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Zambia - Preprimary & Primary Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceZambia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


The national number of preprimary education centers was 443 in 1995. The main providers of the service are churches, councils, NGOs, and private individuals. Nationally a very small proportion of preschool aged children is able to attend preschool. Indications from available data show that only 7.3 percent of 3 to 6 year old children had attended some form of preschool center by 1998 (Silanda et al. 1999). In 1998 only 8.5 percent of the 248,698 children enrolled in Grade 1 had access to preschool education. Children in urban areas have better access to preschool education as evidenced by the higher proportion of children with preschool experience in urban areas reported to be 23.7 percent when compared to 2.7 percent in rural areas (Silanda et al. 1999). The number of trained teachers in preschools increased from 473 in 1990, to 1069 in 1995, and more than 1,200 in 1997.

There are three types of primary schools in Zambia: namely government schools, private schools, and community schools. Most of the primary schools are still government controlled. Community schools have no age limits and are run by the community and or the church. Teachers tend to be volunteers paid by the community and/or the church. Pupils who do well in these schools eventually enter the formal school system. The community school in the Lusaka province caters to dropouts, especially girls. Disadvantaged children are getting an alternative path to basic education through the community schools which have increased 7 times in their numbers from 55 in 1996 to 373 in 1998. Enrollments in community schools have increased 7 times as well from 6,599 in 1996 to 47,276 in 1999. The percentage of enrollments of orphans has been increasing as well.

Primary Gross and Net Enrollment Ratios (GER and NER) indicate that there has been an overall increase in GER since 1970, with major fluctuations during the time period. The number of primary schools increased by 32 percent from 2,564 in 1970. The imbalances in educational opportunities between the urban and rural areas appear to be narrowing. According to Silanda et al. (1999), the 1998 education data indicated that 16.9 percent of the children in rural areas had no access to educational opportunities while the proportion in the urban areas was 12.8 percent. Over the period of 1970 to 1998, there has been a close in the gender gap in primary gross enrollment ratios. The increase in the enrollment of girls was attributed to gender sensitization campaigns through the Program for the Advancement of Girls' Education (PAGE) and by NGOs like the Alliance for Community Action on Female Education (ACAFE) and FAWEZA. Primary gross enrollment rates are higher in urban rather than rural areas. School dropout rates are higher in rural areas and higher for female than male. Over the period from 1970 to 1998 the dropout rate for children was higher in the upper grades than the lower grades (Silanda et al. 1999). This problem affected girls more than boys and girls in rural areas more than urban girls. The most common reason for the high dropout rates found by researchers was the rising cost of education. Other reasons include early marriages and pregnancies, harmful traditions and customs, and long distances to school. Progression rates to higher levels of primary schooling in rural areas are lower than in urban areas. For example, in 1998 the progression rate averaged 85 percent while in urban areas it averaged 92 percent. In rural areas, girls faired slightly lower in progression rate compared to boys. This means that fewer girls than boys progress to the final grade of primary schooling. Nationwide female illiteracy in rural areas is still high.

In 1991, the Ministry of Education and its cooperating partners embarked on a program of school rehabilitation and construction to increase access to formal primary education. By 1998, some 2,325 classrooms, 1,100 teachers' houses, 2,100 pit latrines, and 100 water borne toilets were built. The creation of 2,325 new classrooms translated into the provision for 93,000 new students. The average increase translated to 10,000 per year, below the estimated goal of 120,000 new students annually from the year 1990 to 2000. Despite the increase in the number of primary schools, about 657,000 school children from ages 7 to 13 cannot be enrolled in either government or private schools (Silanda et al. 1999).

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