The Need identified
Zambian College of Open Learning (ZAMCOL) originally started off as Teachers of Primary and Secondary Schools Upgrading Program (TOPSSUP) in 1998 in the north-western province of Zambia. It was formed as a response to the acute shortage of qualified teachers to teach grades 8 and 9, and the use of untrained teachers to replace those seconded to teach in Secondary Schools and the Upper Basic Classes. Primary school teachers are usually trained to teach from grade 1 to grade 7 only, but due to the afore mentioned problem, primary school teachers were asked to teach grade 8 and 9. Not only that, some of these seconded teachers in most cases were asked to handle high school classes, (grades 10 to 12).
In order to staff Primary Schools, Untrained Teachers (UTs) were employed to teach grades 1 to 7. In 1996, for example, 33.4% of the secondary school teachers were seconded primary trained, which situation was pathetic!
This situation was further aggravated when the Ministry of Education decreed to cut down on the use of un-trained teachers in primary schools which left most of schools in the province with no teachers.
To redress the foregoing situation, TOPSSUP was born as local initiative. Distance-learning was adopted as the mode of training to allow the students continue teaching whilst obtaining their qualifications at the same time. Initially only teachers within North Western province were enrolled with the hope that such graduates would remain within the province (and their schools) since were already familiar with the terrain and ethos of the province.
During the second intake, a number of students from other provinces enrolled. This meant that TOPSSUP was no longer a program for North-Western province alone but would benefit many more teachers all over Zambia.
ZAMCOL is born
From inception to 2003, TOSSUP operated under the auspices of the North-Western Provincial Education Officer’s Office. However the Ministry of Education felt the Provincial Office could not be involved in teacher training and as such, asked the program to move out of the provincial Office and stand on its own as an Institution, this saw the birth of Zambian College of open Learning (ZAMCOL).