Located in Sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia has a history that dates back as far as two million years. Today, Zambia is most renowned for being home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world—the mighty Victoria Falls (known to Zambians as Musi-o-Tunyi).

In addition to its natural beauty, Zambia is also a rich source of precious metals and other resources—45% of all fresh water in Southern Africa is on Zambian soil. Despite its wealth of resources, Zambia has faced many development challenges over the years, including limited investment capital, a legacy of authoritarian leadership, poor infrastructure, economic corruption and one of Africa’s highest HIV infection rates.

Historically, Zambia has known more peace than many of its eight African neighbors who have suffered from ethnic, religious and political conflict. It did, however, suffer greatly from the crash of the world’s copper market in 1975, having been the world’s third largest copper producer when it became an independent republic in the 1960’s. Subsequent political corruption and mismanagement have now landed Zambia on the list of the world’s poorest countries—with 78% of rural Zambians living in poverty.

Disease is one of Zambia's greatest challenges and a constant threat to development—particularly HIV/AIDS and malaria. Approximately, 14% of adults in Zambia are infected with HIV and more than 20% of Zambian children have lost one or both parents to the epidemic.

Population 15 million
Land area 753,600 Km2
National languages of instruction Nyanja, Tonga, Lozi, Kaonde, Lunda, Luvale, Bemba, English
Launch of operations 2007
Room to Read office Lusaka
Regions where we work Lusaka, Eastern Province, Southern Province

Educational Landscape

Because more than half of Zambians are 16 years old or younger, the country's educational system is extremely overburdened, making allocation of resources a serious challenge. Lack of infrastructure, insufficient teacher training, and resource imbalances between rural and urban schools are consistent challenges, and as a result nearly 260,000 children ages 7-13 are not enrolled in school.

Literacy rates in the country have slightly improved over the past 20 years, but the gender gap is wide—with only 64% of Zambian women able to read and write.

In 1996, the Zambian government made a commitment to improving access to education, which included the establishment of educational goals and the elimination of school fees for grades one through seven. Though the commitment was a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go in Zambia before quality education can become a reality for all children.

Programs & Results

Room to Read Zambia was founded in 2007, with an initial focus on improving infrastructure and access to resources through our School Library program. We have since begun to address quality of materials and instruction through our Book Publishing and Reading & Writing Instruction programs.

To address Zambia's wide gender gap in education, we introduced our Girls' Education program, with particular focus on the acquisition of life skills among secondary school girls.

Cumulative results
Libraries established 487
Book titles published 15
School construction projects -
Girls' Education participants 1,615

Results updated annually

Meet our local staff:
Samantha Chuula, Country Director

Trained as a social worker in the UK, Samantha spent her early career working with vulnerable adults and children in London’s boroughs. She then emigrated to Zambia in the 1990s, where she held several positions for the British Council Zambia including program design, development and management.

“My favourite part of my job is seeing Grade 1 students sound their letters aloud and read for the first time,” she says. “They strive and struggle to read anything—be it on the blackboard, a plastic bag or the side of a truck; it makes me cry tears of joy every single time."

When she’s not working, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and visiting art galleries—in Zambia and around the world.

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+1 (415) 839-4400
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