Zambia: Re-entry policy puts girls back in school

Date: October 7, 2011
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From the time government introduced the re-entry policy, civil society, the church and other stakeholders have joined hands to see to it that young mothers are able to complete their education by going back to school. Before 1991, once a girl dropped out of school for felling pregnant, it would mark the end of her enrolment in any education system. This led to early marriages and usually through difficult circumstances such as forced marriages.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has also introduced affirmative action in favour of girls at Grade 7 and Grade 9 levels. Girls require slightly lower scores than boys to proceed to the next level to ensure retention of girls in the education system for longer periods.

According to the Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Andrew Phiri, government is on course towards construction of 100 high schools around the country in order to meet the MDG goal. Phiri said currently there were 50 high schools under construction while 37 were under evaluation. Scaling up school infrastructure development projects aims to decongest and encourage more pupils to access education especially girls.

The initiatives are a direct response to persistent gender gaps in education. The long term impact of this is evident in having few women in leadership positions Global trends indicate that teenage pregnancies are a major social problem and according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) the problem has assumed endemic proportions among teenagers, especially in the poorer nations. To mitigate the problem, the Zambian government put in place a policy to facilitate re-entry of girls who fall pregnant back into the school system after they had babies. The policy that has been in operation for 14 years has benefited many young girls.

Some of the actions that are being taken include:

  • Advocacy to ensure pregnant girls go back to school after giving birth and they mix freely with other pupils.
  • Counselling services are offered to girls who fall pregnant.
  • Bursaries offered to vulnerable children.
  • Affirmative action for girls which lowers entry points into higher grades and tertiary education. Some people however feel that this it is discriminating against boys.
  • Workshops and discussion forums are being held to discuss challenges encountered by implementing the policy and how these can be addressed.
  • Rules have been instituted in schools that protect girl children from GBV and other abuses

There have been challenges with the implementation especially because of the fact that it is not a law but a policy so it is not binding.   In a number of cases there is a lack of financial support for them to complete school because their families disown them or if they stay with them tell them there is no more money to cater for all their education needs because they are now taking care of her baby.

The policy allows them to be out of school for a short period, six months and after that have to go back. It is a challenge for many school girls who have no care givers to look after their babies. Guidance and counselling services on reproductive rights to prevent unwanted pregnancies among girls in schools are still sketchy. More funds are required for implementation of the policy so that all girls who require government’s assistance can access it including for up scaling advocacy programmes.

Table 3.2 shows, however, that since 2002, a consistent 38% to 40% of girls who might otherwise have dropped out of school are being readmitted and completing their studies.

Table 3.2 Number of pregnancies and re-admissions in basic schools in Zambia:2002 -2009




















1, 322








% age- readmissions









Source: Ministry of Education (2010): An evaluation of Re-entry policy in Zambia

The key beneficiaries are young women able to complete their education. The government and society at large is also benefiting in that the educated girls will add to the growing economy of the country. SADC countries and can learn from the Zambian experience.  

9 thoughts on “Zambia: Re-entry policy puts girls back in school”

lwansa chela says:

kindly furnish me with policy on the students in colleges of education especially primary training colleges

francis kalimwiinga says:

please furnish me with effects of non-compliance of re-entry policy by mission secondary schools

Mollydean zong Buntuya says:

Thanks for your information. Can I get a clarification? Is it mandatory that at a certain stage of the pregnancy the girl must stop school school and go and give birth or if she can carry her pregnancy through out she will be allowed to stay in school

chipo mudenda says:

so far how has been the attitude of young mothers and their families towards the Re-entry policy particularly in rural arears.

How is this policy contributing to the nation.

milandile silvestor says:

Its been a welcome move. many who could have lost a chance to complete school were enablf to do so. however many more continue to engange in sexual activities while at school, much need to be done

kalenga kasapo says:

please help rural districts such as chama in muchinga province to interprate the re entry policy documents even our school managers are finding it difficult to explain the policy to their teachers. many girls have left school because school managers have misinterpreted the policy.

Chilyobwe Judith says:

Quiet interesting.One of the presidents has come up with a better solution dealing with teen pregnancies.He has emphasized on stopping sex. Are these teens going to manage? Yes they will coz by doing so, they will uphold Biblical instructions.

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