Odds are against college students in Zambia, but AEP can help assist

Smart Lungu just started his second year at the University of Zambia. He was fortunate enough to receive a government bursary and his AEP sponsorship covers the rest of his costs. During school breaks, Smart teaches his younger peers at the center.  Zambian students face difficult challenges just completing high school, and most don’t stand a great chance of being accepted to college. Only about 10% of Zambian high school students are admitted, although the rate is significantly higher for African Education Program members.

Those talented and diligent students who do qualify encounter another set of obstacles. Recent news reports from Zambia reveal that only 2,000 of the 6,000 first-year students admitted to the University of Zambia for the current academic year were “awarded bursaries,” or scholarships. The 4,000 willing students denied bursaries were left dangling. Heartbreakingly, one promising student—Munsaka Mukwamba—was distraught about not being able to attend college when her application for aid was rejected, and shortly after committed suicide.

The tragedy seems to have convinced Zambian government officials that the system needs to be revamped. Education Minister John Phiri said the death was a “wakeup call.” Students are requesting a “loan scheme” that would allow them to borrow funds that wouldn’t be due until after graduation and they obtained work.

Currently, students at Zambia’s two largest state-owned universities compete for scholarships, which might cover 50% to 100% of education costs. Along with a shortage of funds, lack of transparency is one of the system’s chief faults.

AEP and our sponsors’ generosity have helped our students cope with this bureaucracy and work toward the college education and potentially brighter future they've dreamed about, sacrificed for, and deserve.

Febby Choombe studies special education at the University of Zambia. Like her classmate Smart, the government and AEP cover all her schooling costs.

Patricia Nanyangwe is in the middle of her applications for college and hopes to attend the University of Zambia.