2016 Elections must bring renewed hope
There are many issues affecting persons with disabilities in Zambia. Only a small fraction of the work force with disabilities is in both formal and informal employment. If they earn a living, the majority is in the informal agricultural sector and their income is hand-to-mouth. A lot of youths with disabilities are not in employment on the basis of their disability. Therefore President Lungu’s government should make employment for persons with disabilities as a priority.
Children with disabilities face various difficulties in their education. They do not have adequate and appropriate learning materials to enhance learning and achievement on an equal basis with others. The schools do not have adequate teachers trained to handle children with disabilities in a quality inclusive education system. The built environment in the schools is not accessible thus scaring children with disabilities to enter into the schooling system. Even parents of children with disabilities find it very difficult to take their children to school in fear of discrimination, bullying and the dangerous built environment. The government must take measures to ensure that the education system in Zambia is fully and effectively inclusive for all children.
There are reports of increased suicide cases among youths. The increase in suicide is attributed to the increase in psycho-social problems which are not adequately and properly redressed. Suicide arises from psycho-social problems which society causes. The failure to address these problems is due to a system breakdown in the mental health field. It is important that the government addresses these mental health issues with seriousness. It is essential for the government to carry out research on the causes of mental health problems among youths.
It is further important to ensure that the rights of persons with mental health problems are promoted and protected. The communities should be made aware of the causes of mental health problems. They should be made aware of ways of identifying mental health problems and resolving them with high respect of the rights and inherent dignity of those who have mental health problems. It is in light of this that we call upon government to increase funding to the mental health sector.
As we go to the polls government should ensure the following:
Government should enact the Mental Health Bill which has been within the government systems for a long time. The Bill protects the rights of persons with Mental Health problems.
Government should launch and begin to implement the National Disability Policy and its Implementation Plan. The plan should be allocated adequate funding in the next national budget.
The government of President Lungu should increase funding to the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Currently, the Agency does not have an operational Board. Government should immediately put in place a Board for the Agency.
Government should put in place a new education policy that will promote inclusive education. Teachers should be trained and retrained to manage an education system that promotes quality effective inclusive education. Adequate funding should be allocated specifically to promote inclusive education.
Government, through the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities should carry out massive awareness raising on the rights of persons with disabilities and show-case their abilities. Aspects of the rights of persons with disabilities should be incorporated in schools too. The rights of women and children with disabilities should be prioritised.
Government should begin to align all laws and policies to the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2012 and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which is already ratified. This should include the labour laws.
Specific Statutory Instruments should be issues to ensure the implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act. Urgent is the issuing of a Statutory Instrument to compel all building owners to make their buildings accessible.