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5.2 Privatisation The inability of states to fulfil popular demands for education has led some of them – often encouraged by international lending agencies and donors – to start to rely on private providers of schooling. In Malawi and Tanzania, for example, there has been a rapid growth of private secondary schools since the 1980s. According to a recent study41, in Malawi private providers account for about a quarter of secondary school enrolments while in Tanzania, where private schooling was previously banned, over half of secondary schools were private by 1996 (Rose 2002:19). Botswana also has a high proportion of private secondary schools and in Zimbabwe by 1996, 88% of primary school enrolment and 71% of secondary school enrolment was in private schools. While some of the private schools are elite schools charging high fees to the wealthy, many are poor quality schools catering largely to relatively poor sections of the population who cannot gain access to public schooling. (Rose 2002).
This is a study of private secondary schooling in Malawi and South Africa, conducted jointly by the University of Sussex Institute of International Education (UK), the Centre for Education Research and Training in Malawi and the Education Policy Unit, University of Witwatersrand and the Centre for Education Policy Development in South Africa.
The World Bank has encouraged the growth of private schooling and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) that is part of the World Bank Group, has sought to make loans for the establishment of private schools although not many such loans appear to have been made in Southern Africa. Claims by the IFC and some others (e.g. Tooley 2001) have alleged that the private sector can provide better quality education at lower cost.
However, Pauline Rose of the University of Sussex who has done extensive research on private schooling in East and Southern Africa argues that these claims cannot be substantiated.
One should keep in mind when looking at reports on the extent of private schooling in various countries that definitions of private schooling vary from country to country. In Zimbabwe, most schools classified as private receive state support in the form of teachers' salaries, building grants and a grant for non-capital expenditure. In Lesotho, all primary schools are considered private since the church has traditionally been the provider of primary education, but the state recruits and employs teachers (Rose 2002:2). In some other countries such as Malawi, the state provides no subsidy at all and schools are liable to pay tax on income and assets.
The mere establishment of private schools should not necessarily be considered to be a problem. Of greater importance is the quality of schooling offered and the ability of the state to regulate the schools, to ensure that students are not exploited and to ensure that acceptable standards are maintained. There is clear evidence in many countries that states do not have this capacity to regulate private schooling (indeed some countries do not even have a regulatory framework) and that many poor students and their parents are indeed exploited by some private providers whose main aim is to turn a profit at the expense of parents who undergo considerable economic deprivation in order to afford school fees (Rose 2002). While this does not apply to all private providers and
possibly not even to all for-profit providers, Rose warns that:
"There is some evidence to suggest that provision of low quality private education for the poor is not serving their needs, but rather using up their scarce resources with limited benefits. … … There is a need to strengthen the role of the state in financing, provision as well as regulation if children are to have access to schooling of acceptable quality at different levels, and be protected from the poor quality private provision which is becoming increasingly prevalent." (Rose 2002:16.)
5.3 Decentralisation One of the reform strategies promoted by the World Bank is decentralisation of power over education away from the central state. This is said to make education more responsive to community needs, increase efficiency and effectiveness and is more democratic as decisions are taken "closer to the people".
In states suffering from economic difficulties, however, its main attraction to government's is that decentralisation can shift not only decision-making over education but also financial responsibility. Thus one sees it shifting the burden of education costs away from an increasingly impoverished state to even more impoverished communities. This has been the case in those states where decentralisation has been accompanied by the introduction of school fees. Private schooling with low or no subsidies can also be seen as a form of financial decentralisation.
Oldfield associates the trend towards greater decentralisation with the advent of globalisation and the discourse of "hollowing out" or "rolling back" the state and the "downsizing" of the welfare state system in North America and Europe (Oldfield 2001:34, Strange 1996). Oldfield states that this discourse in the developed countries has had an impact on countries of the third world, largely as a result of "the imposition of stringent antistatist structural adjustment programmes attached to World Bank loans."
These structural adjustment programmes have promoted devolution and privatisation as a supposed antidote to excessive state bureaucracy, corruption and inefficiency (Oldfield 2001:34, Chossudovsky 1997).
5.4 Global education industry A large and competitive industry in educational services has developed internationally, largely due to the establishment of market mechanisms in education and the increased outsourcing of public services in developed countries.
Universities in developed countries, particularly English-speaking countries such as the USA, UK and Australia, see overseas students as an important source of income and actively try to recruit them. Although most of the students from developing countries tend to come from Asia, the middle classes in Africa – consisting mainly of families with business and government links – are also a market. For example, the Australian company, IDP Education Pty Ltd (IDP) recently established an office in South Africa to, among other things, recruit African students throughout the sub-continent and beyond to attend Australian universities or to persuade African governments to sponsor the students to study in Australia. There is evidence that South African universities are also starting to think of Africa, and particular the SADC region, as a market for students.
Both public and private higher education institutions from abroad have either established branches in Southern African countries or offer degrees through local partner institutions. This practice, if not properly regulated, has the potential of undermining local public higher education institutions by attracting the best staff with offers of better salaries and conditions than the public institutions can afford, and students from affluent backgrounds.
