On August 3, 2022, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa with support from, and in partnership with the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) hosted a hybrid workshop that focused on bolstering the capacity of civil society organizations to monitor and respond to the growth of private actors in education through research and data gathering. The event which featured presentations from workshop facilitators drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, and Nigeria, attracted the participation of twenty (25) in-person participants and twenty-eight (28) persons on the Zoom platform.[spacer height=”25px”]
Opening remarks at the programme were delivered by Ms. Aya Douabou and Mr. Oluwafemi Akinbode, Executive Director, CAPPA, both of whom noted that the workshop aimed to equip CSOs with the right knowledge to embark on research exercises to examine the activities of private actors in education and build alliances to strategically respond to emerging trends related to the commercialization of education.[spacer height=”25px”]
Johnstone Shishanya, Programme Manager, Education Support Programme, East African Centre for Human Rights, (EACHRights) Kenya Chapter, educated participants on the concept of research methodology whilst citing the research study conducted by EACHRights on Bridge Schools in Kenya as a case study. He charged participants to always identify and connect the link between every advocacy and the mission of their organizations before embarking on research. For instance, the core focus and mandate of EACHRights on economic, social, and cultural rights, inspired the organization to interrogate the operations of Bridge Academies, a private actor in education in Kenya. Mr. Johnstone further highlighted the importance of embarking on research exercises and data gathering on the education sector which include, identifying gaps in the operations of private actors that breach national legal frameworks on education and demanding accountability from the government to live up to its obligations of providing free and quality education to the people.[spacer height=”25px”]
Musa Musogya, Programme Officer, Right to Education, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Uganda, presented a case study on the Ugandan Experience as regards the issue of Public-Private-Partnerships in education. Whereas the Ugandan government had entered a PPP initiative through its Universal Secondary Education (USE) scheme to improve access to education by developing a framework where the government would pay a per-student capitation grant to private actors that agreed to enroll qualifying USE students into their schools at no additional charge, ISER researchers found out that private actors involved in the partnership failed to meet up to human rights and compliance standards on education despite signing a Memorandum of Understanding to operate according to required expectations of service delivery.[spacer height=”25px”]
Many of the PPP schools were discriminatory against students with disabilities and operated without a board of governance which led to the misappropriation of funds invested by the government. Also, by focusing on schools in urban centers mostly, the PPP scheme failed to absorb vulnerable groups of students in rural areas who are often the major victims suffering from lack of access to education. Armed with these findings, the ISER approached the Ugandan government to phase out the PPP scheme as it was undermining the quality of education in Uganda. The organization also instituted a legal process to compel the government to discard the PPP scheme based on the findings of its research. The organization recommended that the government provided grants for the development of community schools instead of relying on PPPs. In the end, ISER won its case in court which led the government to begin phasing out the PPP scheme in education and adopting the organization’s recommendations for improving access to education in the country.[spacer height=”25px”]
The third presentation delivered by Anderson Miamen, National Coordinator, Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education, Liberia, dwelt on processes for conducting research. In embarking on research to expose the operations of the private sector in education, right-to-education advocates must clearly outline what is at stake, decide on funding mechanisms and human resources for coordinating the research, review the legal framework guiding the subject matter, and think about the short and long-term goals of the research. It is important to examine issues of contract transparency, data privacy, sustainability, labour-related matters, and inclusion of stakeholders among other key perspectives when interrogating the activities of private actors in education.[spacer height=”25px”]
Oluwafemi Akinbode, Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, delivered the final presentation of the day which equipped participants with knowledge on how to conduct advocacy based on CSO research. Relevant, accurate, objective, and credible research is a catalyst for policy change. Research not only provides the evidence for effective advocacy but also provides facts and figures within a timeframe including cost-effective feasible solutions. It is the findings of research that inform the kind of advocacy to be embarked upon by CSOs. As espoused by David Cohen et al, 2001, in the book; “Advocacy for Social Justice: A Global Action and Reflection Guide”: ‘’Advocacy is the pursuit of influencing outcomes — including public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions — that directly affect people’s current lives.” In planning for evidence-based advocacy, CSOs must identify like-minded organizations, individuals, & networks to collaborate with to amplify the advocacy campaign, envisage obstacles to the campaign, develop strategies for countering challenges, and finally, design a plan for monitoring and evaluating an advocacy campaign.[spacer height=”25px”]
The presentations elicited reactions and comments from participants who agreed on the need for right-to-education advocates to consistently resist the commercialization and privatization of education. Participants also proposed measures to increase public awareness and demand accountability from the government and private actors. They include:[spacer height=”25px”]
- Build a network to develop a strong campaign to compel African governments to increase budgetary allocations to education, provide free and quality education for citizens.
- Break down research findings into simple relatable communication to facilitate easy understanding by members of the public.
- Show solidarity for teachers, lecturers, and other workers in the public education sector who suffer the neglect of the education sector by the government.
- Resist the contracting of public education to privateers and the proliferation of private schools.
- Embark on a campaign to ensure that political and elected officials in African countries do not send their wards abroad to receive education in order to force the government to invest in the development of homegrown education.