The Challenges of Pupil retention in Community Schools in the light of the universal access to Basic Education Policy: A study of selected Schools of Lusaka District

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Kalumba, Edward
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One of the global aspirations set by the governments of the world under the auspices of the United Nations was to ensure that Universal Access to Primary Education was achieved by governments as set by Education For All and Millenium Development Goals target by 2015. This goal gave developing countries where the problem of limited access to education was prevalent a new orientation and challenge to ensure solutions were sought despite the difficult circumstances they were faced with. Zambia, by 1990 had joined the rest of the world to pursue and achieve the world vision of Universal Primary Education for all children by 2015. One major initiative that was devised was the creation of community schools to reach out to the under-served, vulnerable children who were mostly found out of school. The Community school movement which began in Zambia by 1995 became the major provider of basic education to vulnerable children. Since the inception of community schools, a lot of interest has been generated among researchers to undertake some studies about the new concept of educational provision for the under-privileged. A series of studies have been undertaken on many issues relating to community schools in Zambia, yet few researchers have explored the issue of retention of pupils in these schools. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether increased enrolment of pupils in community schools had positive or negative impact on pupil retention and dropout in selected community schools of Lusaka district.The study used the qualitative and quantitative research designs. It targeted school coordinators (head teachers), teachers, pupils, parents, MOE officials and NGOs involved in the operation of community schools. A representative sample was selected using purposive and random sampling procedures. Questionnaires, interview guides, focus group discussions, record analysis and observations were some of the tools that were used to collect data. Quantitative data were analyzed into descriptive statistics with the help of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software while qualitative data were transcribed and summarized using narrative reports.The study discovered that community schools had experienced overwhelming response from out of school children which led to increased enrolment. The overwhelming response was the result of campaigns urging out of school children to go back to school and to a large extent the free primary education policy implementation by the Zambian government. However the study revealed that there was no monitoring mechanism that was put in place to ensure pupils were retained. The study also revealed that most of the pupils in community schools were vulnerable and were faced with many challenges such as lack of financial support, pregnancies and early marriages in case of girls and poverty related problems. The challenges were so overwhelming that equally a good number of these children were forced to drop out of school. The measures that were put in place could not create much impact to turn around the effects of poverty and other challenges pupils were faced with. The researcher concluded that pupil drop out in community schools was prevalent and was quite a serious problem that required serious intervention to reverse the trend of low pupil persistence in schools or else the millennium goal of 2015 would not be achieved. Therefore, the researcher recommended that head teachers and teachers should be trained in record management and information communication technology (ICT), feeding programme to be extended to all community schools and government should take full responsibility in the running of community schools.
Dropouts , Elementary School Dropouts , Students Retention