If all adults completed secondary school then world poverty would be halved. But 740,000 children of school going age are not in school in Zambia. There are many reasons for this; from lack of money to pay for fees and uniform to not having proper meals; from entrenched stigma towards physical and mental disability, child marriage and child labour, to a lack of adequate school buildings. ZOA works with grassroots partners to do everything we can to get children in the communities we work with into school, and crucially keep them there, to make sure they can have a childhood and help them change their future.

We supply uniforms, books, pay tuition fees and create inspiring learning environments so children can go to school and achieve the best they can. We do this together with the children’s families and support networks, balancing means testing with students efforts and termly reviews to deliver the best results. 

We fund nutritious school meals and organise after school gardening clubs to improve attendance and concentration in class. We run cooking demonstrations and growth monitoring to target severely malnourished under fives. The effects of severe malnutrition impact a child’s physical and mental development for life.

We deliver essential counselling services, increase resilience and improve school participation for orphans and other vulnerable children, most of whom have experienced stress or trauma. We also provide additional support for pupils living with disabilities so they can attend and participate in classes on a daily basis. 

We run menstrual hygiene training for boys and girls to overturn stigma and bust period superstition. We provide reusable sanitary pads, helping girls remain in the classroom.

We support our school leavers to gain vocational qualifications by paying tuition and exam fees, providing refurbished laptops and encouraging work experience.

We support infrastructure projects that ensure pupils with disabilities, girls and vulnerable children have equal access to school and learning as other children. 

Paying school fees and other essential school kit

Working with our Zambian community partners we pay the school fees and provide uniforms, shoes, books and stationary supplies to the most vulnerable pupils both in primary and secondary school.

In 2019 we helped 272 children go to primary school and 198 go to secondary school.

ZOA asks families or guardians to contribute a small amount towards the costs of each child we support, based on what they’re able to contribute. We also ask students and their families or guardians to demonstrate their commitment to their child’s education by signing annual Certificates of Commitment and we conduct termly reviews of progress.


Providing children with an education to help them rewrite their future is our mission. But paying school fees, providing uniforms, books and stationary isn’t enough to keep children in school and learning effectively.

We look at the whole package – from helping set babies up for life by reducing the physical and mental stunting associated with chronic malnutrition, providing nutritious school meals and supplying emergency food parcels when unforeseen events strike.

School meals

Children need a full belly in order to learn. Coming to school hungry is normal for most of the orphans and vulnerable children we work with so we decided to provide a daily nutritious school meal.

Not only does a nutritious school meal each day improve attendance, concentration and exam results but keeping children in school means they’re at a lower risk of early marriage, abuse and child labour.

The AIDS crisis in Zambia not only contributed to a huge number of orphans but means many children are living with HIV/AIDS. For those on antiretroviral therapy medication it is essential to have a nutritious diet, otherwise the medication may not be effective and the side effects more severe. So a free school meal has multiple benefits.

Working with our Zambian grassroots community partners in four provinces we will be providing a daily nutritious school meal to 1,575 community school pupils in 2020 and a further 500 children will receive food supplements. Through our school meal programme we have seen attendance, concentration and exam results improve, and all for only £26 per child per year!

School gardens and gardening clubs

School gardens and poultry rearing provide the school with nutritious ingredients for school meals as well as the ability to sell surplus food to provide a small income to the school. This helps our partners to become financially self-supporting.

After school gardening clubs, initially set up by our partner Maseele Widows Club, has proved extremely popular with pupils. The aim is for the children to be involved in growing food that they can take home to help contribute to their family meals.

Emergency food parcels

Although we provide school meals, all too often this isn’t enough and unexpected shocks like drought, a poor harvest or a global pandemic like COVID-19 can leave our pupils even more vulnerable. In these instances we do whatever it takes to fill the gap so that no child goes hungry.

Schools and colleges in Zambia are currently closed as the government tries to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that children are going without their essential meal provided by school. With the price of staple foods such as maize, rice and wheat sky rocketing because of the shortages many people are unable to afford the basics. We are providing food rations to our pupils and their families while schools are closed to fill the gap.

Parts of Zambia were badly affected by drought in 2019 with 2.4 million people suffering food insecurity by early 2020. This year many areas of Southern Province are expecting a poor harvest for the second year in a row. At times like this we provide emergency food rations to pupils and their families during the school holidays when they’re not receiving a daily school meal.

Cooking demonstrations and growth monitoring

Through cooking demonstrations using locally available produce we’re helping mums and guardians improve their children’s health. This is particularly important for those taking anti-retroviral therapy (ART) medicine as without an adequate diet it can be ineffective.

Alongside the cooking demonstrations other health issues are discussed and growth monitoring of severely malnourished children aged five and under is carried out. Chronic malnutrition is irreversible and can cause physical and mental stunting, so it is important to address this early to give children the best chance to reach their potential.

Inclusive education

Disabilities are not always visible and can be both a cause and consequence of poverty.

