Traditional leaders in Luapula province have appealed to the government to consider waiving tuition fees for the girls in public learning institutions from primary to tertiary level.
Luapula Chiefs Council Secretary chief Chisunka made the call following an observation that tuition fees for both male and female learners in public institutions are part of the factors that hinder further education of girls.
“When you check fees in primary, secondary schools, and tertiary institutions, you will find that girls pay the same for education as what the male child pays. For instance, if it is K1, 000 to pay both males and females will pay the same fee. This is frustrating the same initiatives meant to ease the educational interest of girls,” he observed.
Chief Chisunka has since lobbied parliamentarians to enact laws that will reduce the burden of paying school fees for the girls as a means of fighting child marriage.
“We want a girl child starting from grade one to college or university level not to be paying tuition fees so that we can see where we will reach as a country in this fight,” he said.
He said traditional leaders are making efforts to retrieve girls from marriages but this initiative is annulled when parents fail to pay school fees.
“School requires money and often times money is not found either by the chief or the girl child’s parents. But when we write letters to civil society organizations and other authorities to sponsor the girls we have taken away from marriages, the response they give us is that they also don’t have funds,” he said.
Chief Chisunka and chief Kalasa Lukangaba of the Ushi people in Mansa district were speaking during the Plan International Zambia’s “strengthening civil society to end child marriage in Eastern and Southern Africa” project launch of in Luapula Province.
And chief Kalasa Lukangaba wondered why the fight against early marriages has not yielded much results even after many years of such efforts.
“Luapula is still ranked second highest in numbers of early child marriage in the country, and from the time we started this fight nothing has changed. We appeal to relevant authorities to consider revising policies concerning the girl child,” he said.
He said the effort being put in by traditional leaders to fight early child marriages should be proportionate to efforts of those in charge of enacting laws.
Meanwhile, Luapula Province Minister Nickson Chilangwa said government still believes in the potential of a girl child hence it will continue to further their education.
“So for us as government, any programme aimed at fostering the wellbeing of a girl child be it at the home level, village level, school level or church level, we stand firm in support and we shall not relent,” he said.
Mr. Chilangwa stated that for the recent past years, government has demonstrated its position on the matter by being an advocate of strengthening laws against girl child abuse.
“This is because the girl child is always disadvantaged especially in the village setting, where if there is only enough money to send one child to school, more often than not we hear that let the girl remain at home while the boy is sent to school,” he said.
Mr. Chilangwa explained that the initiatives to safeguard the welfare of the girl child must not be misinterpreted as one aimed at encouraging females to be lazy.
He said there should be a balance of opportunities given to both boys and girls even as the latter utilise chances given to them.
“As you know President Edgar Lungu is the African champion for a girl child and this is what he is advocating for that there should be a balance between the girl and boy child. So, we must follow in the footsteps of our leader,” he stated.