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Civil Society condemns the African Development Bank support to privatisation in education

This article is also available in Portuguese

In a released at the Education Forum of the World Human Rights Forum in Marrakech, international civil society organisations have raised serious concerns about the emphasis on private sector involvement in education in Africa in a 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 on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa, as part of the shaping of the debate for the next international development framework after the MDGs end in 2015.

The joint statement 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, in order to reconsider the recommendations in support of privatisation in education and make recommendations which are consistent with the human right to education

The statement received overwhelming support, with more than 60 organisations backing it, particularly national education coalitions in Africa. This reflects the importance of this issue in Africa and across the world.

GCE Board member and ActionAid Head of Programme Development, David Archer commented: “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.”

GCE's Global Coordinator Caroline Pearce stated: “We know that school fees and other education costs are a major barrier to access to education.  Most of the dramatic increases in primary school enrolment in Africa since 2000, in particular girls’ enrolments, came about after the elimination of fees. Yet this report promotes further privatisation which invariably entails fee-paying schools.

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 , 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 , 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. 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 MDG 2014 Report  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. 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 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 , “through governments, the state is the custodian of quality education as a public good”. In spite of this, the MDG Report 2014 explicitly calls for a commercialisation of the education sector that “is conducive to profitable returns on investment” for education investors. Ms Pearce of GCE emphasised “Profit making in education is unacceptable, especially where taking advantage of the aspirations for a better life, of the poorest parents.”’  

You can download the full statement here in ,  and .

The MDG Report 2014: Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals report is available on

The last report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education is available on

The research on the impact of privatisation on the right to education is available on

Signatory organisations

Submitted by the African Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA), Education International (EI) ActionAid, and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR).

This statement has also been endorsed by the following organisations:


Alphabétisation et Développement (Alpha Dev)


Association Nationale pour l’Alphébétisation, Senegal (ANAFA)

Burundi Coalition for Education For All

Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS)

Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA)

Civil Society Education Coalition, Malawi (CSEC),

Coalition des Organisations en Synergie pour la Défense de l'Education Publique, Senegal (COSYDEP)

Coalition des organisations Mauritaniennes pour l'Education (COMEDUC)

Coalition Marocaine pour l’Education Pour tous (CMEPT)

Coalition National EPT-Burkina-Faso

Collectif National de l’Education Alternative et Populaire, Senegal (CNEAP)

Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy (COPDA) – Liberia

Confédération des syndicats autonomes, Senegal (CSA)

Education Coalition of South Africa, South Africa (ECSA)

Education For All Network, The Gambia

Equal Education Law Centre, South Africa (EELC)

EqualEducation, South Africa

Fédération Nationale des Associations de Parents d’Elèves au Maroc (FNAPEM)

Fédération Nationale des Associations de Parents d’Eleves et d’Edudiants, Senegal (FENAPES)

Foundation For Environmental Right, Advocacy & Development, Nigeria (FENRAD)

Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE)

Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC)

Global Campaign for Education (GCE)

Global Rights, Nigeria


Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER)

Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya

Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID)

Lumière Synergie pour le Développement

Mouvement Anfass Démocratique, Morocco


Peace Point Action (PPA)

Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI)

Public Interest Law Center, Chad (PILC)


Right to Education Forum, India

Section27, South Africa

Syndicat Unique et Démocratique du Sénégal (SUDES)

Right to Education Project (RTE)

Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE)

Forum for Education NGO’s in Uganda (FENU)

Argentinian Campaign for the Right to Education (CADE

Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development organisation (BIRUDO)

Cameroon Education for All Network (CEFAN)

Zambia National Education Coalition

Basic Education Network Ethiopia

Botswana Coalition for Education for All

Tanzania Education Network/Mtandao wa Elimu Tanzania (TEN/MET)

Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA)

Global Network for Good Governance(GNGG Cameroon)

Groupe Pivot Education de Base, Mali

Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement, CECIDE, Guinée (CECIDE)

Consulenti, orientatori, formatori in rete, Italia (Cofir)