The Government of Zambia recently announced the Grade 9 examination results. Zambia’s education system remains a cut-off point system, meaning students have to achieve a certain score in nation-wide exams at Grade 7 and Grade 9 to progress to Grade 8 and Grade 10 respectively. Those students who achieve this score progress to the next grade while those who don’t either repeat the previous grade or drop out of school. For 2013, more than 60% of those who sat for Grade 9 exams failed, the Minister announced. Almost 200,000 young people have been ejected from the education system and many will not have another chance at education. This is a sad situation in a country where almost 70% of the population is under 25. Zambia has made tremendous strides in improving primary enrollment but is failing to take care of its older children and youth.
Libraries can play a very important role in providing informal education opportunities to this group. The programming in Lubuto Libraries has been developed to provide a space for young people to explore their talents and develop skills. Several youth have discovered their talents in art and gone on to exhibit their work in Zambia and abroad. Others are gaining media skills and graphic designing skills that will be transferable to formal work environments. For some youth, Lubuto Libraries are the only place where they can read – growing their knowledge while interacting with peers. From their unique position as public libraries, Lubuto Libraries are meeting the needs of children and youth left out of the school system.