Supporting Community Schools in Zambia since 1992

Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) is a vibrant and flagship organization of Community Schools since 1992 in Zambia that empowers communities to provide quality basic education to 189,287 learners (93,507 Boys and 95,780 Girls) in 1,085 Demonstration Open Community Schools across 95 selected Districts in all the 10 Provinces of Zambia. Suffice to say ZOCS also advocates for all the 2,460 Community Schools in Zambia.

Through its three pillar approach of Advocacy, Service Delivery and Capacity Building, ZOCS has accomplished much for the children and people of Zambia. The three pillars on which ZOCS builds its approach are those of enhanced educational opportunities for children through policy engagement and increased community capacity to provide such opportunities. ZOCS is unwavering in keeping these three aspects to the fore: more and better education for more children, and community dedication to the provision of such education.

ZOCS is about open, accessible schools for disadvantaged children and communities, and these take priority over everything else.


Founded in 1992 by the Sisters of Charity, the Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) has championed social justice for orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) through delivering education services, building the capacity of thousands of volunteer teachers, empowering communities to provide education locally and collaborating with the government to establish policies and legislation that formalise technical, material, human and financial support to community schools. ZOCS was created from a unique need to address the socioeconomic impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the economic structural adjustment programme (SAP) and poverty in the 1980s which combined to produce a generation of Zambian children without a support system. For the Sisters of Charity, led by Sister Eileen McLoughlin, the idea of an ‘open community school’ represented an education opportunity without barriers to entry and participation. The ‘open community school’ embraced OVC of all ages to provide them with a quality learning experience of basic skills (reading, writing and life skills). The Sisters of Charity started the first such open school in 1992 enrolling 48 girls in Lusaka’s Misisi Compound. 

28 years on, ZOCS’ mission remains resolute in supporting OVC. ZOCS’ quest is: “To secure education opportunities for learners outside the government school system by empowering communities, building partnerships, influencing policy and legislation, supporting learners and creating conducive learning environments in community schools.”

January 2021