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The System
In Zambia primary education starts when children are around seven years old and lasts through grades 1 to 7.  Primary education is free and the Zambian Government consider this to be an adequate level of education for most kids. At the end of this time pupils sit the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE).
Grades 8 and 9 are known as Junior Secondary and ends with the child sitting their Junior Secondary Education Exam, usually referred to as the Grade 9 exams.  Both the Grade 7 and the Grade 9 exams are important as they will determine which schools the child may attend for secondary education.  A child who does well in the Grade 7 exam may be offered a place at a good boarding school but unless the family can afford the fees and boarding costs, they will stay for grades 8 and 9 at their local Basic School.
Grade 9 exams are even more important. The better the pass in this exam the better the school that offers the pupil a place in Grade 10.  With just two secondary schools in Mfuwe, an area with 18,000 kids, most kids will have to attend boarding school. Secondary education finishes when students take their final exams at the end of Grade 12.
The school year runs from January to December and the school day usually starts at 07:00 but finishes by lunchtime.
In Reality
For many years the Zambia Government has had little money to put towards its Education Program and, whilst the District Education Boards do their best, they struggle with a budget that is inadequate to meet the needs of the growing population.
Schools in rural areas suffer from a shortage of classrooms with their existing ones usually in need of significant refurbishment.   Often teaching is done in shifts with some classes coming in the morning and others in the afternoon but in spite of this many classes are still overcrowded. Educational resources such as text books and teaching aids are in short supply and often out of date and it is not unusual for there to be just one text book for the whole class. 
When there is no school close to a community some villages have been able to establish their own Community Schools. These usually start with just one class being taught in a thatched shelter by an unqualified volunteer. 
As fees are due from Grade 8 onwards many children do not continue with their schooling after Grade 7 but often families cannot even afford the basics such as uniform, exercise books and pencils. The situation is worse for orphans as the relatives who care for them may already be struggling to provide for their own children.
The ages of children in any one grade will vary enormously; sometimes kids start late or have to miss the odd year or two due to difficult home circumstances. Either reason results in classes with children of widely differing ages.
What can be said is that each child craves the chance of an education. In spite of often having to walk long distances and a never-ending round of chores before and after school they are desperate to learn.
However with your help and support there is hope to increase infrastructure, and improve schools and education standards throughout the area. 
With support and donations from kind lodge guests we can turn a thatched shelter into a proper school.  Katapila Community School 2009 - classes held under a thatched 'chitenge', 96 pupils and 2 unqualified volunteer teachers.   2011 - 3 classrooms, a small library, 408 pupils, 2 qualified and 2 unqualified teachers
Click here to see short video interviews with a local Mfuwe teacher explaining the reality and difficulties of teaching in South Luangwa


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