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Multigrade teaching, gender and the community.


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



In Zambia the multigrade system had been earlier used during the colonial era. It was reintroduced in 1985 in four schools on a pilot basis, in very remote area. A thorough evaluation of the four schools (Luangwa 1989) showed that the multigrade programme was a success story. In all the schools evaluated, multigrade teaching had minimized the costs of education to the community and family. The new teaching system made it possible for the schools to be upgraded from incomplete Grade 1-4 schools to complete Grade 1-7 primary schools.

Sprint and multigrade teaching

Most of the Multigrade teaching in-service training of teachers in the year 2000 was conducted through the School Programme of In-service for the Term . SPRINT was introduced in all the 600 home zones. through a cascade system from the National to the Provincial, District and Zone level.The target is to train about 1000 teachers in multigrade teaching for before 2005.Recent training efforts in the Western and Central provinces have, however, changed the situation for the letter. The provincial workshops in Mongu, for inspectors, lecturers, INSET providers and teachers dealt with aspects relating to the methodology, organisation and management of the system . The main objective of the workshops was acquainting the participants with the multigrade system of teaching. The workshop lasted for two weeks and was beneficial and successful. Since February 2001 Teacher Education Department of Zambia started the initiative to empower rural teachers with multigrade teaching methods.The pilot project started in Central Province, namely in Serenje and Mkushi.The rural schools in Central Province have few teachers and in some schools only two trained teachers to manage the whole school from grade 1-7.These teachers need skills and methods of teaching in order for them to manage the schools and be able to teach effectively.Multigrade teaching approach is one option which can be used in Zambian Rural schools. This option will enable them to handle two/three classes at a session.This means that a teacher can handle a minimum of four classes a day in lower grades and two classes a day in upper grades.Rural schools have very low enrolment and Multigrade will reduce the number of teachers required at each school as it is possible for three teachers to manage a grade IV school without over working them. Multigrade teaching is quite economical if well managed by our education system.The project had already two workshops on multigrade teaching and compiled also a small module. During the month March my Zambian colleague and myself contacted all the lecturers, from the Malcolm Moffat college ,who were involved in different Multigrade Teaching workshops in Zambia.Visit of the Primary School in Serenje whom is applying Multigrade Teaching.Visit the schools whom will be involved in the MGT project.Giving some lesson demonstrations on MGT. Meeting some Teacher Groups and evaluate Multigrade

Teaching.In 2001 and 2002 the MTG in service branch of Teacher Education Department in Lusaka organized about five national workshops on multigrade teaching. Together with a national team we compiled two MTG teaching manuals ( that can be used by Zambian Multigrade teachers and trainers.

The multigrade workshops

In an effort to assist multigrade school teachers in their work, Multigrade teaching training workshops were held in the Central Province in the year 2001 and at the beginning of the year 2002. The main purpose of holding the workshops was two-fold, normally , to train trainers and to upgrade the knowledge, skills and teaching ability of teachers for the purpose of improving teaching and learning standards in the Multigrade schools. The workshops desit with the following topics: Methods of teaching /Classroom organisation and management/Lesson planning/Importance and usefulness of syllabuses schemes of work and records of work/Time allocation and time tabling/Multigrade class groupings/Preparation, use and storage of teaching./Record keeping/Qualities of a good multigrade school teacher/Conducting demonstration lessons/How to conduct INSET activities.

Similar post training workshops were held in some schools in Serenje, Kapiri Mposhi, Chibombo and Mumbwa districts to consolidate easier work. The evaluation, to assess the impact of both the initial and the post training workshops on classroom practice, also took place that same period. The training of trainers and multigrade school teachers in the Central Province,was yet another activity of great significance in the history of the Multigrade system in Zambia.The training was conducted in three different places in Serenje, Mkushi and Kabwe, and was attended by 100 participants. The duration of each training session was one week. The V.V. O. B (Flemish office for technical cooperation and Development) in conjunction with the Teacher Education Department of the Ministry of Education, sponsored the training . The main purpose of conducting the training was to assist trainers and teacher, new and old, involved in Multigrade teaching in the province. The idea was to upgrade participants, knowledge, skills, e.t.c in different areas aspects of the Multigrade system of teaching.The content material for the training was disseminated to the participants through lectures, group work, discussions and lesson demonstrations.

