The children of Kasisi attend Kasisi Primary School, and then those that pass the exams go on to Kasisi Secondary School. These public schools are not run by the orphanage, but by the government. The primary school, or what we call elementary school in America, is located behind the gates of the orphanage. It is perhaps a 5 minute walk for the children. Kasisi Secondary School sits across the dirt road in front of the orphanage's gate; however those children that attend the Secondary School, known as high school in America, are required by the school to board there.
The children that attend Primary School go in shifts. Some students attend class in the morning while others go in the afternoon. They learn math, science, nyanja (the local language), english and social studies. The school system is based on the British school system, since Zambia was formerly colonized by England, so the school year begins in January and ends in December. The children are required to wear black shoes and uniforms to attend any public school in Zambia. Many poor families are unable to send their children to school because they cannot afford the required shoes and uniform. I remember walking outside the gates of the orphanage and meeting children who didn't wear their shoes on the walk to school because if they wore out their school shoes they would not be able to afford another pair. Children that arrived at school without the proper materials could be beaten.
It is extremely difficult to find and keep qualified teachers in Zambia. The public education system is struggling due to several factors, including poverty and the AIDS epidemic. Due to the lack of funding, teacher salaries extremely low and many schools do not have sufficient funding to keep the schools running smoothly with simple classroom supplies, such as chalk. Children are responsible for buying their own books, paper, and writing utensils. Some days, teachers simply don't show up at school. Moreover, due to the AIDS crisis, two teachers must be trained for every one due to the number of teachers that are dying of AIDS, which is taking an economic toll throughout all sectors of Zambian society.
When so many are struggling to merely survive, there is little emphas placed on education in many poor Zambian households. Many families do not send their children to school, unable to foresee any possible benefits from doing so. In Zambia, especially in the rural areas, there is no one to enforce that children attend school. Justin, the man who works with the street boys, had to decide for himself that he was going to go to school. Due to his decision, he often had to sacrifice meals due to the long walks he had to take to get to school. Some days, he told me, he would come home after lunch and there would be no food left for him. Nonetheless, he knew that the only way for him to escape his family's cycle of poverty would be for him to continue to receive an education. Many people have similar stories. There is no transportation provided for children to get to school. Due to the scattered population, some children may have to walk 20 kilometers per day (round trip) in order to attend school.