First Lady, Esther Lungu, with Minister of Community Development and Social Services, Hon. Emerine Kabanshi, PM (middle), Germany Ambassador to Zambia, His Excellency, Mr Achim Burkart (right), UNZA Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Luke Mumba (2nd left) and Dean, School of Education, Dr Oswell Chakulimba (left) singing the national anthem during the commissioning of the Special Needs Education Resource Centre today, Thursday, 19th October 2017.

First Lady of the Republic of Zambia, Madam Esther Lungu, says that educating and training children with disabilities will enable them acquire survival skills to enable them become self-reliant since education plays a vital role in transforming societies across the globe. The First Lady was speaking at the commissioning of the Special Needs Education Resource Centre at the University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Road Campus on Thursday, 19th October 2017.

She said that the nation’s vision to build more schools and enrol learners of all type was a positive move in the right direction. “According to the Ministry of General Education Report of 2016, as a country, we only had about 1,670 specially trained teachers to handle the various disabilities,” Mrs Lungu said.

Furthermore, the First Lady, Madam Lungu commended and urged UNZA to be equal to the task and be innovative in the provision of special education training to children with disabilities in the country.

Through the Germany Ambassador to Zambia, Mr Achim Burkart, Mrs Lungu thanked the Christian Blinden Mission, Hilfswerk der Deutschen Lions and RTL Television of Germany for their financial and technical support toward the construction of the Special Needs Education Resource Centre.

Meanwhile, Minister of Community Development and Social Services, Hon. Emerine Kabanshi, MP, said that when persons with disability were denied education and survival skills so that they could fully participate in community life, the situation led to social isolation and serious violation of human rights of people with special needs.

Mrs Kabanshi said that this project was in line with Government’s legal provisions as outlined in the Persons with Disabilities Act, No. 06 of 2012 which provides a legal framework for mainstreaming disability into the national agenda.

And Germany Ambassador to Zambia, Mr Achim Burkart, said that the centre would provide Special Needs Education and Rehabilitation and Assessment services in order to increase access to education for children and students with disabilities as well as improve the quality of training.

Mr Burkart said that one of the objectives of the Centre was to provide assessment services to children with disabilities and an accessible teaching as well as learning environment for UNZA students studying Special Education.

At the same event, UNZA Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Luke Mumba, said that the Special Needs Education Resources Centre was a unique facility as it would be providing education to children with special needs and offering assessments on disability in the country.

He said that the services that would be provided at the centre would include assessments on visual impairment, hearing impairment, intellectual disability and multiple disabilities.

The Special Needs Education Resource Centre will be providing the following services but not restricted to these:

1.    Provide support and advice to parents of children with special educational needs
2.    Provide advice to support agencies dealing with persons with special needs
3.    Provide training workshops and symposia to inform professionals and the public on a variety of topics related to special education needs.

The Special Needs Resources Centre, which was funded by CBM-Germany and others, has been constructed at the cost of €876,830 (K11 million). Besides, the same cooperating partners donated a 15-seater capacity minibus worth €27,454.52 (K356,908.76) to transport young learners with special education needs as the centre would be catering for learners from two years old to sixteen.

Two children with special needs read out a poem prepared for the official commissioning of the Special Needs Education Resource Centre at UNZA.