The duration of Multigrade teaching training workshops should be longer in order for participants to benefit more in term of acquisition of the required knowledge and skills.Multigrade teachers should be trained on yearly basis.Multigrade teaching training workshops should be held regularly both at resource centres and zonal levels.Monitoring of work and activities in Multigrade schools should be done regularly.All teachers in Multigrade schools should attend training workshops..All required teaching materials and resources should be provided .

The needs of Multigrade schools

Multigrade schools should be provided with adequate materials and equipment Physical structure in the schools should be repaired and be replaced. Multigrade teaching training workshops should be held regularly Monitoring of work and activities in Multigrade schools should be done continuously Review seminars at which exchange ideas views, information, expertise and experience should be held on regular basis.Teachers should be awarded special incentives for teaching Multigrade classes.All teachers in Multigrade and there small rural schools should receive similar training.Special instruments for monitoring working Multigrade schools should be created. Ministry officials should try to visit multigrade schools to render the required assistance more often.Storage facilities in multigrade schools should be improved.Serious efforts should be made to address the problem of early marriages in the schools.There should be regular INSET activities for teachers at both resource centre and zonal levels. Female teachers should also be posted to remote schools so that they can help to inspire the girl child. The need to improve the water supply in the schools is also highly recommended.

Multigrade teaching and gender

Education improves the quality of life. The education of girls and women provides considerable additional benefits to society. Educated women have smaller families,fewer of their children die in infancy, and the children who survive are healthier and better educated. Moreover educated women are better prepared to enter the paid labour force,which is critical to the welfare of the many female-headed households in developing countries. Basic education is a right,something that all children should be entitled to and multigrade teaching is the way to it. All children no matter gender, ethnicity, disabilty or poverty have an equal opportunity to acces in multigrade teaching schools and thus have access to quality education.

School attendance figures in Zambia indicate a substantial number of children at both primary and secondary levels reported as never having attented school.In many cases this could be because children are considered by their parents to be too young to go to school.

In Zambia the attitudes of poor parents and their daughters towards the benefits of education are seldom well understood. Throughout fieldwork Multigrade teachers and community leaders try to make understand the poor parents the value of education and especially the education of girls. But still in Zambia when a household is faced with financial problems priority would be given to boys.

Despite free education, the enrolment of girls and their participation is still low in schools and continues decreasing.This is due to the duties and responsibilities imposed on them at an early age making them less productive in the education arena. The onset of free primary education in Zambia saw the escalating of numbers of pupils enrolling for primary education. However statistics indicate that pupils have since dropped out of school and only ten percent of children

between the ages of 14 and 18 manage to go to secondary education.This is compounded by cases of school dropout as well as repetition. A press release issued by the Ministry of Education said girls in Zambia have higher repetition and dropout rates than boys. While gender oriented organisations are geared towards seeing the girl child go to school, the situation on the ground indicates that the progress is a fact.

In my opinion there are a lot of other barriers, which manipulate girls from attending school. Being traumatised and being excluded from school because you are pregnant,is killing a whole generation. It is the task of the education system and the school to address the community that girls education is needed and that not any barrier should keep them away from school.Teachers in Zambia claim that girls are not motivated to learn as boys and girls tend to be more shy and silent in class. Long distances between homes and schools, and the shortage of proper sanitation for girls could be major factors that affect the supply side. In addition sexual harassment by older boys and male teachers seems to be serious in some schools. At the individual level, the biggest reason for girls to drop out of school is failure to pass exams and be promoted to the next grade. At the family level, parents tend to view boys education as ultimately more cost effective, since girls usually join their husbands household upon marriage, leaving their own homes. At the community level, initiation ceremonies, into womanhood are significant events for almost all girls in Zambia. It become difficult for girls to catch up with her friends when they return to schools after the ceremony. Girls are usually taught to be subservient to their husbands and to happily accept their subordinate status. Girls, after initiation, tend to be interested in boyfriends and sexual relationships rather than school studies. Pregnancy and early marriage are the second most common reasons why girls leave school. In Zambian culture, pregnancy and child bearing are regarded as the ultimate fulfilment of womanhood, particularly when accompanied by marriage. Stereotyped gender roles have been strongly maintained.I think education situation can open the eyes of teachers and education policy makers that boys and girls living in the same poor conditions have to throw their stereotyped roles overboard and think about the future with gender and equality.