In Zambia there is huge stigma attached to both physical and mental disability and many children with disabilities are hidden away by ashamed families and don’t get the chance to go to school.

In a country with high levels of poverty this represents a considerable challenge for the Government and family networks to provide the necessary support. The services that are available are inaccessible, under-resourced or overly-centralised. This puts children with disabilities at even more of a disadvantage when it comes to schooling. That’s where we step in.

Physical disability

One of the biggest barriers to education faced by children with disabilities are inaccessible school buildings. That’s why we work with schools to upgrade their facilities creating inspiring learning environments that everyone can access.

Many children with disabilities are unable to manage the daily walk to school. In Chiboyla School, Mazabuka, we created a boarding house so they can attend classes on a daily basis. We provide a trained support worker, two house mothers, adaptive equipment and physiotherapy and the children are fully integrated into lessons and playtime.

Children return home at weekends and holidays to ensure they remain fully integrated with the family unit.

Mental wellbeing and counselling

Mental health issues are common amongst orphans and vulnerable children. To help them fulfil their potential and break the cycle of poverty we fund frontline workers to provide community-based mental health support so orphans and other vulnerable children can build coping mechanisms and self-confidence.

These workers train others to provide mental health support, raise awareness to reduce stigma and discrimination about mental health in the community, work with teachers to roll out counselling within schools and engage parents and guardians to support children more effectively at home.

Keeping girls in school

Around the world many girls miss school because they can’t afford sanitary products. Zambian girls we work with miss 30 days of school each year – half due to their period. We know that girls in rural communities who are educated are less likely to contract STIs or HIV/AIDS, tend to marry later, have smaller, healthier families and are more likely to ensure their own children are educated too, so it’s crucial we help girls stay in school.

ZOA recently completed a two­ year project to provide girls with reusable sanitary pads, helping them remain in the classroom and progress in education. Our local partners are running workshops for girls and boys, volunteers, parents/guardians, teachers, community leaders and peer educators to overturn stigma and bust period superstitions. In 2019, 256 leaders were trained in menstrual hygiene management and 913 boys and girls were taught about puberty and menstruation. After this training we saw a 49% reduction in girls’ absenteeism!

As part of our commitment to keeping girls in school we’ve built a girls’ boarding house for 64 girls at Lubushi School. This will help girls who live far from the school to access school. Because many girls travel a long distance from home to get to school they end up lodging in cheap accommodation in the local town. This has resulted in a high number of pregnancies amongst students.

The headteacher explains, ‘Six girls have become pregnant in the first half of this year already.’ The community have made all the bricks needed for the boarding house.

Support from Fondation Eagle and Jephcott Charitable Trust has made this infrastructure project possible.

Tertiary education

We know that education is a proven route out of poverty and gives children the potential to transform not just their lives but the lives of their family. For example, each extra year of education raises lifetime earnings by around 10%.

We want to break the cycle of poverty and improve social mobility in Zambia. We aim to equip particularly disadvantaged students with vocational skills to help them access good jobs in professions like teaching or in healthcare, enabling them to earn an income that could lift their entire family out of poverty.

Since 2017, we have expanded our support to ensure ZOA supported students are not at a disadvantage to their academic peers. As well as funding laptops and textbooks we help with exam and tuition fees, transport, accommodation and food. We also ensure pastoral care and psychosocial support is provided to our students as they lack effective support structures.

We are delighted that in increasing number of children we started supporting ten years ago are now qualifying for tertiary college. In 2020 we are supporting 99 at college and university. 

To support those who’ve graduated from college but have yet to land their dream job we’ve set up a voluntary work experience scheme. Our Peer Educator Leaders support our project that delivers essential counselling, builds support networks and boosts skills to help children get the best start in life.

Not only do orphans and vulnerable children benefit, so do those who’re taking their first steps into working life.

Infrastructure projects

We work with our partners on an individual basis to try and make sure obstacles to children’s learning are removed. For example Twavwane School used to make school meals for its 540 pupils in an exposed corrugated iron shack that was totally inadequate for the purpose. The kitchen often became unusable during the rainy season. So we supported the build of a new kitchen as well as a dining area where pupils can eat during bad weather.

With the support of the Charles Hayward Foundation and Guernsey Overseas Aid & Development Commission we’ve upgraded the toilets and wash facilities at Twavwane and Hope and Faith Schools to provide accessible toilets, toilets for girls and a safe and secure water supply. Twavwane’s catchment area was badly affected by the cholera outbreak in 2017/18 so this work is vitally important.

With support from Savannah Charitable Trust we built a new school for the children of Chiboyla in Mazabuka. This included a new kitchen that allows them to cook school meals for their 500 pupils using produce grown on the school’s site.

As part of our commitment to keeping girls in school with support from Fondation Eagle and Jephcott Charitable Trust we’ve built a girls’ boarding house for 84 girls at Lubushi School. This will help girls who live far from the school to access school. Because many girls travel a long distance from home to get to school they end up lodging in cheap accommodation in the local town. This has resulted in a high number of pregnancies amongst students.

