ZAMBIA: Participation rate still only 6%

Only 6% of Zambians access higher education after completing school in a country with a population of nearly 11 million, a higher education body has said.

In a speech this month the director general of Zambia's Technical Education Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (Teveta), Dr Patrick Nkanza, said 300,000 pupils complete secondary education every year in the southern African nation - but only 14,000, or 6%, gain admission to higher education.

Nkanza said one effect was the mushrooming of bogus training institutions, and some students had fallen victim to fake foreign qualifications providers.

Last September University of Zambia Vice-chancellor Dr Jacob Mwanza said access to university education remained extremely limited in Zambia, with only 2% of people obtaining a bachelor degree or higher qualification.

He blamed this on lack of a clear higher education policy, pressure on university infrastructure and low levels of investment.

According to 2004 population figures, when the country was said to have a population of 10 million people the potential number of people eligible for higher education in the 18 to 25 age group was an estimated 1.3 million.

The low figure indicate that reforms ushered more than 10 years ago to improve access to higher education in Zambia, through the setting up of Teveta, has not worked.

The training authority is an autonomous institution created under an Act of Parliament of 1998 to regulate, monitor and coordinate technical education in consultation with industry and other stakeholders.

The policy was aimed, among other things, at increasing access to higher education through the development of financing mechanisms, improvement of the physical infrastructure of training institutions and the acquisition or replacement of training facilities and equipment, and promotion of awareness of HIV-Aids.

Lack of political commitment and financial support have been blamed for the failure to turn around the fortunes of the higher education sector.