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Education in Zambia: Why My Co-op Matters

Education in Zambia: The Struggle for School Flyer. Northeastern student standing with students in Zambia.

"I’ve seen more in this past month than I could have ever learned about in a classroom."

Check out this article in The Global Journal by student Shelbe Van Winkle!

Out of all the countries I’ve traveled to, studied in, or even lived in, I never thought Zambia would be the one I returned to… that was until I got here. It wasn’t the beautiful orange African sunsets, nor the marvelous wonder that is Victoria Falls, and while the food was spectacular – that didn’t bring my taste buds crawling back. No, over everything else, what brought me back were the people; the motherly women who genuinely wanted to know how my days were, the helpful taxi and bus drivers that showed me shortcuts to my favorite places, and most importantly: the kids.

On a Northeastern Dialogue of Civilization field-study program, my service-learning site was a preschool called Kondwa Centre. This school was for children living in an extremely impoverished compound, or slum, within the capital city of Lusaka. There, children came for breakfast, school, playtime, and lunch. The two meals they received were often times the only food they ate during the day. The classes they were put in were not based on age, but rather on knowledge, and it was common to have a child repeat a grade multiple times. The four teachers that worked at the school were kind women, who genuinely wanted to help the kids, but were limited by lack of supplies and curriculum.

As more time in Zambia passed, I realized that this situation was not only uncommon, but it was a reoccurring theme. I began to understand that the flaws were not in the intelligence of the students, but rather the systems that are in place. Public schools provide what they can, but are limited by lack of funding and properly trained staff. While primary school tuition is free, school costs such as books, uniforms, and school supplies can quickly become a family’s biggest expense. Once a student gets to secondary school, (Grade 8), school tuition is no longer free, and it is commonly the point at which many children stop going to school. I have concluded that the education system in Zambia is not set up to help students succeed, but rather weed out those who cannot fit the government mandated mold.

Click here to read more.

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