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Introduction | Background | Multigrade teaching, gender and the community. | Learning ,education and development. | Conclusion | Bibliography


Zambia is situated in the middle of southern Africa and is home to 10.7 million people. The capital city is Lusaka, the currency is the Zambian Kwacha and the official languages are Bemba, English and Nyanja. The majority of the country is an upland plateau and the climate is tropical. Major attractions include the world-famous Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. Economic strengths include the copper industry, as well as coal, colbalt and a large variety of crops.

Poverty reduction begins with children, investments in children offer the best guarantee for achieving equitable and sustainable human development. As a tool for empowerment and sustainable development, education in particular can serve as a door to poverty reduction.Nevertheless a lot of progress has been made in providing quality basic education for an ever-increasing number of girls and in reducing the gender gap, it is clear that the world is not going to reach the goals set for 2015 and that the gender goal set for 2005 is rapidly slipping out of reach for some countries. Girls still make up the majority of the 115 million children out of school, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia particularly affected. As gender disparities are often linked to other sources of inequality, holistic approaches are necessary to ensure equitable outcomes. For rural girls in particular, gender often intertwines with geography, poverty, ethnicity, and a host of other socio-cultural and economic factors to intensify the disadvantage in education.

Multigrade Teaching is important in the political dimension in providing people with the opportunity of participating more usefully in the communities and countries .It may be a liberating force in terms of enabling communities and individuals to escape from poverty and illiteracy, it may be an empowering force in enabling them to identify their needs and goals, and in making them aware of how to achieve their objectives.

Zambia is not only a big country but it is also one of the highly urbanised in sub-Saharan Africa. The 1990 population census put the population living in urban areas at 42%. The population density in big urban areas like Lusaka is more than 200 persons per square kilometres. Since slightly more than 50% of the population is younger then fifteen the greatest pressure exerted on educational provision is that there is high demand for increased provision of education in the urban areas.On the other hand the sparseness of the population in some rural areas poses the challenge of providing education to small populations of children who are geographically very distant from each other. A major social characteristic of Zambia is that it is multiethnic and by extension multicultural as well. There are seven major languages and seventy-three dialects. The diversity of ethnic groups entails existence of several traditions and cultural practices which have their implications on the education of children. Some of the traditions have been found to have negative effect on school attendance despite the existence of school facilities. Low school attendance ratios in certain rural parts of the country have been attributed to prevailing traditions and cultural practices.

Education Policy and System

Basic Education covers seven years of primary school and two years of secondary school.Senior secondary school consists of three years.There are public examinations at the end of each level -primary - junior secondary - senior secondary - determining access to the next. The two major gaps in the primary education system are the insufficient number of classrooms to ensure that all children are able to enrol in Grade One, which is an acute problem in urban and peri-urban areas, and the insufficient number of primary schools which have classes beyond Grade Five, particularly in the rural areas.

The children in special situations such as divorced or single or widowed parents, disabled children and AIDS-orphans are hard to hit in the provision of resources to permit completion of their education. In rural areas, such problems are combined with an inability to meet other basic needs due the widening impact of cyclical hunger.As it becomes harder to fund the schooling of children, school children have intensified their participation in family trading, either to pay their way through school, or as full-time workers.Children from low income families in new settlements in urban and peri-urban areas face long distances to travel which effectively discriminates against poor families in educational provision.Transport is also a gender specific problem as girls are likely to be disadvantaged if travelling arrangements are seen as unsafe or unsuitable.From the 1980s, an objective has been to provide nine years of basic education for all children, beginning at the age of seven.This requires overcoming the present bottle necks in the system at Grade One and Grade Five.

Gender gaps in education

Eighty-eight percent of all children of enrolment age enrol in primary school and of those, 27 percent go on to enrol in secondary school. Boys have a higher enrolment ratio than girls, 101 compared to 92 at primary and 20 to 14 at secondary according to the 1987-92 estimate. At the university level in Zambia, there is only one female student for every four male students.

