Information by Country

Zambia: Background

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Zambia is one of the countries most affected by drought in Southern Africa, and its people have been facing food shortages for years. But after a period of intense rainfall during the winter of 2006–2007, many parts of the country were devastated by floods. Families were displaced, infrastructure damaged – including schools, water sources and health posts – and food crops were submerged, leading to fears of even greater scarcity.

The fragile situation makes it difficult to pinpoint a few causes for the persistent gender gaps in education. Mutually reinforcing cultural constraints, entrenched attitudes and gender stereotypes are interwoven with natural disasters, poverty and a high AIDS prevalence. And a systemic shortage of qualified teachers impacts both girls’ and boys’ education.

Barriers to girls’ education

  • Lack of schools close to home.
  • Low rate of completion, aggravated by health, nutrition and sanitation issues.
  • Underfunding from public resources, leading to inadequate facilities.
  • Violence, exploitation, abuse and discrimination.
  • Low inspiration for schooling and an absence of role models.


Although student retention remains a challenge, Zambia has achieved the 2005 goals on gender parity in primary schools. The Ministry of Education Strategic Plan has supported a significant increase in enrolment, especially at the lower and middle level. And the introduction of a free primary education policy in 2002 increased accessibility of schools to poorer families.

There is a greater focus on Integrated Early Childhood Development, and a national re-entry policy is in place to allow girls who have given birth to continue their education. In addition, the movement to promote community participation in providing education to their children has had notable success. Community schools make education accessible to an estimated 20 per cent of enrolled students at the lower and middle basic education levels.

These efforts have resulted in Zambia being on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary completion by 2015.

UNGEI in action

UNGEI has participated in joint advocacy and continues to assist the Ministry of Education in developing one annual workplan and budget that places more emphasis on advancing girls’ ability to complete a basic, quality education.

In 2004, a ‘Go Girls Campaign’ was initiated in Zambia that includes the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and other local and international non-governmental organizations. Because the objectives of the Go Girls Campaign are the same – to promote girls’ education and reduction of gender disparity in education system – an UNGEI launch was seen as duplicating efforts that had already been initiated.

Key objectives

  • Raise awareness about education as a catalyst towards achieving gender parity.
  • Reinforce a rights-based approach to education.
  • Convince decision makers that providing quality education for girls also benefits boys.
  • Build strategic alliances with key individuals and organizations.
  • Mobilize resources from a wide range of partners.


Partners for girls’ education include the Ministry of Education, Zambian Community School Secretariat and Zambian Open Community Schools (ZOCS), as well as the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), Embassy of Ireland, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Forum for African Women Educationalists of Zambia (FAWEZA), Oxfam, Royal Norwegian Embassy, UK Department of International Development (DFID), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

UNGEI within other national and international frameworks

Zambia will soon move from the sector-wide approach to programming to a Joint Assistance Strategy for Zambia (JASZ), a new aid platform for better harmonization of external assistance in all sectors, including education. The country has expressed interest in participating in the Fast Track Initiative and has implemented a National Development Plan (NDP) for 2006–2010.

The Common Country Assessment/United Nations Development Assistance Framework (CCA/UNDAF) is in place in the national framework.


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