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Report by OXFAM — ZAMBIA

October 2001
Contact details:
Peter J. Henriot, S. J
Introduction to full report

One clear lesson for truly sustainable development – in Zambia or in any other part of the world - is the need for a good education system. There is simply no possibility for a country to develop unless it has a solid resource base of educated citizens, with the skills, experiences and motivation to build the country. It is clear that pre-school and primary education are the foundations for building the edifice of human capital that is required for both growth and poverty reduction.

That lesson is one that leaders in Zambia may know in theory but seem reluctant to put into practice in the policies, programmes an priorities that would make a difference. The dramatic decline in the educational system at every level over the past decade, in terms both of quantity and quality of education opportunities for our youth, is not only a very sad situation but also a very dangerous situation. For it means that all the efforts at economic reform, so loudly praised by both international agents and government leaders, will be meaningless if significant commitment is not made to improve the educational sector.

Various schemes have been devised to change the downward spiral of education in Zambia - to halt the loss of teachers, to increase the enrolment of girls, to provide basic materials such as books, to improve the physical conditions of schools, etc. One of the schemes pushed by Zambia's international creditors such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been to establish "cost sharing" programmes that involve households and local communities making contributions to meet overall expenses for schools.

Has "cost sharing" succeeded in making a difference for schools in Zambia and the overall educational level?

That is the question that OXFAM-Zambia and the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) undertook to answer, in relation to basic and primary schools, in a major study whose findings are summarised in this pamphlet. The study looked at the question from two different perspectives:

  • Micro-economics: how are ordinary Zambian households managing to send their children to school and with what consequences? In particular, poor communities in two areas, Copperbelt and Eastern Province, were chosen for interviews.
  • Macro-economics: what financial resources are necessary for meeting the education needs and how can they be found? This involved a budgetary analysis that evaluated cost sharing and examined budget allocations.
The executive summaries presented here come to similar findings and offer related recommendations. Among the conclusions reached are:

  1. Households currently are spending on primary education nearly twice the amount that is provided through the public budget. But the economic constraints on households are increasingly intolerable and as a consequence many young people are not being sent to school.

  2. Government funding of primary education is highly erratic, with actual expenditure being only a small percentage of authorised expenditure. Minimal capital expenditure is available and teachers' salaries and living conditions have deteriorated with resultant negative effect on education.

  3. Despite good intentions that might have been behind the original idea of cost sharing, continued reliance on this method of funding is both ineffective in discouraging enrolment of pupils from poor families. It should be discontinued.

  4. Resources for improving primary education must be increased and can indeed be mobilised through giving budgetary priority to this task, minimising corruption that wastes resources and discourages donors, and creating mechanisms for monitoring resource inflows and use.

Ultimately, there are clear steps that can indeed be taken here in Zambia to change for the better the current disastrous primary education scene – if there is the political will to do so. The purpose of this study has been to provide the framework of data, analysis and recommendations within which that political will makes sense. It is up to the citizens of Zambia, especially the parents of the children who have the right to be benefiting from quality education, to push for that political will.

Generation of this political will should obviously be a priority focus in the election campaigns in which Zambia will be involved in the months ahead. Parties and candidates should be questioned about what they intend to do to turn around the current wastage of our most precious national resource for future development, young people's talents and capacities.

Section 1



Introduction to Section 1

"Education for All" is the latest catch phrase in a long line of policy commitments by African governments and international agencies in favour of increasing educational opportunities, especially at primary level (Cotton and Synge, 1998). In 1990, the countries of the world met in Jomtien, Thailand, where they pledged to provide all children with good quality basic education, and to halve illiteracy by the year 2000. However, ten years after the world conference on Education for All, the World Education Forum in Dakar concluded that the objectives of the Jomtien Declaration were not achieved, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. the Dakar Conference, therefore, resolved that, "by 2015 all children must have access to, and be able to, complete primary school." (Harsch, 2000).

However, without large and growing economies, African governments have very limited tax bases to finance public school systems, while the bulk of African families cannot afford the high fees charged by private schools (Harsch, 2000). Nonetheless, lending institutions, such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), have exerted pressure on African governments for economic reforms and "cost-recovery" strategies for state provision of education and health services, therefore, restricting further choices available to poor families.

