Examining The Criteria Of Non-Formal Learning Institutions In Lusaka: A Study Of Three Non-Formal Learning Institutions

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The education system currently in practice in Zambia has created a pyramidal structure of education that is not compatible with efforts to achieve education for all (EFA) goals as it “throws-away” many pupils out of the educational systems. The majority of those thrown away do not fail as such but are “pushed” or “squeezed” out of the education systems (Serpell, 1993).

Those pushed out especially at primary school level, have no survival skills to enable them manage themselves in the community. The Zambian government seems to be taking appropriate measures to address the plight of the out- of- school youths and adults through various non-formal educational (NFE) programmes.

The government, through various ministries, departments, Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) and the church, considers expanding non-formal education to include the so-called drop, ‘pushed’ and ‘squeezed’ outs so that they are given second chance opportunities (MOE, 2006). There are several government ministries and organizations that offer NFE programmes and activities.

The prime purpose of this study is to examine three non-formal education learning centres and discuss how each one of them qualifies to be non-formal in terms of staffing, enrolment, timetable, curriculum, infrastructure and sponsorship of learners. Before delving in to the main discussion, it is imperative to firstly understand the concept of non-formal education, taking cognizance of the characteristics and criteria of a non-formal education learning institution.

Definition and characteristics of non-formal education

Kelly (1999) describes non-formal education as any organized activity outside the established formal system- whether operating separately or as an important feature of some broader activity- that is intended to serve identifiable learning clientele and learning objectives. UNESCO (2001) adds that non-formal education refers to any organized and sustained educational activities that do not correspond to the definition of formal education.

Non-formal education may therefore take place both within and outside educational institutions, and cater to persons of all ages. Further, depending on country contexts, it may cover educational programmes to impart adult literacy, basic education for out-of school children, life skills, work –skills, and general culture. Non-formal education programmes do not necessarily follow the ‘ladder’ system, and may have differing durations, and may or may not confer certification of the learning achieved. Its flexibility in terms of time, place, age, enrolment, and delivery method is perhaps the most significant characteristic of non-formal education.

Non-formal Education Learning Centres Studied

As earlier stated, in Zambia NFE activities are implemented by various government ministries and departments as well as non-governmental organizations, Cooperative partners, the church and communities themselves.

In this treatise, three non-formal learning institutions were considered, namely: TICO Community Centre, Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project, and Kalingalinga Youth Resource Centre. The paper shall discuss and show how these learning centres qualify to be non-formal in their criteria. In discussion, a brief background of the learning centre will be given. Thereafter, an outline of the institution’s criteria in the provision of its programmes will be outlined.

TICO Community Centre

TICO community centre was founded in 1997 by Tokushima International Cooperation (TICO). The objective of the project was to improve the health and nutrition conditions of mothers with malnourished children in Ng’ombe Compound. The project was an initiative of a Japanese doctor, Dr. Yoshida who wanted to alleviate the health conditions of malnourished children in Ng’ombe compound by providing lessons in food and nutrition for mothers.

In 1999, Tokushima International Cooperation began to fund the project, hence the name ‘TICO’. In 2002, the centre was handed over to the management team and today, local staffs operate in a manner of self-reliance from generating incomes the through formal school that runs from Pre-school to Grade 7.

Later on, need was seen to not only empower the women in nutrition and hygiene but to empower them with life surviving skills which they could use to sustain themselves and their children. Hence, new programmes were since introduced namely; tailoring and tie and dye.  Today, the centre offers a total of four (4) non-formal training programmes and a formal school establishment that runs from pre-school to Grade 7. The non-formal training programmes include: tie and dye, Food processing, tailoring and, health and nutrition.

Admission for the non-formal training programmes is open to both male and female. In fact enrolment is not restricted to any age group. The programmes can be accessed by youths, men, women and any interested members of the community. This is in the bid to empower as many members of the community as possible with life surviving skills and knowledge in issues of health, sanitation and hygiene.

The centre has one enrolment per year, which mostly takes place between January and March. The Time-Table is structured in such a way that leaners have two classes per week on days which they themselves decide. This is so to suite the availability of learners as most of them are adults who are working. The classes are usually conducted in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, unlike TEVETA registered learning centres, TICO community centre, except for the formal school (grade 1 – 7), has its own curriculum. Tailoring for example, has a total of 14 courses which are covered within the duration of six (6) month duration, while health and nutrition have four (4) month duration. At the end of the duration, learners sit for their final examinations, which are prepared by the instructors. In order to ensure quality assurance, instructors from other learning centres are involved in the examination process.

