Zambia has made significant strides towards increasing access to education, however, the education system continues to be plagued with inadequate resources, poor education quality and low progression rates. (USAID 2020) While Zambia has achieved near universal primary school completion levels – the national statistics indicate a completion rate of 91.8 percent at Grade 7. It is masked by a regional disparity, with the northern region completing at 81.3 percent (72 percent female students) and Lusaka at a rate of 78.6 percent completion.
For children in the early years, the coverage of care, learning and education services remains persistently low. Overall, girls continue to be at a disadvantage with a large number of them dropping out in upper primary and secondary grades, and poorer levels of transition to junior and senior secondary levels (UNICEF). For girls at secondary level, they also have limited access to feminine hygiene facilities, the low value placed by some communities on girls’ receiving secondary education, teenage pregnancy, and child marriages.
Transition rates from primary to secondary school continue to remain low at 67.5 percent, mainly due to the lack of room in secondary schools to hold primary school graduates. Other barriers to children transitioning and completing secondary school include school fees introduced in Grade 8, and other costs that relate to education (such as the cost of not contributing to household income), and long-distance to many schools.
The quality of education also continues to be a challenge, however, the national assessments have shown significant improvements in this area. Unfortunately, the country’s targets for achievements have not yet been met, for instance, the target of an average score of 40 percent in language and mathematics was not reached in either Grade 5 and Grade 9. Additionally, the number of children passing the Grade 9 and 12 exams continues to be low, at 55.3 percent and 64.8 percent respectively (UNICEF).
Education in numbers:
- 87.9 percent net primary school enrollment
- 42.9 percent net secondary school enrollment
- 1.0 Gender Parity Index at primary school
- 0.90 Gender Parity Index at secondary school
- 67.5 percent transition rate to secondary school
Zambia has made significant achievements in the education sector since 2000. Enrollment in primary education reached 3.3 million in 2017, up from 1.6 million in 2000. Girls are now enrolling in primary school in the same numbers as boys.
But there are an estimated 800,000 school-aged children that are out of school. Access to early childhood education is low with only 26 per cent of children entering Grade 1 with any such experience. (UNICEF)