Educators united to resist privatization and defend quality public education
Privatization, the importance of state funding in public education, and campaigns against privatization and commercialization in and of education were all highlighted in a recent online forum. Hosted by the Education International Africa Region Office (EIRAF), the webinar focused on the need to resist privatization and champion quality public education on the continent.
Privatization is one of the greatest threats to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on quality education and the goals of the Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa African. This is according to EIRAF President Christian Adai Poku, who opened the EIRAF webinar on April 6. “Unless this problem is urgently addressed, our vision of ‘the Africa we want’ will remain nothing more than a pipe dream for millions of children and young people in the region. »
EIRAF has been mandated by various congressional resolutions to campaign against privatization and commercialization in and education, he said. In addition, the global response campaign to privatization and commercialization in and education enabled African trade unionists to pressure the government of Liberia to invest in public education.
Despite this and other efforts, privatization remains one of the biggest challenges in Liberia and elsewhere in Africa, Adai Poku pointed out.
Government failure to invest in public education
He also condemned the failure of many African governments to deliver on their promise to invest in quality education for all. According to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report, African governments allocate 4.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) or 16.8% of their national budgets to education. This is well below the minimum education financing benchmarks of 6% of GDP and 20% of the national budget, respectively. This has created space for for-profit companies and their partner foundations, backed by international organizations, to privatize and commercialize education, he added.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has created space for educational technology (edtech) companies to position themselves as providers of digital education solutions. This, coupled with other forms of privatization and commercialization of education in Africa, is likely to further threaten the provision of quality public education, leaving rural children, people with disabilities, migrants, refugees and the most left behind girls.
In her address, Education International Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst said that “Governments are responsible for fair and progressive systems of taxation to fund public education. They must provide inclusive and relevant educational content and meet the needs of teachers.
Four main paths to the privatization of education
The researcher, Curtis Riep, presented his preliminary findings from a continental survey of privatization and commercialization in and of education in Africa. He noted four key privatization paths:
- Privatization as structural reform and market response to state incapacity
- Privatization through public-private partnerships
- Privatization through the expansion of low-cost private schools
- Privatization by crisis or emergency
He also explained that EIRAF member organizations have identified key drivers contributing to the growth of private school opportunities in the African region. These drivers are:
- Poor perceived quality of public schools (i.e., poor teaching, learning resources, or learning outcomes discouraging demand for public basic education)
- Deregulation of licensing requirements for private, independent or alternative schools
- Insufficient public spending on public basic education
- Public-private partnerships in the provision of basic education
- Lack of public school options after graduating from elementary school
- High demand for low-cost private schools
- External assistance supporting the private provision of basic education
Riep acknowledged other areas to investigate for this research study, including the ongoing impacts and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways it is creating new pathways to privatization and for-profit activities in education. In addition, case studies could be undertaken on African countries that require urgent targeted action to respond to privatization and champion quality public education.
Global Response campaign in Africa: a positive impact, but there is still a long way to go
Dr Limbani Nsapato presented the preliminary results of the process evaluation of the Global Response Campaign to Privatization and Commercialization in and Education. He observed that the privatization/commercialization of education has slowed down in some African countries. However, responding unions suggested that over the past five years privatization/commercialization activities have increased while public funding for education has decreased.
Unions have also urged Education International and its affiliates to increase their commitment to reverse and halt the privatization/commercialization trajectory. There is a lot of work to be done to achieve the overall impact of the project in the targeted countries i.e. Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. ‘Ivory.
- Government funding for education and ensuring these funds are used wisely in public schools
- International financial institutions and development partners are reviewing their education financing policies to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education funded by the state
- A continuous campaign against privatization, ensuring the application of strict rules and sanctions to the promoters of private education
- Build the capacity of education actors to understand and support the campaign to stop the privatization of education
- Education International and its affiliates invest in research
- Education International and affiliates are mobilizing resources to make Global Response a sustainable campaign
Statement on resisting privatization and advocating for quality public education for all
Webinar participants also adopted Education International’s Africa Declaration on Resisting Privatization and Advocating for Quality Public Education for All.
The declaration calls on African governments “to take immediate policy, legislative and budgetary measures to guarantee universal access to free and quality public pre-school, primary and secondary education, as well as to make higher education progressively free, in accordance to the United Nations sustainable development policy. Development Goal 4 on Commitments to Quality Education”.
Governments across the continent should also “regulate the activities of private education providers, ensuring that they guarantee the rights of educators, including freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining” .
Education International and its member organizations will also lobby governments to allocate at least 6% of GDP or at least 20% of their national budgets to education. Developed country partners must meet their commitment to allocate at least 0.7% of gross national income to development assistance and ensure that at least 10% of all official development assistance is allocated to education.
The challenge posed by digital technologies
In his closing remarks, EIRAF Regional Director Dennis Sinyolo noted, “The research evidence is clear: the privatization and commercialization of education is on the rise. Privatizers have taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to expand their business opportunities under the guise of providing technological solutions to our governments.
He acknowledged that “the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that digital technologies are important but cannot replace teachers or in-person teaching and learning at school.” However, “the privatizers’ claim that technology will solve all education problems in Africa negates the fact that schools and other educational institutions provide the safest and fairest environment for quality learning”.
He stressed that “we need to bridge the digital divide by pressing governments to equip all of our education institutions with appropriate digital infrastructure, regulate data costs and build the capacity of educators to use technology. as a teaching and learning tool.
A wake-up call to do more to challenge privatization
Sinyolo stressed that the online forum was “a wake-up call for us to do more to challenge privatization in all its forms”. He called on governments to regulate the activities of private education providers, to guarantee the right of teachers and education support staff to form and join a union of their choice, and to engage in political and social dialogue, including collective bargaining.
We will “remind Africans and all governments that money invested in education is not an expense, but an investment; an investment in our children and their future; an investment in the Africa we want,” he concluded.
Agreeing that the battle against the privatization and commercialization of education will not be easy, as the privatizers will try to fight back through the media and other fronts, Sinyolo also explained that “they have the money, but we have the power of our members; the will and commitment to defend and promote quality public education for all.
“To counter the strategies of privateers, we need to build a strong evidence base, organize and mobilize ourselves, both inside and outside our movement, and communicate effectively. If we stick together, we will overcome and be successful in our quest for quality public education and decent working conditions for all. Because we are stronger together! he concluded.