Table 1 shows the enrolment figures of an average primary school in a remote Zambian places


Number of girls

Number of boys






















Table 1: Enrolement Elementary school Zambia

The table shows that already from 4th grade girls dont to school anymore because they have to help in the household, they have to watch over the youngest children or to work on the field and also from grade 4 early marriages are frequent. I remember about a year ago I made tour by feet with a local female chief and we visited different households with girls whom were not attending school because of different reasons. We explained the parents why school is important for girls.

By visiting these parents we were pulling down a first barrier.Parents dont believe enough in education. For them going to school is a wast of time and the first victimes of these ideas are girls.It will result in another barrier; early marriage, young pregnant girls are refused at school.

Education, teachers, head teachers, schools can play an important role in silving these community problems. Girls education is one of the best investments a country can take.Barriers must be banned, boy or a girl they all want to go to school, they all want to learn, they all want a job, they all want educate their children. Suggestions to change the situation are to bypass governments and distribute aid money to local faith-based organizations and other groups that work at the local level and already know the intricate problems the women in their community face.Other officials suggest increasing funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Zambia.

Nearly every project is having an impact on women's status. For instance you can built a road which can unexpectedly improve women's health. Now mothers in childbirth and women in other

forms of medical distress can be driven to medical facilities to a town in a matter of hours. Before the road was built, the trip could take days.

Despite the fact that equal numbers of boys and girls enroll in Grade 1, fewer girls than boys are found in schools from grade 5 onwards. Statistics show that in 1995 there were 20% more boys than girls in Grade 7 and 40 more in Grade 12. In the universities, the picture is at its worst there with numbers being four times as many males as females. Because of the gender stereotyping that relegates girls and women to a limited number of training opportunities, most technical education, vocational and entrepreneurship training programmes, except secretarial studies, are male dominated. Similarly, the percentage of females undertaking skills production training at skills centres is low compared to males; for instance, in 1995, 177 females were enrolled against 225 males, none of whom were disabled. Because of social and cultural factors and problems of distance, children in rural areas tend to participate less than their urban counterparts in education, while among rural girls and particularly disabled girl children are more disadvantaged. The provision of education in rural areas has also suffered from failure to invest in infrastructure, a large proportion of the schools being dilapidated and in extensive need of repair. Such education materials as are available do not always reach rural schools, while many of these schools must rely heavily on the work of untrained teachers.The unfavourable educational status of girls and disabled girl rural children inhabitants is reflected in the rates of adult illiteracy. Census data show that at national level, approximately one-third of all persons aged 15 and above cannot read and write. For women as a group, 42.7% are rated as illiterate, compared with 22.8% of men; while 44.7% of rural adults are unable to read and write compared with 15.2% of the corresponding urban population. These high rates of illiteracy tend to be closely associated with high rates of poverty; the geographic areas that show the highest levels of illiteracy also show the highest rates of poverty.

Multigrade schools are particularly effective in promoting reading achievement over time among low achieving students, especially girls in rural areas.Low achievers in multigrade schools may be advantaged by the opportunities to work with their peers in heterogeneous achievement groups.I will try to show the reader that MTG teaching can remove educational disparities and so it will not remain invisible.An active commitment must be made to removing educational disparities. Underserved groups like girls should not suffer any discrimination in access to learning opportunities. It is whether multigrade schools can be supported to offer learning opportunities for girls in situations where the alternative is no access to education.It is prooved that the outcome measures of MTG pupils were cognitive achievement levels in maths and reading and non-cognitive including friendship patterns, self-concept and self-esteem.It is beyond dispute that this teaching situation will advantage all learners especially girls in a boys classroom.Teachers should begin to choose multigrade as their preferred way of grouping, emphasising its value for girl's social development.It is by means of multigrade schools that some areas are able to offer educational opportunities for the most isolated, poor and indigeonous populations where girls are lacking behind.The regular attendance of girls is decraising and the starting age for school for those girls is often delayed when the distance between the school and home involves a long walk.Therefore multigrade schools close to the community will reinforce the access to culture for those communities.When a girl has to walk less to school she can still do the domestic and productive tasks at home.The girl will be regular and permanent at school.Those will learn to read in their mother tongue language so it will be easier for the parents to follow the girl even if the parents are illiterate.Of course the relationship between parents and teachers must be optimum,