This trade in higher education is fuelled by the demand for foreign qualifications. While it is true that studies abroad by African students may benefit the sending country by offering its students a better quality education than is locally available, it is also true that many of the students so educated end up living and working abroad as part of the brain drain, thus depriving developing countries of their best talent.
The global education industry is also evident in other ways. During the past fifteen years, there has been an enormous growth in the outsourcing of educational services by the public sector to private for-profit or nonprofit enterprises in developed countries. The services outsourced are many and varied and include curriculum development, facilitating school improvement programmes, in-service training of teachers, inspecting schools, project management, research and even managing schools or entire local education authorities for limited periods of time as well as many other activities. Although there has been very little outsourcing of such educational services by most Southern African public education departments, and only a limited amount by South Africa, it has become common for some donor agencies from developed countries to outsource the management of the their assistance programmes to private agencies from their own countries (sometimes in partnership with local enterprises). This keeps the programmes out of the direct control of recipient government's and ensures that much of the expenditure finds its way back to the donor country.
In several Southern African countries, outsourcing has taken place at the institutional level for non-educational services such as catering, cleaning and maintenance. This often results in job losses or the deterioration of the salaries and employment conditions of services workers previously employed by institutions such as universities and colleges.
The WTO's Memorandum on Education Services (1998) reveals the intention to promote a more liberalised trade in educational services and to create a market system of educational provision internationally (Rose 2002:11-12). Should this take effect, there is a clear probability that international, privately owned education companies will aggressively market their services to African governments. Should countries accede to these overtures and not have the capacity to direct and monitor the activities of unscrupulous commercial providers, entire countries could possibly increasingly lose control over their own education systems.
6. Developing and working for alternatives
6.1 Issues around which to mobilise The very dependency, which has resulted from the economic crisis facing much of our region, is also one of the biggest obstacles to the development of strategies tailored to our own circumstances. We need to decrease the level of dependence on foreign donors and take control of our own policy and planning processes. This does not mean that we should not receive financial assistance from abroad, but does mean that the control of policy development, policy monitoring and evaluation and planning should be indigenised. Foreign funding and expertise should only be used if it is prepared to play a supportive and not a decision-making role.
The concept of donors and local officials or politicians sitting around a table to decide together on budget priorities is unacceptable. In such circumstances the donors are usually in a stronger position and the resultant policy-decisions are not necessarily in the best interests of the country concerned. This not only undermines the sovereignty of our nations, but also creates an ever-deepening dependence. It can lead to a tendency for governments not to feel responsible for developing solutions and strategies for their particular problems, but instead to expect that all these problems can be tackled by the ready-made, one-size-fits-all solutions favoured by donors at any particular stage.
Of course, this issue raises questions of accountability: how would donors know that their money is being properly spent if they cannot approve the policies and plans that it is to be spent on? There are at least two answers
• Even though donors have played a role in "helping" to determine sector budgets for well over a decade, one would be hard-pressed to truthfully claim that this has benefited our education systems.
• If the donors are indeed eager to help to improve our education systems, they ought to be prepared to take a chance in order to assist us to reduce our dependence and to build our capacity and selfreliance.
6.2 Stakeholders Governments should involve all stakeholders in our countries in an ongoing and broad-based consultation on priorities. This does not mean that every decision should be the result of a mass meeting or a vote, or that professionals and experts should be marginalized. What it does mean is that institutionalised forms of broad-based consultation should be established to ensure that governments are aware of popular opinion when important policy decisions are made and that channels exist for dialogue between governments and the people. Governments should strengthen the capacity of their institutions and of public servants and even politicians to consult democratically and to bridge the gap between the people and policy processes.
6.3 Popular forums Such institutionalised forms of consultation (popular forums) could be established either by governments or by organs of civil society, depending on the conditions in any particular country. Where the popular forums are established independently of government, governments should be prevailed upon to recognise them and even to pass legislation to compel organs of government administration to consult with popular forums in the development of education policies.
In the area of education, the forums could be established at various levels: schools, local districts, regions or provinces and at national level.
They should include representatives of teachers, parents, students and support workers from all education sub-sectors, as well as representatives of the wider society such as the trade union movement, the private and parastatal business sectors, churches, civic organisations and so on.
One should recognise that the various social sectors that participate in such popular forums will have differential resources and capacities to help them to make their influence felt. The wealthier and more educated sectors will be in a better position to promote and defend their interests than the poor and less educated. While it is difficult to overcome this reality, it is important that it be kept in mind and that measures be taken to ensure that the poor are not marginalized.
We need increased research into the problems of our own education systems to find the most cost-effective and appropriate means for overcoming them, rather than following the latest (and often rapidly changing) fads of the World Bank and donor countries. This needs to be accompanied by improved co-operation and constant dialogue between departments of education and the research community in each country as well as by region-wide research.