In the year 2011, Zambia moved up in income status with a reclassification from a low-income country to a middle-income country. The reclassification stems from improvements in Zambia’s economic and social structures. Zambia has made strides in the education realm in particular, with high primary school education completion rates. However, due to geographical barriers and higher rates of poverty, access to education in rural Zambia does not see the same equality as other parts of the country. Acknowledging the role of education in poverty reduction, it is imperative to improve access to education in rural Zambia.

School Completion in Zambia

A point of pride for Zambia is its national primary school completion rate, which stands at 91.8%. However, when comparing the national primary school completion rate with semi-urban or rural regions, regional discrepancies become apparent. In Zambia’s northern region, comprising mostly of rural areas, this rate stands at 81.3%, indicating clear geographic disparities in completion rates.

Despite high national primary school completion rates, just 67% of students go on to attend high school. Barriers to high school attendance include a lack of secondary schools “to accommodate all primary school graduates.” Additionally, school fees are necessary from eighth grade upward, which many impoverished families cannot afford.

Poverty and Access to Education in Rural Zambia

For students living in rural areas, the long distance to educational establishments presents an additional barrier. In fact, rural Zambia faces the most obstacles in keeping children in school because there are few schools, often far from students’ homes. Most rural Zambians cannot afford the costs of transportation to schools because rural areas face a higher rate of poverty.

Furthermore, impoverished families struggle to afford the costs of school fees. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in rural Zambia stood at 76.7% in 2015 while the urban rate stood at 23.4%. The World Bank also estimates that about 75% of Zambia’s impoverished reside in rural regions.

This has far-reaching impacts. Children who do not go to school often end up in child labor in order to contribute to household income. Furthermore, parents marry off their young girls to ease the economic burden on the family. Access to education in rural Zambia will lower both child labor and child marriage rates while providing a pathway out of poverty.

In order to improve access to education in rural Zambia, the most significant barrier to education, poverty, must stand as a priority in aid efforts. In order to keep more children in school in Zambia, geographical location and financial means must not stand as barriers to education.

CAMFED Zambia Takes Action

CAMFED Zambia began in 2011, initially working in Zambia’s rural areas, such as the northern region. In particular, girls in rural areas face a higher rate of exclusion from education. Thus, CAMFED Zambia “empowers the most marginalized girls in rural Zambia to attain a full secondary school education.” With CAMFED’s efforts, the female students it supports “achieve a completion rate of 96% and a progression rate of 98%.”

CAMFED also supports the education of other marginalized children. Since its beginnings, CAMFED Zambia has helped more than 400,000 children obtain primary and secondary education through donor support. “CAMFED provides holistic support” in the form of “school or exam fees, uniforms, sanitary wear, books, pens, bikes, boarding fees or disability aids” to ensure children remain in school.

Efforts to improve access to education in rural Zambia ensure that children gain the knowledge and skills to rise out of poverty. With an education, these children are able to secure higher-paying, skilled jobs, enabling them to contribute to growing Zambia’s economy overall.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Flickr