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Improving the cycle of education in Zambia

Zambia has long been committed to providing all children with a nine-year cycle of education and has made significant progress towards this goal, particularly in the first seven years of primary.

In 2010, 91% of the country’s children were enrolled at primary school; this compared with 71% in 1999.

However, there is a bottleneck in Zambia’s school system when it comes to pupils moving from primary to secondary education. Around one in three pupils fails to pass the grade 7 leaving exam, which allows them to enter secondary education. And even when pupils can make it to grade 8, there is a significant shortage of classrooms and teachers for secondary education. This means that many schools do not offer grade 8 and 9 classes and when they do, teachers are often not suitably qualified, having only been trained to teach primary grades.

Many in the country hope that spending on education will increase in the future to improve access to secondary education. Zambia has some of the world’s largest reserves of copper and cobalt. A new Mines and Minerals Development Act was passed in 2008 to ensure that higher royalty payments were made by mining companies and revenue from mining taxes tripled between 2009 and 2011. The new government also doubled royalty rates to 6% at the end of 2011. Some of the extra income is expected to go into the education sector, which is in real need of finance. According to the recent global monitoring from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Zambia spent only 1.5% of its gross national product on education in 2010, one of the lowest rates in the world.

Such investment is hugely important for the young people of Zambia. Research suggests that many youngsters with a primary level of education or less end up working below the poverty line, while young people with a secondary education fare a little better in their earnings. And for those who are lucky enough to go even higher in their education, poverty rates are very low. So it’s not hard to see the importance of education for the prospects of young Zambians.

In Lusaka, SOS Children’s Villages runs a primary and secondary school for around 1000 children and is improving school facilities elsewhere. To find out more about the organisation’s work in Zambia, go to:


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