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Education for All: Zambia’s Stunning Success
Ensuring girls go to school and mobilizing their local communities to help keep them there are vital strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of ‘education for all’.
That was the message taken to the September UN Millennium Summit in New York, “MDG Countdown 2011 – Successes and Innovations”, by Barbara Chilangwa, Executive Director of Camfed Zambia. Co-hosted by USAID and UK development agency DFID, the event highlighted innovative programs and policies in countries that have made significant progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Mrs. Chilangwa – among a select group of global leaders invited to address the Summit, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, and Andrew Mitchell, UK Secretary of State for International Development – spoke about the strides Zambia has made toward achieving MDG 2, universal primary education.
As the Zambian Ministry of Education’s former Permanent Secretary of Education, Mrs. Chilangwa was in a unique position to speak about the achievements of both Camfed and the Ministry in the education sector.
Her address highlighted Camfed’s stunning success in helping keep more than 90 per cent of girls in school in rural areas of Zambia, as well as providing an overview of the Ministry’s recent achievements.
“By collaborating with community members to keep girls in school, Camfed ensures that every child receives the funding she is promised, as well as the practical support she needs to stay in school and thrive,” Mrs. Chilangwa told Summit attendees. Camfed’s program has also seen a 46 per cent increase in girls’ enrollment and a seven per cent increase in girls’ exam pass rates in the schools where they work, among Camfed-supported students.
Drawing on her experience leading education reform in Zambia’s Ministry of Education, Mrs. Chilangwa also provided an overview of the strides that the country has taken since the 1990s to increase girls’ enrollment in school and to enhance transparency and accountability through monitoring and information-sharing.
Recognizing the critical role that communities and civil society had to play in educational development, the Ministry developed an advocacy strategy to engage those stakeholders in improving the education system. “We found that working with communities, parents, and traditional leaders enhanced their sense of ownership and involvement in education programs,” said Mrs. Chilangwa. Among the contributions made by community members in collaboration with the Ministry: construction of new schools, and setting up community schools to cater to children who could not access public schools.
To emphasize how far Zambia’s education system has come, Mrs. Chilangwa talked about her personal experience growing up in rural Zambia as a girl who couldn’t read or write. “Sadly, back then, I was the rule, rather than the exception and the education I eventually received made me one of the fortunate ones,” she said. “With the possibilities presented to me by my education, I was determined to ensure that young, uneducated Zambian girls who can’t read or write become the exception, rather than the rule. And I’m proud to say that over the last 15 years, Zambia’s education system has progressed to a level where this is becoming a reality.”
You can watch Barbara Chilangwa’s UN Millennium Summit address in its entirety on Youtube.