and this is the case especially in MTG situations.Parents are closer to the school and schools are closer to the parents.So teachers can prevent that girls will be withdrawn form schooling when reaching puberty.The teacher can also stimulate parents to send girls earlier to school so the repetition rates will go down and interruptions in their studies will be reduced.Teachers in multigrade schools can offer significant support for the community and can get good support from parents because they take positive initiatives and effective action to improve girl's achievements.Girls in a multigrade class can show how strong they are in sport, it may open the eyes of the boys and provoke mutual respect.Mixed aged groups of pupils have worked on learning assignments at agriculture plots within the school grounds and parents have supported these initiatives.All this will create a girl friendly atmosphere where children learn collaboratively and actively and where the teacher or the textbook is no longer the source of unquestioned knowledge but where the teacher acts as the facilitator and learner, drawing on the student's own resources for learning.In developing contexts,MTG teaching provides an excellent opportunity, for the needs of the whole child and the child in his or her community to be recognized and addressed.MTG teaching addresses the health, education and welfare needs of children in the social and community context in which they live.Multigrade teaching is flexibility to encourage creative actions, girls and boys related activities in order to allow creative teaching in culturally different contexts.Flexibility means also integration of gender related activities and integration of pupils from different grade levels and competencies.A MTG teaching curriculum will be an improving of that curriculum by developing subject matter in a way which makes it relevant to the social conditions of the communities and the needs of the children,girls,boys.To make teaching and learning effective and easy the teacher may group the pupils either on the basis of classes,age,sex or on the basis of ability.Sometimes the teacher can create mixed groups also.For example,if some of the girls in a class hesitate to sit with the boys, the teacher can make a group of boys and girls, so that their hesitation will be gradually reduced and, after a peiod of time they will not hesitate to sit together.Thus mixed grouping is useful to remove shame and hesitation.Mixed grouping is also useful in the classes for singing, dancing and other types of activities.Low-cost teaching and learning materials can be easily used in a Multigrade context.It will be easier for the teacher to make gender based materials because they will be made by the teacher or the pupils themselves.The processes in the production of the materials are simple and inexpensive,not time consuming and easily available from the local environment.In remote and isolated Zambian communities, particularly where the teacher speaks the local language and is well accepted by the local community , the MTG teaching often forms a closer relationship with his or her pupils than is found in city schools and single grade schools.Furthermore the atmosphere in a MTG teaching school is more like that of a home since pupils are not separated by grade levels.The teacher is rather seen as a surrogate parent especially to girls.In the areas of multigrade teaching 100 percent of children attend, completion rates have increased and lower drop-out and reptition rates are evident. Better results are achieved than in regular classes.Student-centred learning is achieved and more group works occurs.By explaining the purpose to children and their parents and locating education centres close to living places, the use of the multigrade teaching has encouraged girls (and the parents) to proceed further in their learning.As the school is very close to the community it can make a list of eligible school-aged children in that community so that it becomes easy to identify who are not in school.Education is a socialising process and provides leadership training for girls and boys.Multigrade children of today are citizens of tomorrow.Group learning is a primary mode of learning.Older ones act as tutors to the younger ones.An older girl can be a tutor of a younger boy.In peer groups children,boys and girls assist each other.Because much of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa still lives in rural areas, distance from schools and lack of public transport continue to be

formidable obstacles to full primary school enrolment. Distance from school is one of the main reasons for low primary school enrolment for Sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to distances, labour needs and the fear of sexual harassment and even abduction make it difficult, if not impossible for parents to send girls to school.Small multi-grade schools situated close to parents homes can play an important role in ensuring that all children have the opportunity to receive full primary education. However teachers in such small schools require additional training as well as basic resources to enable them to cope with pupils of different ages and at different levels of achievement.Whilst the multi-grade school approach has been recognized worldwide as potentially an important contribution to the achievement of good quality primary education for all, most notably through the Escuela Nueva approach in Colombia and in many other Latin American countries, it has not been accepted by most Ministries of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa as an official strategy towards the achievement of Education for All. The Multigrade Programme provides the opportunity to actively involve Ministries of Education in these three countries in the provision of education in small multigrade schools in rural areas.An important issue is to ensure that such small multi-grade schools can deliver high quality and relevant education, and can be seen as competitive rather than as a poor substitute for larger more established and more conventional schools. The quality of education in remote rural schools tends to be substantively lower than in their larger urban counterparts. The aim of the programme is to ensure that the prototype schools can achieve and maintain a high quality of education, thus facilitating the acceptance of multi-grade schools within the policy and strategic framework.

