In Zambia, we support the provision of quality education

Two adolescent girls smile outdoors

The challenge

Zambia has achieved near universal primary school completion levels - national statistics indicate a completion rate of 91.8 per cent at Grade 7. But this masks considerable regional disparities, with the northern region recording 81.3 per cent (72 per cent for female students) and Lusaka a rate of 78.6 per cent. 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 the upper primary and secondary grades, and poorer levels of transition to junior secondary and senior secondary levels.

Transition rates from primary to secondary school continue to remain low at 67.5 per cent, mainly due to the lack of places to accommodate all primary school graduates. Other barriers to children transitioning and completing secondary school include school fees introduced in Grade 8, other costs related to education (such as the cost of not otherwise contributing to household income), and the long distances to many schools. For girls at secondary level, there are also barriers around the lack of menstrual hygiene facilities, the low value placed by some communities on girls’ receiving a secondary education, teenage pregnancy, and child marriage. 

The quality of education also continues to be a challenge, though national assessments have shown significant improvement in this area. Nevertheless, the country's targets for achievement have not yet been met, for instance the target of an average score of 40 per cent in language and mathematics was not reached in either Grade 5 or Grade 9. The number of children passing the Grade 9 and Grade 12 examinations continues to be low, at 55.3 per cent and 64.8 per cent respectively.

Education in numbers:

  • 87.9 per cent net primary school enrolment
  • 42.9 per cent net secondary school enrolment
  • 1.0 Gender Parity Index at primary school
  • 0.90 Gender Parity Index at secondary school
  • 67.5 per cent transition rate to secondary school

The solution

UNICEF Zambia's work is centred on supporting the Ministry of General Education provide education services from early childhood to the end of secondary schooling. We believe in the importance of early education to give children the best start in life. At secondary level, we have a focus on helping girls stay in school, given the proven benefits of additional years of education for girls, including stronger career prospects, and lower chances of teenage pregnancy and child marriage. Through the Girls2030 project, we help provide financial literacy, life skills, career guidance and internships to adolescent girls.

Through the provision of technical support to the Ministry, we also work on the better collection and use of education data, including through school-level profiles developed for every primary school in the country. 

In addition, based on global evidence and findings from an on-going Zambia-based pilot, UNICEF supports the Ministry to scale 'Teaching at the Right Level' from Grade 3 through to Grade 5.