Government says its education re-entry policy beneficiaries should not abuse the initiative.
And UNICEF Zambia country representative Hamid El Bashir Ibrahim said the realization of the right to education remains central to the agenda of the African Union and its member states including Zambia.
Gender and child development minister, Inonge Wina, says because of the policy government is saddened that most school girls in Kaoma district of Western Province have fallen victims of sexual exploitation and ended-up becoming pregnant.
Ms Wina said children, especially girls, need to grow and develop in an environment in which they are protected from all manner of abuse by would-be perpetrators.
She said government decided to bring the national commemoration of the day to Kaoma due to the alarming number of girls dropping out of school because of pregnancies in the district and called for the sharing of ideas on how best to address the problem.
The minister said this during the commemoration of the Day of the African Child in Kaoma yesterday under the theme: “A child Friendly, quality and compulsory education for all children in Africa”.
Ms Wina directed all relevant line ministries and other stakeholders to end the practice as the situation calls for urgent and concerted efforts.
She said while most African countries, including Zambia, have made strides towards universal primary education and gender parity, the gains are threatened by the negative factors such as teenage pregnancies, child marriages and defilements.
Ms Wina said the country is faced with a serious problem of child marriages due to high poverty levels and the lack of information on children’s rights especially among the rural community.
She said additionally limited facilities in rural areas make it difficult for girls to go to school which eventually leads to child marriages.
Ms Wina said government is committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights in the country as evidenced by the commencement of a review of the education curriculum to include sexual reproductive health as a way of addressing vices such as early pregnancies.
And speaking at the same function, UNICEF Zambia country representative Hamid El Bashir Ibrahim said the realization of the right to education remains central to the agenda of the African Union and its member states including Zambia.
Dr Ibrahim, in a speech read on his behalf by UNICEF Zambia Communications Chief, Patrick Slavin, said the Day of the African Child is an opportune moment to take stock of the progress made and the outstanding challenges towards the realization of the rights of the child in the region as embraced by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The UNICEF country head said, according to the 2013 Millennium Development Goal report, there has been remarkable progress towards the goal of universal education for children in Zambia with net enrolment rates over 90 per cent.
Dr Ibrahim said as the Day of the African Child is being commemorated, it is important to place the rights of the children as a priority throughout the year and praised the media for helping create an enabling environment for every child to attain quality education.
This year’s Day of the African Child was commemorated under the theme “a child friendly, quality free and compulsory education for all children.”