An important concern is the need to involve parents in the education of their children, in particular in the education of their daughters. It is generally known that few if any schools can attain a high level of enrolment and achievement without strong parental support. The home and community must be supportive of the aims and processes of the school. This is often not the case, where the school may be seen as an alien imposition.

There is also need to develop teacher training programmes, both pre-service and in-service, to improve the performance of classroom teachers who have to teach multi-grade classes. Whilst the methodologies are well-known, they have not been specifically applied to the African context.

Promoting critical thinking about gender inclusive Multigrade Teaching.

Multigrade teaching is a way of inclusive teaching regarding girls. Critical thinking leads to the development of more inclusive theories to explain unique circomstances which do not fit in the common view.Curriculum materials are gender-inclusive when the content equally represents the experiences and interests of women and men.And when women's experience is recognised and valued equally with men's in each area of study,subject, theme or topic.

Multigrade curriculum materials are gender-inclusive when the content equally represents the experiences and intersts of women and men.And when women's experience is recognised and valued equallywith men's in each area of study,subject and theme.

Curriculum materials depicting women in stereotypical roles or completely omitting women's experience supports the mythe that women have, and should only have,a limited range or roles in society.The role of women and girls should appear in the content of all Multigrade curriculum materials like textbooks,illustrations, etc...with the same regularity as men.

Within the Multigrade curriculum ,women and girls should ve depicted in a whole range of roles and occupations; making decisions, taking action,initiating ideas and actions,being adventurous and brave as well as being sensitive and caring, being physically active, occupying positions of responsibility.To exclude them is to provide a curriculum that is not relevant to the life experiences of women and girls.

A checklist of actions to support a gender inclusive Multigrade curriculum.

Address sex-based harassment and its impact in limiting or silencing some pupils.

Ensure that pupils have equal access to teacher time,as well address the quality of this time.

Ensure equal access to resources and to areas of learning.

Provide a forum in which all pupils voices are encouraged, included and valued.

Provide opportunities for both teachers and pupils to critically reflect on the impact of gender

in their own lives and relationships.

Develop teaching situations which are relevant and meaningful for girls as well as boys.

Ensure that assessment and reporting of girls and boys give adequate messages about what is being valued in the learning process.

Multigrade teaching and the community

Multigrade teaching is not a temporary measure, it is concerned with the policy of education for all and the cultural and scientific promotion of a whole community- a long term task.Primary schools with the practice of Multigrade Teaching are to be the source to serve the suffering mankind, as the centres for causing social conscientization,economic amelioration and educational reform in a community.In their development lies the realization of the Universal Right to Education.

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 very positive effect on local attitudes and access to education.

Community members and parents can be utilized positively in the teaching process,which also incidentally binds the community and school more closely.

Parents and community representatives should form part of any truly integrated currucilum design panel,especially where local content is required.Skilled community persons should be considered as para-professional teachers (artists,writers and scientists, for example).

The Multigrade Teaching curriculum shouls be improved by developing subject matter in a way which makes it relevant to the social conditions of the communities and the needs of the target clientele.

Parents,teachers and community leaders should be involved in the re-organization and improvement of the curriculum.The education authorities should prepare instructional plans for teachers where various activities are proposed for use with an emphasis on problem solving and acquiring skills for character and community development.The local community could be invited to participate as tutors,local school-management coordinators, contributors of funds, materials and facilities and para-professional teaching staff such as local experts in arts, culture, handcraft, language,history,religions,etc...

Community involvement is an aspect of materials preparation in Zambia. Teachers in MTG Teaching and community persons were making local history books . These teachers and communities have increased responsibilities and involvement in designing pupils worksheets and additional materials.

Multigrade Teaching is also of importance in the political dimension in providing people with the opportunity of participating more usefully in the communities and countries in which they live.It


may be a liberating force in terms of enabling communities and individuals to escape from povery 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.In many situations,MTG Teachers ,because of their training and position,assume an important position in the local community.Thus the teacher is the critical link between the school and its community.

The nature of many situations in Zambia where a MTG school exists is such that the co-operation and assistance of the local community is needed to improve the quality of educational services that MTG Teaching schools provide. This includes community involvement in such diverse activities as building and maintaining classrooms,assisting in the preapration of curriculum teaching aids and acting as a para professional teacher.

The teacher can seek the help of local communities in providing a suitable site for the school location and the teacher should participate in all of the various local events and activities; celebrations,holidays and even funerals.In this way, the teacher will come to be seen as a genuine and commited member of the community.

