Children’s Parliament demands solutions to deteriorating education standards

Children from selected districts in Malawi on Friday adjourned the First Session of their National Children’s Parliament with a litany of demands to the authorities at the Capital Hill.

The children members of Parliament (MPs), who were 80 in total and drawn from selected districts across the country, raised concerns over the deteriorating education standards, which they feared may negatively affect their dreams for brighter future.

The session was financially supported by child rights organizations, which included Save the Children International (SCI), UNICEF, Plan International Malawi, World Vision Malawi and Dowa-based When the Saints.

In their resolutions presented to the Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati, at the close of the session, the children are demanding that the government should address problems of inadequacy of teaching and learning materials, lack of secondary schools in rural areas, inadequate special needs teachers and the ever-skyrocketing pupil-teacher ratio in public schools.

Speaker of the Children’s Parliament, Victoria Ganamba, said it is high time Malawi Government its development partners ensured that every child is accessing quality education and in safe environments.

The 16-year-old Victoria also asked the government and its partners to expand bursaries targeting underprivileged children.

Victoria Ganamba presented the resolutions on behalf of the Children’s Parliament–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

In her remarks, Save the Children International Country Director, Kim Koch, said the setting up of the National Children’s Parliament is a great milestone in providing a coordinated and strategic platform for meaningful child participation in Malawi.

Koch described the bringing together pf children from cities and rural areas to voice out issues from their communities, schools, and homes as a powerful event, and demonstrates the government’s commitment to children’s rights, regardless of their status or location.

She added that child parliaments have also become strategic platforms for public policy consultations, ensuring there is a legitimate space for consulting children on policies affecting their rights and development.

Koch addressing child parliamentarians inside the Malawi Parliament–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

“Children’s parliaments are not a show. They have real power and consequence. I hope that all key policy stakeholders will take Children’s Parliaments and all opportunities for child participation as a core part of the implementation of the Malawi Vision 2063 and national development plans, which are largely about their future,” said Koch.

Koch said the development partners are particularly happy to “be launching the National Child Participation Guidelines and National Child Participation Strategy and are proud of the significant contribution that Save the Children has made in their development.”

She said the guidelines and the strategy will provide all stakeholders in the country with ways to meaningfully involve children at the family, community, institutional and as we see here, at national level.

Kaliati officially closing the Children’s Parliament–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyas Times

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Social and Community Affairs, Savel Kafwafwa, said gone are the days when children had no voice over what is happening in the society.

Kafwafwa, who is also member of Parliament for Dedza North, said the Children’s Parliament, therefore, offers the children a platform to amplify their voices and demand solutions to various problems in their lives.

“We therefore commended the non-governmental organizations that made this session possible. We appeal for more support so that this should not be the first and last, but the beginning of more Children’s Parliamentary sessions in future,” he said.

In her session closing remarks, Minister Kaliati assured that the government will severely deal with perpetrators of violence against children in Malawi.

However, Kaliati asked the sponsors to extend and expand their reach to all the districts to ensure that every district is represented in the National Children’s Parliament.

“It is my intention that this should become an annual event and not just once off event considering its importance in shaping the future of our children. Let me, therefore, request all our partners to support the implementation of the National Children’s Parliament and not just the district parliaments. It’s sad that not all the districts are represented here,” she said.

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