Primary school

Secondary school







Table 1: Enrolment age in Primary School (1987)

Possible reasons for the high drop out rates of girls include the need to do domestic chores and withdrawal from school for marriage. Pregnancy leads to expulsion and it is estimated that this is the reason for dropout of about two percent in secondary school .In lower income groups, the preference for financing boys education is probably an important factor.

The participation of girls in formal education is likely to be further restrained by the introduction of school fees. Girls raw scores in all national exams are consistently lower than those for boys, in every subject and in every province.The difference is greatest in social studies and mathematics, to the extent that, for selection to secondary school, the Ministry of Education uses a lower cut-off point for girls in order to increase their secondary school enrolments. Boys also perform better at secondary level. Since 2003 Zambians does not pay school fees anymore but PTA (Parent Teacher associations)still ask their contributions.

Effect of Recent Economic Developments on Education

The increasing rates of school enrolment since the Independency in Zambia have not been matched by development of the educational infrastructure.The educational system is now under severe strain. Zambias current commitment to education, as measured by levels of expenditure, is much lower than that of other countries in the region.Restrictions on government spending have had severe effects on the quality of teaching and the self esteem of teachers leading to high rates of absenteeism. Primary schools particularly suffer from a critical shortage of essential textbooks, writing materials, supplementary learning materials and general teaching and learning resources. There is a serious

lack of furniture, in some schools pupils are not registered until they bring their own seat or desks. Many of the chalkboards are old, broken and unusable. The unmaintained hygienic facilities constitute serious health hazards sometimes resulting in schools closing because of outbreaks of cholera. Due to lack of privacy and shortage of water, girls are allowed to miss?? school during menstruation, which contributes to their poor academic performance. The increased direct costs of education are likely to lead to discrimination against girls whose parents may be less willing to spend money on them.In addition, girls schooling involves a higher opportunity cost for parents as girls may be required to substitute their mothers labour while they go out to work.The education of girls (as well as the employement opportunities of women) is affected by the serious shortage of appropriate child care facilities in Zambia, who are much more likely than their brothers to be required to stay away from school in order to look after a younger sibling or relation.

Education Reform

The Zambian government continues to reaffirm its commitment to the Educating Our Future policy of 1996, which strives to achieve universal education on all levels by 2015. The current implementation focus is on the provision of basic education and the Ministry of Education has been working to expand education access for all children through far-reaching education reform.A key program promoting this objective is the Basic Education Sub-sector Investment Program (BESSIP) that began in 1999. Among the nine components of the BESSIPs is the Equity and Gender Sub-program supports educational access and monitoring of the educational performance of vulnerable children. Other programs include the Program for the Advancement of Girls Education (PAGE) and Multigrade Teaching, the main theme of my essay.

Child poverty is a conspicuous and growing phenomenon in Zambia. It takes a variety of forms: orphans, street children, working children and children who head households. 16 % of children in Zambia are orphans. Number of orphans is higher in rural areas, in small-scale farming households and in low-cost areas where the incidence of poverty is the highest.Alternative school activities have developed to meet the needs of these vulnerable children who are not attending formal school. An estimated 900 schools independent from the existing government structures have been established throughout Zambia that are organized and managed by communities. Some 700 of these community schools serving over 75,000 children have been registered in the Zambian Community School Secretariat, having met certain criteria and standards. These schools do not require entrance fees of the children, neither Parent Teacher Association fees, or impose other requirements such as school uniforms or materials, that can restrict the poorest children from attending government schools.

HIV/AIDS education is one of the most important challenges in the country.The teachers attrition rate is rising, this is evidenced by the number of hours lost by sick teachers or on caring for the sick family members or attending funerals. In PRSP(Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper), HIV/AIDS has its own strategy: Recognise the new image and role of the school as a centre for the dissemination of messages about HIV/AIDS, the environment and civic issues, not only to its own students but also to the wider community.

What is Multigrade Teaching?