TICO Community centre has a total of four instructors (4) most of whom are voluntary Nurses and teachers who instruct in health, nutrition and hygiene, and skilled tailors who instruct in tailoring and tie and dye. Much of the funds that come from the formal school are channeled to pay teachers’ upkeep and purchasing of ingredients and learning materials.

In terms of fees structure, students are only required to contribute for the purchasing of ingredients and materials which are used for practical work, except for tailoring which has a tuition fee of K 365.00 upon admission. In exception of Tailoring, the rest of the programmes are almost free of charge.

Today, TICO Community centre has built quite a reputation. In fact the institution has achieved its objective of reducing the number of malnourished children in Ng’ombe compound, through the education of the mothers in health, nutrition and hygiene. Most of the graduates in health and nutrition have been deployed by Ministry of Health as Community Health Workers. This is one of the greatest achievements the institution has achieved.

In Zambia today, the AIDS crisis continues. After many years of fighting this virus, Zambia still has 15% of adults infected, and 800,000 AIDS orphans (MOE, 2003). The most affected being women and children.

Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project

In response to this consequence, Chikumbuso women and Orphans project was established by Linda Wilkinson, in 2005. Chikumbuso is a grassroots project in Ng’ombe, Lusaka that provides alternative lifestyle to the most vulnerable women and children in the township who are affected by the AIDS pandemic.

Chikumbuso provides free schooling for the children, as well as adult training and capacity building, income generation activities and community building programmes. It is located on 01/BP/04 Old Ng’ombe residence. Chikumbuso is a community initiative and is now a registered charity organization in the United States of America (USA).

The project reaches out in particular to widows, orphans, young single mothers, young men and grandmothers. Many grandmothers in Ng’ombe compound are left with their orphaned grandchildren due to HIV/AIDS and other causes of early death. These women are often unable to work and struggle to feed and clothe their grandchildren.

Chikumbuso community centre provides them with skills in Tailoring, Food processing/cooking and craftwork. In the community centre are 73 widows who work on a micro enterprise that brings them back to life economically and socially. The widows are equipped with craft skills that involve making crocheted plastic bags. In the tailoring room are 30 young adults who have left the streets of the slum to come and learn new life long skills in both tailoring and cooking.

Chikumbuso community centre provides free training for all its learners. This is because the centre responds to, and aims at addressing the needs of the most vulnerable groups in the community. The main objective therefore is to empower as many vulnerable women and young adults as possible within the Centre’s capability. The learners are instructed by skilled instructors some of whom are volunteers. The learners produce their products e.g. crocheted plastic bags from the craft room, and clothes from the tailoring room. These products are then sold on the market. Part of the profit is used to pay the instructors’ salaries while the rest is put in the learners’ savings account for their upkeep and tuition fees.

Today, Chikumbuso community Centre has made it possible for vulnerable groups, especially widows, young mothers, and young men who have had little or no formal school education to make a living through basic training in life surviving skills. Many grandmothers in Ng’ombe compound today, are able to provide their grandchildren with food and other social amenities through the production of crocheted plastic bags. Some young adults have used their skills in tailoring to generate enough funds to enable them get back into formal school and continue their education.

Kalingalinga Youth Resource Centre

Kalingalinga Youth Resource Centre (KYRC) is one of the 16 Youth Resource Centres run by the Government through the ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development. This means that the centre is typically a public institution. It is the only government Youth Centre based in Lusaka Urban, located on plot no: 16798 Mass media, Lusaka. The centre stated its operation in 2001.

It is now abundantly clear that Zambia, like many other developing countries, cannot achieve EFA goals through the formal education system alone (Preece, 2007). There is need to develop other alternative forms of education such as non-formal education. Lungwangwa (1999) noted that illiteracy rates among the youth 14-20 years were higher than those for older persons between 21-30 years and 31-45 years. In his opinion, if the majority of the youth 14-20 were in school, illiteracy rate would have been lowest as it is this group that should benefit of basic education offered in school. Therefore, non-formal education derives its importance in Zambia from limited capacity of the formal school system.

