The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) has analysed the 2024 National Budget that was presented to Parliament by the Minister of Finance and National Planning Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane on Friday, 29th September 2023 and would like to make the following observations.
Overall, we are pleased with the following education budget measures which relate to the issues that the Coalition has been advocating for: –
1. The increase in the allocation to the education sector from 13.9% in 2023 to 15.4% in 2024, representing an increase of 1.5%.
2. ZANEC also commends the government’s plan to employ 4,200 teachers in 2024 and 1,200 non-teaching staff as this will contribute towards the provision of quality education in public schools.
3. The increase in the school feeding programme from the current 39.4 million to 111. 7 million is commendable as it will encourage children to stay in school and improve the nutrition of the learners especially the young ones in ECE. Good nutrition can improve attendance, concentration, and overall academic performance for learners, especially in marginalized areas.
4. The increase in allocation to the Higher Education Loans and Scholarship Board to ZMW 1, 234, 472, 290 in 2024 from ZMW 930, 226, 908 in 2023 is commendable. This will increase the number of learners, especially from vulnerable communities benefiting from the Loans Scheme.
5. We are also happy that the government has completed constructing 69 secondary schools and the progress achieved so far on the 46 schools which are still under construction. Our hope is that the construction of these schools will be completed soon so that we can increase access to secondary education.
6. We are also pleased that the government is aiming to improve internet connectivity for rural areas as this will help to enhance access to digital learning in schools.
7. The allocation of ZMW 70, 000, 000 towards the procurement of equipment for TEVET will improve the quality of education provided under TEVET. Therefore, ZANEC urges the government to continue investing in this sector as large numbers of young people are enrolled in these institutions.
8. The Girls’ Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods project’s goal to increase access to secondary education for girls is commendable. Covering 129,400 beneficiaries in 81 districts by April 2024 from the current 116,891 beneficiaries in 76 districts will benefit more girls.
To this effect, ZANEC would like to recommend the following measures going forward: –
1. ZANEC acknowledges the increased allocation to the education sector from 13.9% in 2023 to 15.4% in 2024 but we would lie to encourage government to continue working towards achieving a minimum of 20% allocation of the total budget according to the SADC and Cairo Protocols on Education sector. This will allow the country to make adequate investments in improving quality education for all.
2. For the 1,200 non-teaching staff that will be recruited in 2024, we recommend that 15% should be ECE Caregivers as ECE teachers need a lot of assistance when handling learners at this age.
3. There is a conflicting interest when resources for education sit under different ministries. We recommend that money under education even under the CDF should sit on the education budget for easy tracking of the disbursement and expenditure
4. The government must ensure that at least 20% of the teachers employed in 2024 are Early Childhood Education teachers and 2.5% should be special education to promote disability inclusion. The remaining number should be teachers of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
5. Grants to schools being allocated ZMW1,863,034,004.00 billion align well with free education from primary to secondary schools as this will ensure that the schools have the necessary requisites to offer quality education. We recommend strict adherence to expenditure guidelines by the schools to avoid using these funds for workshops and training of staff as opposed to the intended purpose.