By JOWIT SALUSEKI? –
“YOUTHS with disability are not included when implementing policies that affect their well-being. The youths are always represented instead of involving them in decision making over issues that affect them.”
This was Ian Banda’s lament. He is a grade 11 pupil of Kabulonga?Boys High School and a physically challenged teenager.?He spoke at the recently held National Symposium on Children with?Disabilities hosted by Plan Zambia International in Lusaka.?
The theme for the two days symposium was ‘Sustainable Development?–the Essence of Including Children with Disabilities’.?
Ian believes that children with disabilities have the potential?to contribute to the development of the country if they are engaged in?the formulation of programmes and policies which directly affect them.
“For instance, most schools and other infrastructure that exist in?Zambia are inaccessible to disabled people. Besides that children with?disabilities need protection from violence and other forms of?exploitations.
“Unfortunately we have on many occasions been left out?on programmes that affect our lives including those on sexuality and?safer reproductive health,” laments Ian.?
Plan Zambia International Senior Advisor Wamundila Waliyuwa says?children with disabilities have individualised challenges which are?enshrined in Article 3 of 2011 of the United Nations (UN) Convention?on Children with disabilities.?
Children with disabilities have the right to health, education and?this means that they should be able to achieve what they go to school?for … unfortunately they suffer from discrimination starting from?their homes and communities’’, notes Mr Waliyuwa.?
Likando Kalaluka, Plan Zambia Legal Advisor said it was possible to?have an inclusive education and disability at the same time for as?long as members of the public are able to do away with the stigma and?misconceptions that people with disabilities cannot be trained so?that they can be self reliant.?
There are a lot of perceptions that when you put able bodied?children in the same class with those with disabilities then you will?delay the education success of the able bodied.?But according to Sections 24 and 25 of the UN Convention on Children?with Disabilities, it is a criminal offence if a guardian or parents?do not enrol their child with disabilities into school, as children?should be able to participate effectively in all aspects of life?including education.?
The road sector also hinders people with disabilities to attend school?because of the manner in which roads are designed.?
However, the Persons with Disability Act of 2012 states that?education in Zambia should be inclusive to all including those with?disabilities,” says Mr Kalaluka.?
He stressed on the need for public buildings such as health?facilities, schools, shopping malls, banks and other social amenities?to be constructed in ways in which disabled people can have easy?accessibility to them.?
Milika Sakala, another discussant called for the revision of the?school curriculum which should be tailored according to the labour?market so that the over 2 million persons with disabilities (according?to The 2010 Zambia’s Central Statistical Office estimates) will be?able to find jobs based on their skills and career, bearing in mind?that only 3 percent of disabled people have access to tertiary?education in Zambia.?
Plan Zambia Country Director, Samuel Musyoki said the organisation?has in the past 75 years of its existence strived to address?disability and inclusion issues as part of its core activities of?taking action and standing up for children’s rights.?
“Plan International works around four thematic areas namely?education, health, economic empowerment and child protection and?participation. Under each of these thematic areas there are different?projects that are meant to promote the rights of children and youths?with the emphasis on issues to do with disabilities,” says Mr?Musyoki.?
Community Development , Mother and Child Development Minister Emerine?Kabanshi was elated by Plan Zambia International for hosting the?symposium , adding that the conference had come at the right time when?the Government had just received the Michael Chilufya Sata disability?ambassadorial award for being a leading country in advancing issues?of persons with disabilities.?
“Today we are witnessing the first ever disability and inclusion?symposium being hosted by Plan Zambia International …These events?demonstrate the commitment Government has placed on issues of?disabilities through open space for participation and consultation and?it is for this reason that our country was awarded by the African?Disability Alliance for advancing issues of persons with disabilities?through legislation, policy and programme advancements,” said Ms?kabanshi.?
Ms Kabanshi said education, technology, health and employment were?critical areas of human development which should be exhaustively?explored in order to help stakeholders to come up with guidelines on?disability and inclusive programming.?
“Many times we gather to discuss children without their involvement?and certainly miss out on some of their needs , however, am touched?and at the same time excited to see children with disabilities being?part of the symposium .
Let us harness the spirit of involving?children when dealing with matters affecting them, especially the?participation of children with disabilities in all aspects of life,”?notes Ms Kabanshi.?
The Minister asserted that ever since the Government ratified the UN?Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in?February 2010, the financial allocation to the Zambia Agency for?Persons with Disabilities increased by 80 per cent to enhance its?service delivery.?She added that Government through a consultative process developed the?national policy on disability whose implementation plan are to be?launched soon.?
“The national social protection policy has also been developed and?it captures disability as one of its core pillars. The Government will?ensure that adequate funds are allocated through parliament to?disability issues across all ministries.?We have appointed disability focal point persons in all ministries and?we shall soon embark on the training of these focal point persons,”?assures Ms Kabanshi.?
Overall, the State has shown commitment on mainstreaming disability?issues in the revised Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) so that?it does not depart from its pledges on disabilities matters.