Introducing Zambia Open Community Schools: 2013 ONE Africa Award Finalist

The ONE Africa Award is an annual $100,000 USD prize which celebrates the innovations and progress being made by African civil society towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  We are excited to announce our six finalists for 2013, and this blog series looks at the remarkable work of each organisation.

Zambia Open Community Schools’ (ZOCS) mission is to ensure every orphan-vulnerable child in Zambia receives a quality education, so they can build a sustainable livelihood.

ZOCS delivers a mix of capacity building, service delivery to support weak community schools and advocacy.  It campaigns for national laws that favour community schools and also supports parental groups to lobby and campaign for their schools’ interests.

It promotes a human rights approach to ensure Zambians become aware of their families’ rights to education and specifically what the government is obligated to provide.

ZOCS started as one of Zambia’s first community schools in 1992. The Religious Sisters of Charity organized a “school without walls” to provide an alternative education to girl orphans and vulnerable children in Lusaka. These children couldn’t attend government schools as they couldn’t afford the fees and uniforms. As a result, the community came together and started a school with informal, untrained teachers so that the girls would at least receive a basic education.

This idea of communities coming together to form their own schools in the absence of a nearby government school soon spread like wildfire, with the newly formed ZOCS leading the charge. ZOCS became a resource centre for Zambian communities to learn how to set up their own schools, none of which had legal status in the eyes of the government.

Since 2011, community schools have been recognised along with government schools, private schools and grant aid schools as legitimate players in education. Community schools will become eligible for state support, especially in improving teacher standards and improving school buildings.

With over 3000 community schools in Zambia—ZOCS directly manages and supports 520 schools in 8 provinces and 38 districts that educate 70,000 children—the challenge is immense to bring these schools directly into the Ministry of Education’s operations to improve them while staying functional.

600,000 children are in community schools yet it is estimated that 400,000 children are still missing out on education. Community schools will play a huge role in educating these 1 million children in the coming years.

The winner of the 2013 ONE Africa Award will be announced on 8th November in Addis Ababa. Be the first to know who takes the prize by following @ONEinAfrica on Twitter.


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