Multigrade teaching is a term used to describe the teaching in primary education of children from a number of grades usually in one class. Multigrade teaching involves the teaching of children from two or more grade levels in one classroom.Such contexts requires the employment of particular teaching

methodologies and classroom administration. Since Multigrade classes are smaller and can be established more cheaply than complete schools, they can be more numerous, therefore more dispersed and thus located closer to the settlements where the children live. This means both that younger children can attend and that the time children spend travelling between school and home can be reduced to an acceptable level. This in turn means that there is sufficient time outside school hours for the children to continue to contribute to the family's economic activity . Attending school is therefore likely to be more acceptable to the families concerned, and thus both increase the number of children receiving education and reduce the failure rate.Multigrade schools, being smaller and more dispersed, would enjoy much closer links with the smaller communities that they would be set up to serve.This would have a positive effect on attitudes and access to education.The professional teacher is a key element in the Multigrade context. The local content is a significant part of the curriculum, it is particularly important to resolve the issue of appointing well-trained and locally-oriented teachers.

Objectives of multigrade teaching

MTG teaching wants to create access to education for all children by reducing drop-out and repeater rates and increase the participation rate and literacy rates. The way to achieve this is by bringing schools closer to communities, modernize teaching methods and so overcome a shortage of teachers.

Organizing the multigrade curriculum

The key word in any discussion of an ideal model is flexibility. We must leave the teachers the option as to profound as deep as they think is necessary. Prescription must be kept to a minimum. A second and related concept is that of integration. Integration in Multigrade Teaching will most often involve an integration of pupils from different grade levels and competencies. It also involves integration of the curriculum either with subjects being integrated under, say, the Language umbrella.

The function and the role of the child and the Multigrade Teacher

The teacher is expected to be versatile and use different strategies to make learning meaningful and effective for all pupils in his classroom, no matter the individual differences.

The teacher should be able to understand differences between pupils, be able to motivate them to learn and guide them though their learning materials.

The teacher should be able to do this for all grade levels in the classroom, no matter what curriculum subject is being studied. The teacher should not only be a provider of knowledge but should also be a facilitator of learning.

Planning is a critical function for the Multigrade teacher. Appropriate planning by the teacher will result in classes which are more productive for the learners and easier for them to follow.

In a multigrade class, the teacher accepts that each child is unique and has a unique way of learning. The pupils understands this as well. The result is a non-threatening, non-competetive atmosphere.

In a multigrade classroom, the childen are offered the gift of time. Because the children can spend 2-3 years with the same teacher, and learning is based on the individual, there is no need to group, classify and organize children for the purposes of completing the grade level curriculum. Children are building on prior knowledge, thus, holding a child back or promote him/her to the next grade ahead of schedule has no use. Given the gift of time, some children still may fail to meet expectations. These

children are not ignored, but rather supported. In a multiage class it can be argued that time will indicate the differences between late-bloomers and children with disabilities. A multigrade teacher will assess his/her student's perfomance using more authentic means of measuring progress. In a multigrade class, pupils naturally begin to help one another. Not only are the children learning at individual rates, there is also many opportunities for peer interaction and group projects. As the pupils work together toward a common goal, each child is able to use his/her strengths to benefit the group. There may also be opportunities for children to not only learn from one another, but to teach one another as well. Progress is not measured by what a child does not know, but what a child does know. Through the use of assessments, the teacher has current data on each child to ensure that the child is always working at a level that is just right for him or her.The security, community, familiarity and continous progress of a multigrade environment allows the child to see the good in himself. He sees how successful he can be and becomes empowered. Pupils choice and interest is always considered. By allowing the children to participate in choosing areas of study, they develop autonomy over their learning.

Classroom management

Teachers in Multigrade Teaching schools need to be very flexible in their management of classrooms to fit particular teaching situations, the physical environment and the composition of the class.

In classroom instruction, pupils are grouped so that a group works with the teacher at one time while the rest of the students are involved in self-directed study.

Pupils' work is displayed on the walls of the classroom as are teachers' teaching aids.

In skill subjects such as reading, language and mathematics, pupils are grouped by ability across grade levels.

While the teacher works with one grade level, the two other groups have self-directed activities or individual work.?

Materials Development

Multigrade teaching is often associated with schools in remote and difficult contexts dealing with rural, with the result that there are few resources available, given the poverty of the region in which this type of teaching is found. Multigrade teachers have, therefore, to work in a considerably negative context in terms of materials support.The provision of teaching-learning materials is constrained by limited financial resources.