For this reason, Kalingalinga Youth Resource centre was established with the primary objective of developing a Zambian society with young people that will be versatile, creative, employable, entrepreneurial, and provide quantitative training for imparting appropriate life skills to the young people which is relevant to the socio-economic development. The centre offers training in the following programmes; Tailoring and designing – fabric/ printing (Tie and Dye), Carpentry and joinery, Entrepreneurship, Catering/Food Production, Metal fabrication and Welding, Family life education, sporting activities and Computer/ I.C.T.

In terms of admission of learners, the centre recognizes the following categories of people; any interested young person aged 15-35 years. School levers (Grade 7, 9, and 12). Those who have never been to school but have interest in life skills, -entrepreneurs -both formal and informal sectors. Kalingalinga Youth Resource centre has one enrolment annually, which is comprised of about 240 students from all programmes.

The centre is TEVETA registered. Therefore, the curriculum, examinations and all assessments are organized and conducted by TEVETA. The centre has a total of 25 instructors, some of whom are members of the community who are experience in trades such as metal fabrication and welding, and carpentry. In fact, the institution’s board is comprised of representatives from the community. This is because members of the community understand their needs better than anyone else and can therefore advise the institution on how best to go about in addressing these needs.

The time table is structured in such a way that leaners have 8 hours of learning every day from 08:00 to 16:00. However, special arrangements are made to have classes in the evening (17:00 – 19:00) for those are not able to attend classes during the day. This is due to the fact that most students are workers and adults that have a pool of responsibilities to attend to during the day. All courses have duration of 9 months. Upon completion, successful candidates are awarded a TEVETA certificate.


It has been argued that those who are thrown out by the formal education, especially at primary school level, are the future illiterate adults (Serpell, 1993; Kelly, 1999). This scenario has made the Zambian government, through various ministries, departments, Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) and the church consider expanding NFE to include the so-called drop, ‘pushed’ and ‘squeezed’ outs so that they are given second chance opportunities (MOE, 1996)

The three learning centres above are very important to this discussion. Not only do they convey the work and initiatives developed by Government and the community in the provision of non-formal education but present the criteria of non-formal learning institutions. From the above discussion, it is evident that all three learning institutions are quite flexible in their operations, which is one of the most significant characteristic of any non-formal programme or institution. For example, there is no age restriction in the admission of learners in all centres. Secondly, in the case of Chikumbuso, learners acquire the knowledge and skills but are not accredited or certified. Another common characteristic is that the time table in all three centres is fixed to suite the availability of learners. In short leaners determine when and what time to meet for learning unlike formal education where the time table is determined by the teacher or the governing body.

Further, in all the three centers, it is seen that the curriculum is structured to address the learning needs and desires of the learners. It is more targeted and goal-oriented unlike the formal school curriculum that has a lot of irrelevant subjects. The knowledge and skills acquired in areas such as welding, tailoring, carpentry and ICT is used immediately. In conclusion, unlike in a formal learning institution, leaners in a non-formal institution can pay in kind as is the case with Chikumbuso Community Centre. It is therefore without doubt that the three learning centres in study are non-formal institutions in nature.


Kelly, J. M. (1999). The Origin and Development of Education in Zambia from Pre-colonial Times to 1996. Lusaka: Image Publishers Limited.

Lungwangwa, G. (1999). “Meeting the Basic Learning needs for out-of School children and youth through Education Broadcasting: A necessary step.” Paper presented at the National Symposium on Education Broadcasting for out of school children and youth, 19th April, 1999.

Ministry of Education (1996). Educating Our Future. National Policy on Education. Lusaka: Zambia Education Publishing House.

Ministry of Education (2003). Zambia Basic Education Syllabi Grades 1-7. Lusaka: Curriculum Development Centre.

Ministry of Education (2006). Draft Upper Basic School Curriculum Framework. Lusaka: Curriculum Development Centre.

Preece, J. (2007). “Non-Formal Education for Social Justice and Inclusion in Developing Countries.” Paper presented at UNESCO Centre for Continuing Education Research Seminar at Nottingham University 7th Feb, 2007.

UNESCO (2001). An Expanded Vision of Basic Education: Situation Review in nine Countries. Paris: UNESCO


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