News in South Africa

News in South Africa

Community Schools in Zambia

Sustainable Development | Zambia

Written by: Paul Kasonkomona, OLF Zambia


As a result of the political and economic shifts that occurred during Zambia’s transition away from a socialist economy in the early 1990s, many Zambians became concerned with the country’s large number of uneducated children. Communities began forming their own schools, usually in the absence of a nearby public school and/or in response to the inability of families to meet the costs associated with government-provided schooling.

Supported by local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), these local initiatives have grown into a national movement. The country’s current education sector plan recognizes the critical role community schools play in contributing to realizing education for all (EFA), as evidenced by the following direct quote from the 2001 Ministry of Education “Policy and Guidelines for the Development of Community Schools in Zambia:”


“The Ministry recognizes that over the last four years two kinds of successful alternative approaches that address enrolment of orphans and vulnerable groups have already been established. Therefore new agreements and memoranda of understanding will be developed with community schools and interactive radio centers to provide specific access for out-of-school children”.


The community assumed that these agreements would increase the Ministry’s support through grants and materials while still preserving strong community ownership. However, the opposite was the case as no meaningful support has been rendered. Up until 2005, each community school was given approximately $634 per year; 20% used for teachers allowances and the rest for school management. 

The Zambian government officially recognized community schools in 1998. In 2002, the government declared basic education free. All schools were directed to stop charging any form of fees for pupils in grades one through seven, and uniforms were no longer compulsory. Furthermore, the government directed that no pupil should be denied enrollment or excluded from school because of inability to pay any levy. During the same time period, community schools expanded along with access to public schools. By design, community schools often serve the poorest, most vulnerable children in Zambia. As many as 500,000 students are estimated to attend community schools—approximately 20 percent of the total basic education enrollment in Zambia.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic and the fiscal crisis confronting the country over the past 10 years, represent two notable factors contributing to the accelerated growth of community schools in Zambia since the mid-1990s.

Most schools are started without the prior knowledge of the Ministry. Communities, local organizations or individuals simply decide to start a school to meet an identified need.  OVC serving-organizations in Zambia are as vulnerable as the children they passionately serve. They have inadequate resources; low levels of skills, lack of financial resources and minimal infrastructure where good care for the children can take place. The nearest organizations have gone to, is rent out church space for caregivers to use as classrooms. Care givers work tirelessly and passionately without any incentives which in most cases, is of minimal concern. It is for this reason that OLF Zambia through its programs; African Network for Children Orphaned and at Risk (ANCHOR) and Regional OVC Support Initiative (ROSI) has resorted to partner with these schools to supplement the provision of services that they cannot offer.

After partnering with OLF Zambia, baseline capacity assessments are conducted, reports highlighting gaps are presented to the school leadership and intervention strategies discussed. To date, OLF Zambia enjoys formal relationship with 15 organizations.


OLF Zambia encourages that schools adopt the government requirement of formulating the Parent Community Schools Committee (PCSC) to provide the school with oversight in; administration, management, supervision. Furthermore, OLF provides capacity on the following; psychosocial counseling, formation and management of kidz clubs, child protection, governance and leadership, recourse mobilization.


ANCHOR has activities in Chawama and Ngombe Townships in Lusaka where 56 kidz clubs have been set up. The children in kidz clubs are cared for by home based care givers who were trained by OLF staff. ANCHOR has become popular due to the existence of kidz clubs which has seen an increase in demand for enrollments by over 1000 children. This was on the first day snacks were served at Ngombe site. “If only this programme could continue, OLF would put a smile on countless children in our community” Said Esther Mkandawire (Ngombe site leader).

All partner organizations attested to having befitted from OLF-Z skills building workshop on governance offered through the ROSI program. During a mid-term assessment, most organizations had started amending their governance documents and restructuring their boards. There is eagerness to implement OLF/ROSI strategies as organizations have an understanding that it is possible to bring about change if they created networks with new and likeminded organizations where they share new ideas and experiences.

It is this caring hand that stands as a hallmark of the OLF Zambia in the communities and show constituencies the true character of OLF Zambia.


Photo:  From left, Rebecca Mvula - OLF Country Director, Rachel Kgeledi - ROSI Programme Manager, Winnie Mokoti, Hildah

Nanyangwe - Love Community School, Joshua Chitundu - Lusugu Community School











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