WISE’s scholarship program is its flagship program. We know that education is the best way to ensure a better future for the young people of Zambia, their families and ultimately, the country itself.
Our scholarship program is different from any other programs in Africa and elsewhere in two important respects. First, our students are from some of the most remote – and often underserved – regions of Zambia. Second, we make a nine-year commitment to our students – when they complete our program, they enter society as doctors, auto mechanics, teachers, engineers, computer technicians, agricultural specialists, nurses, pharmacists, and the like.
Working with local teachers, religious leaders, traditional leaders, and the Department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Community Development, we identify deserving, high-achieving students, with a focus on girls (particularly those at risk for early marriage). These are children who have no hope of going beyond 7th grade without help. Although Zambia in 2022 made education through the 12th grade Tuition-free, for virtually all of our students, there is no high school nearby. There are few organizations in these rural areas that help these vulnerable young people advance to secondary school. For girls, this often means marriage by the age of 14 or 15 – a 2015 study by UNICEF concluded that the child marriage rate in many parts of rural Zambia exceeds 50%.
Families in these remote villages typically have no money for education costs and have no other option than to have their daughters marry soon after puberty. WISE strongly promotes education for these at-risk girls, striving for a 75/25% ratio of girls to boys — sometimes difficult to achieve, nevertheless we come close.
In 2013, we supported 20 scholarship students. Under a new program designed by Maggie Indopu, WISE Zambia Director, that number has steadily grown to its 2021 total of 350.
We strive to add at least 50 new students each year.
Scholarship applicants often travel long distances, sometimes sleeping on the roadside as they walk to our Women’s Center, in hopes that they will be selected as one of our recipients.
Their exam scores, teacher recommendations and interviews are taken into consideration in the selection process. Maggie also determines, with recommendations from Department of Social Welfare, that they qualify as vulnerable, meaning that they may have only one, or no parent(s), or that parents are unable to support the family, because of illness, injury or lack of education.
Once chosen, applicants must sign a contract with their parent or guardian, agreeing to maintain good grades, behave appropriately, attend regular mentoring sessions and “give back” by volunteering once a week.
Mentoring by older students is a critical part of ensuring success. They tutor, advise, and watch over the younger ones. In addition, one 12th grader is chosen as “Head Student” and is tasked with overseeing the well-being of every student and reports concerns to the Project Coordinator. This is a difficult time for the newer students, as they come into a very unfamiliar situation and often have difficulty acclimating.
WISE scholarship students who graduate from secondary school are eligible to continue their education in college or vocational school, depending on their abilities and desires. Our students are expected to obtain financial aid that may be dispensed by the government, and WISE will cover any shortfall in tuition and living expenses.
In 2022, we will have more than 40 students in Zambian colleges and universities, studying pre-medicine, engineering, pharmacy, and education. 2019 numbers are expected to be more than double, with nursing, agriculture and other majors added to chosen fields of study.
WISE is committed to growing our education model, which is now proven to work. Our program is becoming more sustainable every year with the support of our graduates and the local Kaoma WISE Trust Board.
A secondary school scholarship costs, on average, $600 per year per student. This includes not only tuition, but room and board, basic supplies distributed at the start of each term, and transportation to and from their homes to the nearest secondary school.
Placing a figure in United States for our programs is somewhat difficult, given the ever-changing inflation and currency exchange rates between the United States and Zambia. In 2022, Zambia joined several other Sub-Saharan nations in eliminating tuition costs for public education from grades 7 through 12. Tuition costs, however, typically reflected only approximately 20% of our annual expenses for secondary school students, with the majority going toward school and personal supplies (including mandatory uniforms, shoes, school supplies, and toiletries), room and board, transportation, and assistance to student families. In addition, as part of our commitment to providing “360 degree” support for our student, we provide access to mental health and career counseling, entrepreneurial training, and gap year support. Depending on inflation and exchange rates, these costs annually, solely for secondary school students, can range from $250 to $600 per student.
However, we do not view our commitment to students on a “one-year” basis. Rather, when a student comes into the WISE fold, we make a commitment of, on average, nine years for each student, from the start of secondary school (8th grade) through tertiary school (vocational school, college, or university). College has its own unique costs and expenses. In addition to tuition (we do request each student to seek financial aid from the Government to the extent it is available), there is room and board, as well as transportation costs. In addition, we provide other supplies our students need to perform commensurately with their wealthier colleagues, including a laptop computer if necessary, medical supplies for our nursing students, and the like.
Through 2020, we estimated the average cost of one student from the 8th grade through college to be approximately $3,000. We will evaluate these costs again soon in light of 2021 figures and other developments.
$600 (Or donate any amount to help us with these costs.)
$1800 (Or donate any amount to help us with these costs.)
Beginning in the fourth grade, school in Zambia is taught almost exclusively in English. For students in remote areas, such as our scholarship students, their only exposure to English is often at school, unlike students from cities and towns, who are exposed to English at home, through television, and in all local businesses. Thus, we are currently designing and implementing a program for intensive English-language mentoring for our students, a unique challenge given the remote schools attended by many of our students.