The MTG teacher is often the most broadly and well educated person in the community ans as such plays an important role as an adviser to pupils and their families in a wide range of social matters.The teacher may be seen as highly respected role model and from whom advice is sought.Thus , the teacher may find that his or her activities are directed not only to students in the school but also to parents and other members of the community.The opportunity excists for the MTG teacher to be assisted in the classroom by parents or like in the Central Province in Zambia by other and older local community members.The MTG teacher needs to train such persons so that the maximum benefit can be achieved from such a valuable resource.

Many MTG Teaching schools are situated in isolated and remote regions.As a result of the teachers' education and social status, they are usually seen as having a high prestige and so are sought out by the community members for information on various matters.In Luangwa Boma in Zambia, where a MTG school is in the middle of a wildpark (Kavalamandja)the teacher functions as liason afficer between the local (political and administrative authorieties and the population when he or she is called for a meeting at the Boma (administrative centre).Thus ,community members often seek out the teacher, either at school or at his or her home to dicuss both educational or non-educational matters.In this way, many policies of the government,such as family planning and health, can be ebtter put in practice with the help of teachers.In addition, such communication between teacher and community can be useful in providing communication from isolated local community members to government officials.In Zambia I supported local artists ( theatre groups and pop groups) to bring the HIV /AIDS awareness message to schools.The artist were bringing theatre, puppet theatre and songs on HIV/AIDS in the classroom together with the teacher.Those MTG teachers were very happy with this kind of teaching and told us that the children will talk about it at home so that the parents see the need of multigrade classes.At the same time the parents are informed about the dangers of the desaese.The MTG teacher may also be required to be the manager of the finances of the school in some contects.For example:Collection of money from the community for minor repairs and maintenance of school buildings and grounds.Acting as treasurer for teh finances of the school and perhaps also the community.Maintaining the accounts for funds accrued to the school by selling produce to the market.The duties of a MTG teacher can also include the following tasks:Organizing activities such as fairs,festivals,national and religious days.Arranging singing ,

dancing and other community activities.Leading funeral prayers.Helping government officials to conduct elections,population census...The multigrade approach encourages pupils to learn from each other as well as from the teacher, and multiage teachers often work in teams, helping and learning from each other. Adult volunteers are natural additions to such a "community of learners". In addition to assisting teachers with labor-intensive multiage methods, participating in instruction helps volunteers learn about multiage practices and see how they benefit children. Volunteers often increase community support by conveying information and positive attitudes about multiage education to friends and neighbors. Parent and community volunteers can participate in instruction in many ways. They can give special whole-class presentations, teach ongoing classes in art, science, or languages to small groups, or tutor individual students. Parents can also participate in instruction at home, guided by written directions for homework assignments or suggestions for ways to reinforce their child's learning. Instructional skills can be taught at volunteer training workshops. Volunteers can also provide behind-the-scenes support with activities such as preparing materials, fundraising, and organizing volunteer activities.In traditional Zambian multigrade schools, parent involvement is often limited to nonclassroom support tasks. Teachers work autonomously in classrooms "separated by time, space, and curriculum", rarely collaborating even with fellow professionals. Parents and teachers must acquire new skills and change old attitudes to become effective partners.Teachers may be uncomfortable sharing control or fear that involving volunteers will lower the quality of instruction. They may believe parents are uninterested or have little to contribute. They may be reluctant to admit potentially critical "outsiders" to their classrooms while they are still mastering multigrade practices, or may feel overwhelmed by the additional time demands of training and organizing volunteers. Parents may doubt their ability to contribute or believe they should not "interfere" with instruction. They may distrust educators or educational innovations because of past negative experiences with the school system.Negative preconceptions are more likely to be replaced by trust and good will if teachers and parents have positive experiences sharing thoughts and feelings and working together. Planners must surmount practical obstacles such as parents' work schedules, their need to care for other children, and teachers' needs for administrative support and training in how to work effectively with adult volunteers.

Fully mastering multigrade practices takes years. Teachers can work more comfortably with parents during this ongoing process if their principal strives to create a school climate supportive of change -a climate in which it is accepted that mistakes are a normal part of learning and growing.

Parents should have input into significant instructional and assessment decisions concerning their child, as well as major decisions that affect their child's school or program, such as whether multiage practices should be adopted.