Given the limited extent of public resources and legitimate competing demands of other sectors of the economy, it has become clear that the government budgetary allocations alone will not guarantee quality education for every eligible child. Hence the perceived need to diversify funding for basic education (Ministry of Education, 1996). In many countries, fiscal pressure has prompted governments to transfer the growing share of education financing to households through cost-recovery and associated measures.

Therefore most bilateral and multilateral lending institutions, including the IMF and World Bank, have insisted on cost sharing as a pre-condition for funding economic reform programmes in developing countries.

Cost sharing involves strengthening partnerships with other government ministries, and building alliances with councils, communities, and private providers of education, voluntary organisations, and beneficiaries. Cost sharing includes household contributions in the form of formal fees (school levies and examination fees), indirect charges (for uniforms and books) and informal payments (including illicit fees to teachers) (Oxfam, 2000). The principle of cost sharing also applies to capital spending, with contributions of cash, labour and materials for school construction and maintenance. In situations of extreme budgetary constraints, household contributions are often regarded as being vital to maintenance of quality basic education. However, the ability of families and communities to contribute to the rising costs of education is limited by widespread poverty.

Evidence from Kenya, Zimbabwe, and other African countries where school fees and other costs are common reveals that children from poor households are less likely to enrol in school, and more likely to drop out (Harsch, 2000; FAO, 1998). Gender inequalities are also prominent in low-income households, illustrating the interaction of poverty, education deprivation and gender bias. If access to primary education has to depend on the ability of a family to pay, then only the better off can get quality education while the poorest will be left even further behind. Therefore, most governments, donors and development institutions, such as World Bank and UNICEF, oppose in principle user fees for basic services (Oxfam, 2000; Cotton and Synge, 1998). Although thematic studies on cost sharing have been carried out in selected countries in Africa, there is an urgent need to assess the impact of cost sharing on households in terms of sending their children to school.

Based on the above concept, the objective of the present study was to contribute, through empirical studies, to the current debate on universalisation of basic education, using a case study of cost sharing in Zambia. This study focuses on the impact of cost sharing on household economies, quality of education, and accessibility of school to children from poor households. The terms of reference for the study are outlined in Appendix 1.

The report is divided into seven sections. The first section provided background information and rationale for the study. The second section reviews the concept of cost sharing and the theories that explain its development. The literature review provides the base for analysis of the Zambian case study.

While section three briefly reviews the concept of cost sharing in the Zambian context, section four describes the characteristics of the study area. Sections three and four jointly provide the contextual setting for the case study.

Section five describes the research approach and methodology. The findings are discussed in section six while the conclusion and recommendation are contained in section seven.

Section 2



Introduction to Section 2

As a state party to the declaration of the World Conference on Education for All (EFA), Zambia set out the following targets:

  • The provision of 7 years of primary education to every child by the year 2005;

  • The provision of 9 years of good quality basic education to every child by year 2015;

  • Upgrading of all primary schools to full basic school status by year 2015;

  • Reducing adult illiteracy rate for both males and females to 12% by year 2000. If trends in the past decade are anything to go by, it will be no easy task to achieve

If trends in the past decade are anything to go by, it will be no easy task to achieve these targets by their stipulated time horizons. The focus of this study is largely on the first target.

One of the main constraints that stands in the way of achieving universal primary education of acceptable standards in Zambia is that primary education (a basic human right of every child) is neither free nor compulsory. Since the introduction of the principle of cost-sharing for all social services including education, the government's education budget is no longer adequate to meet all the costs and households have to spend out of their budgets as well. In a situation where the economy has not been growing but poverty has been growing, this process of sharing the costs of education by both government as well as the households is bound to be increasingly difficult. This in turn is bound to tell on primary school attendance and the quality of learning on the part of the pupils who do attend.

The burden of spending on education will also fall inequitably on the households because of pronounced inequality in the distribution of poverty itself. There is significantly higher poverty in the rural areas, in provinces outside the conventional line of rail, and in female-headed and large-sized households. For instance, according to the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey 1998, while 68% of the children in the age-group 7-13 years were attending school nation-wide, the corresponding percentages in the rural and urban areas were 61% and 80% respectively. Given that education is one of the principal means of empowering people and lifting them out of poverty, it is indeed ironic that access to education is lower for the very group that is most in need of it.

The purpose of this study is to provide a budgetary analysis of the cost-sharing process in respect of primary education and to look at alternative ways and means of realising the goal of universal primary education for Zambia's children.

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