Over two billion people, or nearly a third of the world’s population, are in the Commonwealth of Nations. Currently over 4,500 sports men and women, from these Nations, are competing in the Commonwealth Games across 17 sports, between 24 July and 3 August. One competing country, that joined the Commonwealth in 1964, is also home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Zambia, located in south-central Africa, made its Commonwealth Games debut as a British Protectorate at Vancouver in 1954 and has until this point won a total of 30 medals. Lottie Mawle won Zambia’s first gold medal in the 1974 games, in Christchurch, for boxing.
The country’s natural wonder is locally known as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’, however is known by the rest of the world as the Victoria Falls. Its local name is a perfect description of what may be expected when approaching the falls. Located about midway along the Zambezi River, the waters of the Victoria Falls plunge noisily down a series of basalt gorges and raise a stunning iridescent mist, which may be seen from more than 20 km away. A unique feature may be found on the edge of the Victoria Falls, the most spectacular infinity pool; a location that grants a breath-taking view over the largest waterfall in the world. Unsurprisingly these dazzling falls were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1989.
Besides the country’s natural beauty, Zambia has made its name as the continent’s biggest copper producer and as a peaceful country, which has had a long period of political stability coinciding with strong economic growth. This goes alongside Zambia’s successful efforts to ensure improved access to education for both girls and boys. In order to highlight the importance of girls’ education, the Programme for the Advancement of Girls’ Education (PAGE) was introduced in the 1990s and is now part of the country’s Millennium Development Goal to ensure education for all.
Thanks to Zambia’s commitment, the country has made steady progress with primary school enrolment, which has increased to 93.7 per cent in 2010. This success may be linked to the boost in primary education infrastructure, alongside the introduction of free basic education. At the same time, progress has been made in improving primary school completion rates; resulting in a staggering increase of the proportion of pupils reaching grade seven, from 64 per cent in 1990 to 90.4 per cent in 2010. The government now faces the remaining challenge of inspiring girls to go back to school after pregnancy. To do this they have deployed more female teachers and head-teachers to rural areas, where they can act as great role models to the girls; as well as organising several campaigns on the importance of female education.
Recognising the role of communities, civil society, parents and traditional leaders and consequently engaging these stakeholders in improving the education system, has boosted the progress even further. It enhanced their sense of ownership and involvement in education programmes, ensuring a fruitful cooperation between community members and the Ministry for Education. Their participation in motivating girls to go to school has led to the construction of new schools and the set up of community schools, to cater to children who face the challenge of access.
Alongside the government and local communities, numerous organisations have recently joined in the common effort to assist the government in reaching its education goals. Founded in 2007, Room to Read particularly focused on improving the infrastructure and access to resources, by setting up libraries across the country. With support from such organisations, local communities and civil societies in general, Zambia is on the right path to make ‘education for all’ a reality.
What might be further done to ensure equal access to education?