, especially for girls on their period. We need safe water, toilets and good hygiene to ensure we are comfortable and able to stay in school to learn,” said learners from Naambe Secondary school.
“We need more education resources like the internet, libraries and laboratories, so that we can learn better,” said a learner from Kabundi Secondary school.
Others mentioned issues like distance as a key barrier to access education. Our dream school is located close to the community, so the distance is not a hindrance for any children getting an education. “Sometimes the schools are too far away, make them accessible so that we all can learn”, said a learner from Kabundi Secondary school.
Our dream school has a cafeteria where everyone get food, to ensure that all children get a meal. “It’s difficult for me to learn when I am hungry. Please provide meals for those of us with little or no food at home”, said a learner from Naambe Secondary School.
Our dream school has recreational facilities. “I want a playground where I can play games with my friends”, said learners in the consultation.
Our dream school is inclusive for everyone. “I want all children to be able to go to school, including children living with disabilities”, learners said.
To ensure that all children can attend and complete their education the participants requested that the community and parents are sensitized about the importance and benefits of children going to school and completing their education.
The learner’s insights on gaps and solutions to ensure quality education for all was consolidated in a report which was shared with the Zambian Government Ministry of Education.