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Healthy Learners’ pandemic response

Deep ties with the Zambian government, established community networks, and a nimble staff’s capacity for innovation enable a strong response to the crisis.
 July 2021 Update

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to demonstrate the importance of our school health model in both preventing the spread of infectious disease and keeping schools open so children can continue to learn.

Zambia is currently facing a devastating third wave of COVID-19. Positivity rates are hovering around 25 percent, hospitals are at full capacity and deaths are at an all-time high. To date, Zambia has recorded nearly 176,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths, though actual figures are likely much higher due to limited testing. Vaccination coverage remains low, with less than 1% of the population fully vaccinated.


On June 16th, the Government closed schools for 21 days in an effort to control the spread of the virus. On July 1st, the Ministry of Education announced their intention to re-open schools following the completion of a readiness assessment and inspections of schools compliance with the COVID-19 guidelines. In the proceeding weeks, we have worked with health and education officials to develop and implement a strategy for completing school inspections and managing re-reopening.

Additionally, we have implemented the following measures to further support our partner schools for re-opening and ensure learners have continued access to the school health services they rely on:

  • Working with district health and education officials to inspect all government primary schools in Lusaka. Preliminary findings from the inspections show a high degree of compliance with the COVID-19 guidelines, and school administrators are eager to have children back in the classroom

  • Providing our partner schools with additional PPE, handwashing facilities and cleaning supplies

  • Providing our School Health Workers with transport allowances to receive the COVID-19 vaccine


Leading the reopening of schools in Zambia

Following the Presidential announcement in May 2020 that schools would begin to reopen on the 1st of June, the Ministry of Education (MOE) tasked Healthy Learners as lead technical advisor to facilitate the development of national guidelines for COVID-19 prevention and control measures required for the reopening and ongoing management of schools. The resulting document has been adopted by the government and delivered to all of Zambia’s schools.

Leveraging our existing model, we trained our school health workers and all school administrators on COVID-19 guidelines, adapted our operating procedures, and provided schools with additional hand-washing stations, sanitation supplies, and infrared thermometers.

Accelerating the expansion of our model

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a surge in demand for our model. The opening of schools in June clearly brought to light the disparity between schools implementing our model and those that are not. Schools outside of our program have struggled without the infrastructure, training, and leadership to meet basic requirements on physical distancing, disease management, and sanitation. Not surprisingly, the government as well as individual schools are pressuring us to escalate our expansion plans.


Eager to meet this demand, we have expanded our model to all public primary schools in Lusaka, more than doubling the number of schools in our program to serve over 250,000 students. This expansion comes at the request of the Ministry of Education, which sees Lusaka as a pilot district and is committed to working with us to expand the program nationally. Our ultimate goal is for Zambia to serve as a model for how countries throughout the region can improve the health of school children.


Simple & effective


Our model has an annual cost of $1.51 per child, less than 1% of Zambia’s expenditure on education for primary school children.

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