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Education International warn of damage to children caused by privatisation of schools in Africa

AFRICAN teachers will issue a rallying call tomorrow for free public education across the continent, branding the rapid growth of “low-cost private schools” run by multinationals a form of “foreign intervention.”

During a special meeting of the Education International African regional committee to be held on the sidelines of the African Unions Heads of State meeting in Ethiopia tomorrow, they will urge leaders to fulfil their obligations in the provision of free quality public education which they said was a “fundamental human right.”

The global teachers’ union will launch a research paper giving a searing account of the damage being done to Africa’s education system by privateers Bridge International Academies (BIA) — the world’s largest low-cost for-profit school chain — which is expanding its influence across the continent.

The report, entitled “What do we really know about Bridge International Academies?” revealed that the marketisation of education was harming children in Africa in the pursuit of profit.

It claims BIA’s operations amount to a “foreign intervention” in African countries, including Uganda where it arrived without invitation from the government and set up 63 private schools without obtaining a licence.

In Nigeria legislation and standards have been relaxed to allow it to get a foothold in the country.

According to research, the privateer was boosted by the British government to the tune of nearly $35 million (£27m) from funding earmarked for aid with a further $100m (£78m) coming from private investors.

It found, contrary to BIA’s claim to bring education to the poorest communities, that its drive for profit had the reverse effect with spiralling costs denying access to families living on $2 a day or less per person, which the authors warned was “inappropriate and irresponsible.”

In Nigerian schools, children who cannot pay the fees are separated from their classmates and not allowed to sit exams to pressure parents into paying. Researchers found the humiliation was damaging the health and well-being of children.

Research showed the majority of teachers in BIA schools are unqualified with 71 per cent in Kenya and more than 80 per cent in Uganda not having licences to teach.

Education International warned: “Privatisation, in all its various manifestations, undermines the right of all students to free, quality education and entrenches inequalities, particularly for girls and the socially disadvantaged.”  

The teaching organisation demanded that free public education should be funded through progressive taxation with a well-supported and well-paid qualified teacher in every classroom.

African countries must allocate at least 6 per cent of GDP or at least 20 per cent of the national budget to education, in line with internationally agreed funding benchmarks it said.

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