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Activists want more than ‘school’ dressing from MPs

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Steve Sharra

By Deogratias Mmana:

Some education experts have described as a lost opportunity for female legislators, who recently wore school uniforms in Parliament as one way of advocating for girls’ education rights.

On June 29, 2021 female parliamentarians commemorated International Day of the African Child by wearing school uniforms while participating in the National Assembly.

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Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara said it was worth celebrating with the girl child, considering challenges she faces in her daily life.

Hara said: “We want to encourage them that, even though they are facing challenges in their daily lives, they should preserve and work hard. We have female MPs who have gone through the same experience but did not give up.”

Education activist Limbani Nsapato, while commending the female legislators for showing good solidarity for the girl child, said the event was just a mere media stunt which did not have much impact.

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He said the public expected the legislators to be tabling bills and policies that would make impact on girls’ rights.

“They need to advocate for a conducive legal and policy implementation framework for girls. Currently there are many challenges girls are facing due to poor implementation of policies and strategies,” he said.

Among the strategies being poorly implemented, according to Nsapato, is the National Girls Education strategy.

“MPs need to use the power they have to hold the executive arm of government to account for inadequate implementation of this strategy,” he said.

Another education expert Steve Sharra said while there are many efforts to uplift the girl child, the gap between boys and girls still remains wide.

Sharra said there is even a backlash against the many efforts being implemented to promote girl’s education.

“What this new backlash fails to appreciate is that while both boys and girls are still facing problems, the problems are still worse for girls,” Sharra said.

He cited the pass rate at Standard 8 and Form 4 and tertiary enrolment which he said still favours boys.

Sharra said there are already various policies in place to advocate for girls and that their impact is yet to be seen as boys continue to dominate the education space.

“The laws and policies to promote girls’ education are there. In primary schools, we now have 60,000 more girls than boys. In TTCs, we also have more female student teachers than males now. So there is good progress owing to the efforts by the women MPs, civil society and government among others,” said Sharra.

Chairperson of the Women Caucus Lonnie Chijere Phiri said in Parliament that girls should remain focused throughout their education years.

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