Read Here


Subscribe to our newsletter

Get updates, news and stories from our work around the world.

Follow Us


Opportunity EduFinance
Level 18, 100 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 1GT

Telephone: +44 (0) 7768599834

© 2024 Opportunity International Education Finance functions under its US and UK affiliates. Opportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692). Opportunity International United Statesis a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Bridging the Education Gap in Zambia: the Vital Role of Non-state Schools

By Education Finance Network


In Zambia, the non-state school sector plays a critical role in addressing the growing demand for primary education. Currently, about 267,000 children are educated in 740 non-state primary schools, many of which offer affordable education to low-income families. This does not include the over 3,000 community schools that are educating learners in some of the lowest resourced and most rural communities.

At the same time, the Zambian education system faces significant challenges, as the increasing population and high fertility rates create more demand for primary education. Unfortunately, this demand is outpacing the capacity of state infrastructure, which is already struggling to meet existing needs. As a result, 227,600 children aged 7 to 13 remain out-of-school due to insufficient resources.

At the first ever Zambian Primary Education Symposium, hosted by Zambia’s Directorate of Primary Education in November last year, Opportunity International EduFinance was invited to present their work through the USAID funded CATALYZE EduFinance Zambia to key education stakeholders. This was a significant opportunity to raise awareness among government education officials of the role that non-state schools play in meeting the education needs in the country, and the need to integrate non-state schools into national education policy and planning.

How can the government support non-state schools? 

Through the CATALYZE EduFinance Zambia Activity, USAID is supporting non-state schools in Zambia to access private capital and improve education quality. By leveraging a blended finance approach, CATALYZE EduFinance aims to stimulate over US$6 million in investment into affordable non-state schools that serve low- and low-middle-income populations.

At the Primary Education Symposium, Opportunity EduFinance’s Roland Muchanga (Senior Education Specialist) and Lucy Kabalisa (EduFinance Technical Assistance Advisor) addressed six specific challenges identified through the CATALYZE Activity faced by non-state schools in Zambia concerning access to capital and capacity development, while also proposing specific ways the government could provide support:

Challenge 1. Non-state schools in Zambia currently only receive 1-year license registrations, and banks generally cannot lend beyond the license period.

To alleviate this issue, the government could consider extending school license periods to multiple years.

Challenge 2. Many schools have insufficient collateral which banks typically require for lending, often operating on customary land without titles.

Government intervention could involve establishing guarantee schemes that reduce dependence on land titles, and engaging with traditional leaders to issue titles for customary land, thereby enabling it to be used as collateral.

Challenge 3. The tax burden on schools in Zambia is a significant concern, as high tax rates leave them with limited funds for quality improvements.

A potential solution lies in the government providing tax waivers to qualifying schools, thereby enabling them to allocate more resources toward enhancing the quality of education.

Challenge 4. Non-state schools face high interest rates on loans, impacting their affordability.

The government could intervene by implementing measures such as buying down the interest rate through central bank discounts. This could be based on the premise that schools, by offering a social good, are entitled to discounted capital – a mechanism similar to the one employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Challenge 5. Professional development for school leaders and teachers received outside government provisions is generally not recognized and certifiedwhich can disincentivize non-state schools from investing in professional development for their staff.

The government could create clear pathways for alternative professional development training to be submitted for recognition and certification, similar to the credit system for public school teachers. Non-state school teachers could also be given access to district resource centers to help them develop professionally.

Challenge 6. Non-state schools are not regularly inspected, which allows for a wide range of quality across non-state schools.

Regular inspections of non-state schools would not only help ensure that they meet established quality standards, but could also be a way for the schools to get more support to achieve and maintain those standards.

Recognizing non-state schools as part of the national education system

Due to the increasing demands on an already constrained public education system, non-state schools are expected to continue playing a pivotal role in fulfilling Zambia's primary education needs. Yet, in order for these schools to efficiently and sustainably deliver high-quality education to the many children they serve, it’s imperative for the government to recognize and support them as an integral part of the national education system. Including non-state schools in national education policy and planning is a crucial first step toward ensuring they get access to needed resources and support that will enable them to continue playing a key role in closing the education gap for all Zambian children.


Read more about School Leader Reflections on USAID Catalyze EduFinance Impact here!

Subscribe to our newsletter