Education International
Education International

Civil Society condemns the African Development Bank’ Support to Privatisation in Education

published 12 December 2014 updated 12 December 2014
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In a joint statement released in Marrakech at the Education Forum of the World Human Rights Forum (27-30 November), international civil society organisations have raised serious concerns about the emphasis on private sector involvement in education in Africa in a recent report of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report focuses progress with regards to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa. It is particularly significant as it will shape the debate for the next international development framework after the MDGs end in 2015.

The statement received an overwhelming support of more than 60 organisations, particularly national education coalitions in Africa.

It highlights that privatisation policies increase inequality in access, do not guarantee quality and undermine the notion of education as a public good. It calls for the withdrawal of the MDG Report 2014: Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals, so as to reconsider the recommendations in support of privatisation in education and make recommendations which are consistent with the human right to education.

Mr Limbani Nsapato of the African Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA), one of the organisations leading the Statement said "We are very disturbed by this report's recommendations for greater private sector involvement in education provision, as they ignore the growing evidence that privatisation in education creates inequality and leads to segregation, as we are seeing now in Ghana."

"Despite recognising that the two education policies have been particularly effective in expanding educational access and participation - the elimination of fees and long-term State investments in education - the report's calls for an increased role for private actors would take education in Africa in the opposite direction, and risk undermining achievements in increased access", said Mr David Archer, of ActionAid.

As the MDG Report 2014 acknowledges, many African countries are "still facing schooling gaps between the poorest and the richest households". The African Union, through the Second Decade of Education (2006-2015) plan of action, reiterated the need to ensure equity. These principles are also strongly protected under international law.However, increased private sector participation in education is a strong driver of segregation and inequalities of opportunities. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the right education recently put it, privatisation "flies in the face of prohibited grounds of discrimination based, notably, on 'social origin', 'economic condition', 'birth' or 'property' in international human rights conventions".

The civil society Statement also warns that privatisation in education leads to violations of international human rights law. Mr Sylvain Aubry of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said "We have done research on privatisation in education occurring in Ghana, Morocco, Uganda, Chile, and Kenya, and found violations of the international law, in particular with regards to the right to education, the right to non-discrimination, government's obligation to provide free quality education, and governments' failures to regulation and monitor private schools".

The Rapport OMD 2014 justifies a call for increased private sector participation in education on the grounds that it could help improve quality. Yet the evidence does not support this position. Mr Fred van Leeuwen of Education International commented "Adequate teachers' qualifications, training and decent working conditions are crucial factors in ensuring quality education. However, in many countries, private schools employ unqualified and insufficiently trained teachers. In Ghana, for example, only 9.2% of primary level teachers are trained in the private sector compared to 69.4% in public schools."

It is clear under international law that education is a public good, which must thus be protected against marketisation and commodification. States emphasised a few months ago in the so-called Muscat agreement, "through governments, the state is the custodian of quality education as a public good".