The headteacher explains, “Six girls have become pregnant in the first half of this year already.” The community have made all the bricks needed for the boarding house.

Paying School Fees

An image of a pupil in school uniform to illustrate the education work we do

£40 can kit a child out with everything they need for school.

£51 can pay the school fees for one year for a primary pupil.

£88 can pay the school fees for one year for a secondary pupil.

School meals & food parcels

A photo showing pupils receiving their school lunch

£26 can provide a child with a nutritious school meal for a whole year.

£12 can provide an emergency food parcel for a child to share with their family for a month.

Mpaso, 14 years old

A portrait of Mpaso Phiri to accompany his testimonial about the support he's received to go to school

“My mum and dad died when I was young so I live alone with my grandmother. Growing up without a parent is a challenge. I walk eight kilometres to and from school and when there’s there’s no food at home it makes it hard to concentrate in class.”

Diana, 13 years old

A portrait of Diana to accompany her testimonial on the impact of Covid-19 on her and her family

“I’m not happy because school closed early this term due to COVID-19. At school we used to eat every day. The price of food and other commodities have gone up so my mother isn’t able to buy food. I’m HIV positive and am on drugs so I need more food to eat so the drugs don’t have side effects. I’m happy I received food and soap. Thank you very much for the support.”

Inclusive education

A photo to illustrate the work we do to support pupils with disabilities

£500 can provide adaptive equipment to support pupils with disabilities

£85 can pay for the monthly salary of a house mother to give additional support to pupils with disabilities.

£250 can pay the monthly salary of a font line worker counselling at risk children.

Joseph, 7 years old

A portrait of Joseph to accompany his testimonial about the support he's received at school

“I never used to walk but crawl. When I came to Chibolya School in 2013, I was given crutches to help me walk but now I’m able to walk without crutches. I do physiotherapy every week which helped me start walking. I am happy! I no longer use crutches and am able to walk and play football with my friends.”

Keeping girls in school

A photo to illustrate our menstrual hygiene management work

£7.50 can provide one girl with five re-usable sanitary pads that will last for two years.

£3000 can train a whole school in menstrual hygiene management.

Tertiary education

A portrait of Misheck Chishimba, to accompany his testimonial

£200 can provide a student with a refurbished lap top.

£1000 can pay college fees and subsistence support for one year for a tertiary student.

Hezel, 21 years old

A portrait of Hezel, a student nurse, to accompany her testimonial about ZOA's support

“Hello, I’m grateful to ZOA for coming into my life and helping me pursue my dream. I’m a third year student of Kafue Institute of Health and Sciences and Research. I’ve just completed a number of placements in different departments at UTH, Zambia’s most prestigious hospital. I don’t know what words to use to say thank you for the job you are doing. You are really changing our lives. Thank you so much.”

Supporting children to go to school

Juliet, 12 years old

“I live with my brother and sister. Only my mum is around because we lost our dad when I was eight. My mum buys food for us after doing some piece work like washing clothes for people. My biggest challenge is seeing my mum facing hardships alone to make sure she can buy food for us.

School is a kilometre away and I walk to school. School helps me to learn things that I didn’t know and how to take care of myself. I used to have [hunger] stomach pains which affected my academic performance, but I don’t face challenges at school now because I receive a school meal and my uniform and my fees are being paid. Having received help has helped me to start school, receive uniforms that mum couldn’t afford and I’m able to have the correct meals at school. It can make someone like myself have a better life.”

The importance of mental wellbeing

Diana, 16 years old

“If you ask me if there is anything that makes me happy, I will say nothing makes me happy. There are a lot of things that make me sad.

Firstly my mother, her abusive language, character and knowing that she is HIV positive. At times she buys food for my young brother but not me.

My mother was raped then she conceived me. This hurts me because I feel this is the reason why she hates me so much. I do not know who my father is.

All this hurts me a lot and made me at one point think about not wanting to live anymore.”

Supporting tertiary students

Mike, 25 years old

“My parents passed away when I was eight. I faced a lot of challenges but with the help of others I overcame these. I was supported by ZOA from the age of 15 at Hope and Faith School. It felt like I had parents somewhere doing their best for their child.

Teaching is my passion. I received my degree in Secondary Education at the School of Natural Sciences, Chemistry and Philosophy.

My ambition for the future is to complete my PhD and help others”.

Keeping girls in school

Diana, 18 years old

“I was 12 when I started my periods. I was afraid and I didn’t know what to do. I thought there was something wrong with me and I stopped going to school. I used to miss class until my period was finished because I didn’t have pads. 

The menstrual hygiene training taught me about periods, good hygiene practices, how to use reusable pads and that I can still go to school. 

The difference is that now my attendance in class has improved.”

Help Change a Child's Future

Your help can support children through primary and
secondary school, provide nutritious school meals so pupils
aren’t learning on an empty stomach and support those that can
through tertiary vocational training. We provide a holistic
approach so also provide mental health support and other inputs
where needed.

Thank you!

Your support makes a big difference.

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