Participation in decision-making increases ownership and support for multigrade education, as it does for any innovation. Parents, educators, and other stakeholders should be included in the planning process from the beginning. Parent and community representatives can serve on school advisory councils or multiage study committees. All parents should have opportunities to voice concerns at each stage of the implementation process via such means as meetings and

surveys. It is perhaps in the area of education that government, donors and the development community have failed the Zambian child the most.Nearly half of primary school aged children are not enrolled.An obligation to provide an education should not wait for that child to become vulnerable.Furthermore, an impoverished child should not be provided with an inferior education.Education for children must have the first call on resources.

Community schools and multigrade teaching

There are three main strategies which are adopted by communities to provide access to education for orphans:


School fees, and the stipulation of uniforms, are set by the management committee of a school, not by the government.One method of dealing with the shortage of funds to pay for school fees is to lobby schools, or the local education office, to waive school fees for orphans. In one district, where waiver of fees was approved, school enrolment increased dramatically.However, when the agreement lapsed, enrolment declined again, and many children are now going to (free) community schools.

Even where no blanket agreements are negotiated, various orphan projects around Zambia intervene with local school committees to waive fees or school uniforms for individual orphans or other children in especially difficult circumstances.However, where children are allowed to attend school without paying fees, this undermines the parents who are paying, and places the viability of the school in jeopardy.It may also contribute to creating disharmony and tension in communities and setting people apart from one another.This type of tension could create a situation which communities would find it difficult to manage their own development.


Some communities have developed localised bursary schemes such as those developed by CINDI and others, which in turn depend on outside funders or income generating activities.There is potential for bursaries to be funded through BESSIP, ZECAB and the recently redesigned community based Public Welfare Assistance Scheme.

Community Schools

NGOs often help communities develop community schools as a means of educating their children. These schools condense the seven-year government curriculum into four years, and do not charge fees or require their pupils to wear uniforms. The teachers are usually unqualified community volunteers who have at least a grade-9 education.

Community schools were originally started to enable those children who had missed out on their basic schooling to catch up with the government curriculum by the end of grade-7.Thus, children entering community schools were always older than their counterparts in government schools.However the age of children entering community schools today appears to be much younger, pointing to an increasing use of community schools as a parallel school system for poor children.

NGOs often provide teacher training for the voluntary teachers in community schools, who are drawn from the surrounding community. These teachers frequently use the SPARK7 manual, developed by the Zambian Community Schools Secretariat (ZCSS), as a classroom guide.ZCSS strives to monitor t

The quality of education provided in community schools although it is not completely apparent how they fulfil this task. Indeed, many community schools are springing up with little co-ordination with a central body.

Not surprisingly, there is a continuing debate over the proliferation of community schools as an alternative to government schools, and over the quality of education they provide.NGOs often support community schools as a tangible delivery, which can help the NGO establish credibility, and because setting up the school develops unity and leadership in the community.

The following are strengths and weaknesses of the Community Schools.


Children can attend school without paying fees, or wearing uniforms, while holding classes in shifts for different levels (grades) means that pupils can attend to other obligations in their households.

Children can catch up with formal schooling by grade 7 (although low educational standards in many schools, and poverty, dictate that not many actually transfer to formal schools).

The schools represent a tangible activity which community groups, such as Community OVC Committees, can initiate to benefit orphans, and the schools serve to keep hope alive for orphans, parents and communities.

Communities are able to directly influence the running of the school.

At least one project examined for the situation analysis (Buyantanshi) makes use of retired teachers and conforms to the governments primary school syllabus.


With the exception of very brief (typically one or two weeks) in-service training, teachers have no formal grounding, and teach from rudimentary teachers guides.

The fact that the teachers are volunteers means their attendance can be erratic, either through flagging motivation or because they need to do casual work elsewhere to survive.

Volunteer teachers will leave if offered better prospects.

Many schools borrow buildings, which may be required for other purposes.

Issues facing Community Schools

The relationship of community schools with the formal education system needs to be examined.Warning signs include pupils leaving government schools (which depend on fee-income to maintain their quality of education) for open schools, which are being set up nearby. The authorities

cannot impose standards on community schools, because they do not fund them.

There are various risks attach to setting up an alternative education system for the poor, including stigmatisation of children and teachers, discreditation of the education authorities in the eyes of the public, and complacency on the part of the authorities in meeting their obligations to educate the nations children.