2001 ZAM: Educating Children Out of the System: The Community Schools Movement in Zambia
Author: Cashen, L.; Elacqua, G.; Gometz, E.; Karume, S.; Nadirova, K.; Naito, E.; Schmeil, N.
UNICEF has been involved in the community school movement in Zambia since the early 1990s, providing technical and material assistance, sponsoring teacher training, and supporting national community school organizations and advocacy programs. This report, prepared for UNICEF’s Division of Policy, Evaluation and Planning, presents an institutional assessment of the community school movement in Zambia, highlighting the critical areas that could be strengthened to make community schools more effective in providing education to children out of the formal system. This project and report were undertaken as part of the Economics and Political Development Workshop at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). This study was designed and carried out on behalf of UNICEF by a team of seven candidates of Masters of International Affairs at SIPA, with field support from a Masters candidate at the University of Zambia.
The main objective of this report is to provide UNICEF with information on policy and decision making, financing, and staffing and motivating as pertains to the community school movement in Zambia. Specifically, this report provides insight into the operation of community schools, defines the actors involved and the institutional principles that guide the community school movement, explores the relationship between the government of Zambia (GOZ) and the community school movement, and clarifies areas in which the community schools could be strengthened.
The team undertook a 2-week field visit during 5-18 March 2001, visiting community schools in Lusaka, Eastern and Southern Provinces. In Lusaka, the team also met with national level actors such as the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Zambian Community Schools Secretariat (ZCSS), and various donors. The team:
- Visited 11 community schools in 3 provinces (including 7 urban and 4 rural; 2 missionary-run, 6 community-run, and 3 run by the national NGO, Zambia Open Community Schools);
- Conducted group interviews incorporating Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) activities with over 70 parents;
- Held group interviews and PRA activities with 32 teachers;
- Involved over 100 children in activities to engage in casual interviews;
- Interviewed 6 children in-depth;
- Conducted interviews with the MOE, ZCSS, 2 Provincial Education Officers (PEO), 2 Focal Point Persons (FPP), and 7 donor organizations, including bilateral and multilateral donors and NGOs.
- The research team also conducted a background literature review on Zambia’s socio-economic conditions, political situation, and education system, as well as on examples of successful community school movements in other countries
Findings and Conclusions:
The community school movement lacks coordination and management infrastructure. Decisions regarding the schools are made by the local management committees, and national decision-making structures are almost entirely removed from the local level. Though local decision-making creates policies that are more relevant to local needs, the lack of supervision and financial support from the national supervisory bodies results in inconsistent educational quality and a deficiency of teachers and supplies. Mobilization of further funds is limited by the general isolation of community schools and their lack of management, fund-raising and advocacy capacity.
1. The SPARK curriculum is not meeting all the needs of community schools.
SPARK was originally envisioned as a condensed curriculum to be used by all community schools. As it has been implemented, however, it is clearly not flexible enough to meet the varied needs of the schools. Some schools teach children who are older than 16 years or younger than 9 years old, but SPARK is designed specifically for the 9-16 year age group. While SPARK is an effective tool in giving older students basic education in only a few years, it is perhaps insufficient for students who aspire to secondary school or higher education. These limitations impede the applicability of the SPARK curriculum. While some schools supplement SPARK with the government curriculum, others have already begun to adapt SPARK for their own uses. One example is the Ndeke school, which has developed a transition course for children under the age of 9 and a new initiative to incorporate a fifth level to the SPARK curriculum. Adaptations such as this make the use of this life skills curriculum more conducive to the needs of individual schools.
2. There is no systematic measure for assessing community school teacher qualifications.
MOE and community schools use different criteria for selecting teachers. Community schools are restricted financially from attracting well-trained teachers, and thus are limited in their ability to demand specific qualifications of applicants. In place of these criteria, community schools use qualitative parameters, such as the level of commitment to the community. However, their capacity to assess a teacher based on his or her ability to teach is also important. If teachers are selected based solely on subjective criteria, the danger of a two-tiered system may emerge, in which one proves academically inferior to the other.
3. Many community school teachers are not getting certified.
Encouraging teachers to get certified is a way for MOE to support teachers with specific preparation and training. Although MOE has committed to putting all certified community school teachers on its payroll, many teachers are unable to pursue certification training due to financial constraints. If the number of certified teachers does eventually increase in the future, the financial burden of their salaries may be eased away from the community level. Increased job security and the provision of salaries by the MOE may also lead to a decrease in the high turnover rates currently found among community school teachers.
4. Community participation is central to the sustainability of community schools.
Community members have an important role to play in the development of their schools and their involvement can provide many positive effects. Many schools in dire need of the most basic of resources have been strengthened by community members coming together to provide skills and labor. This interaction has provided a stronger sense of ownership for parents, and seemed to have boosted morale among teachers.
5. Community schools have different funding needs, varied according to local resources and capacity.
It is clear that not all community schools have access to the same levels of funding, and that this imbalance among schools is causing them to emerge in different ways. Many of the poorer schools are struggling with day-to-day survival while other better-funded schools are expanding and improving quality standards. The wide variation in community schools makes it difficult for stakeholders to create and apply standardized policies for the schools, particularly in funding the sector.
6. Community schools are unaware of resources that are available to them.
Initiatives such as BESSIP have been put forward to assist community schools. However, many schools have not benefited from these initiatives due to the lack of awareness about them. Many community schools also do not know what mechanisms are available through the FPP to supply teacher training and supplies. Since many of these resources and funds have already been allocated and are ready for disbursement, they could provide immediate assistance to local communities in need.
7. Independent, community-run schools do not have the capacity to adequately sustain their needs.
While each community the team visited was able to identify needs for their schools, they rarely possessed the technical and professional skills required to adequately mobilize resources sufficient to meet needs. Strategies for mobilizing resources seem to be based on particular objectives. Mechanisms to raise funds for school buildings, for example, were usually different from those for teachers' salaries. Many community schools, particularly the rural schools, are successful at mobilizing community resources such as labor and skills, saving sparse resources for inputs that the community cannot provide itself. On the other hand, community fundraising for recurrent costs such as teacher's salaries or in-kind payments is more problematic than for infrastructure. Continually donating salaries and food is less appealing to community members and many potential donors than constructing buildings or other items that have immediately visible benefits.
When communities need to provide teacher salaries, they commonly raise much of the necessary revenue through school fees. However, raising fees in community schools is problematic, since unaffordable, government school fees drove children to the community schools in the first place. Other community schools have addressed this issue by developing alternative income-generating activities such as selling student-made crafts.
Advocate and help coordinate more technical and financial support for Focal Point Persons, the provincial-level community school advocates. They need more support in order to visit community schools, listen to community interests and needs, and act as a conduit for communications between schools, with the local movement and government actors, and with the national level donors, Community Schools Secretariat and Ministry of Education.
Explore innovative strategies for teacher certification and encourage the government to attract new teachers and support their teacher certification process. Zambia is facing a teacher shortage; helping attract new teachers and certifying the informal teachers will benefit both the formal and informal education systems.
Organize the Zambian Community Schools Secretariat, Focal Point Persons, community school representatives, and the Ministry of Education in a process to assess, set standards for, and monitor the quality of education in Zambian schools. Foment the creation of information management and tracking systems to monitor and evaluate school quality.
The report focuses on recommendations that are feasible, sustainable, and in the long-term best interest of Zambian children. With these interests in mind, the report concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of supporting the community school movement for Zambia, the children, and the Government of Zambia.
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