By Arthur Peirce & Claire Kalsbeek
In some ways, the education system in Zambia could be considered quite comprehensive. At a glance, by the time a student has graduated from university in Zambia, they will have experienced seven years of primary schooling, five years of secondary education, and a four-year undergraduate degree. Though this may sound ideal, very few students actually manage to obtain this level of formal education.
Zambia belongs to both the African Charter of Human Rights and the UN's Convention of the Rights of the Child. Both internationally recognized treaties affirm that education is a right for all children. Though it has been agreed that equal opportunity should be offered, we still observe that a lack of accessibility to formal schooling very much exists in Zambia. To understand the complexity of this issue we must first consider some statistics about enrollment rates, gender equality and accessibility.
At the moment, Zambia has a primary school enrollment rate of 87.9% (UNICEF). However, for many children in Zambia, this is where education ends, as the enrollment rate for secondary school falls sharply, with only 42.9% of children successfully enrolling. According to the World Bank, the gross enrollment rate for tertiary education stands at 4% (2012).
Many children in Zambia, through no fault of their own, have to confront a series of socio-economic barriers which make continuing their educational journey difficult or even impossible. For example, many families frankly aren’t able to financially afford the costs of schooling. In rural areas, with no easy method of transportation, simply getting to school can be extremely difficult. Some children might experience challenging home lives, or may have responsibilities that prevent them from regular schooling.
By Zambian law and its commitment to the right to education, both male and female students should have equal access to education. The unfortunate reality is that there remains a substantial gender gap in the classroom. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) the literacy rate of males aged 15 or older stood at 90%, whereas for females, the number dropped to 83%. While the percentage for both genders is low, girls experience additional barriers including issues like teen pregnancies, early marriage and in some areas the lack of importance placed on female education.
The aforementioned issues are, of course, exacerbated for homeless, orphaned, or displaced children who are 2.1 times more likely to report low life satisfaction in Zambia. Another statistic that displays the disparity marginalized children are facing is that they are 14.4 times less likely to achieve the baseline level of mathematics proficiency compared to their peers. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) figures, only 5% of graduating students achieve the minimum level of proficiency at reading and just 2% in mathematics. Statistics like these are irrefutable and show that the gaps in the Zambian education system exist, and there is much work to be done.
Modzi works to provide academic scholarship and unique mentorship opportunities for children coming from severely impoverished backgrounds and ultimately facilitate their access to quality education. We advocate for those who have been neglected and who are struggling not for lack of ability, but for lack of opportunity. Our modzi method has three main focuses differentiating our model for student success as it’s individualized, holistic and sustainable. We tailor our programs to each student’s needs in order to best support their inspiring potential. And we strongly believe that change starts with one.
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