The allocation of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) bursaries in Zambia is facing scrutiny due to concerns about limited access to education for special needs learners.
Sarah Brotherton, Chairperson for Disabilities at the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), acknowledges the government’s efforts to increase the CDF. However, the MDC, an ally of the ruling UPND government, has noted a significant gap in providing fair education opportunities.
Special education learners have not benefited from the CDF Secondary Boarding and Skills Development Bursaries in the last two years.
These bursaries are meant to provide educational opportunities to vulnerable and marginalized individuals, but those with disabilities appear to be left out.
Reportedly, there are 260 Special Education schools in Zambia as of September 24, 2023. Unfortunately, only a small number of students from these schools have received CDF sponsorships, and there is no available data on beneficiaries accessing skills development bursaries.
The MDC urges local Councils, responsible for managing the CDF, to prioritize special education learners when allocating primary, secondary, and skills training bursaries.
Failing to do so could result in local-level segregation, especially considering that all districts likely have learners with special needs who may not be attending school.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 4, which aims for free, fair, and quality primary and secondary education for all by 2030, relies on the CDF’s role. This funding mechanism is crucial for the country to effectively achieve this educational goal.
Furthermore, the MDC argues that giving priority to special needs learners in bursary allocations aligns with SDG number 8, which seeks to create a world fully inclusive of persons with disabilities by 2030.
Sarah Brotherton, Chairperson for Disabilities at the MDC, emphasizes the importance of these changes and urges the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to ensure that Councils allocate at least 10 percent of bursaries to special education learners in each Constituency using the CDF.
This statement highlights the urgent need to address disparities in bursary allocations to ensure equal access to quality education, particularly for those with special needs.