This study was undertaken to establish the challenges faced by distance education students and what institutions of higher learning have put in place to ameliorate the challenges. It was undertaken in Kabwe urban District, covering three institutions: Nkrumah University, Zambian Open University and Mulungushi University simple random sampling technique was used to select the three institutions and respondents. This study used a descriptive research method, employing the use of a questionnaire and interview guide to collect data. Thematic data analysis was the predominant method employed in the study. Findings indicate that many factors in the home, school and circumstantial environments impede participation and performance of distance education students in accessing and being retained in their much-desired formal education at university and college levels. Furthermore, findings revealed that distance education students are more disadvantaged in accessing education at tertiary level due to the burden of family problems, financial problems, psychological problems, institution-related problems and pressure from work as most of them are working. Terminal illnesses and chronic illness, accidents, poverty, loss of employment (retrenchments) of guardians, parents and significant others led some to drop out of university and college, as support was not guaranteed. Others, especially with special education needs, were hindered by the policies in the institutions of learning and it was difficult to continue or complete their courses on time. The study recommended that the Government should start offering bursaries to students under distance education as such services are only provided to public government institutions only; and that higher education institutions (HEIs) should establish counseling centers in all the regional centers and employ professional counselors to attend to the needs of the students.
Access, retention, quality, distance education, institutions of higher learning
Mpolomoka, D.L., Chikopela, R., Muvombo, M.M., Matimba, N.M., Banda, S., Nherera, S. and Sampa, L.R.