Ghanaian teachers against for profit education

This video from Ghana is called Teachers’ unions up in arms with managers of ‘Omega’ schools – 4/11/2015.

By Felicity Collier:

Fee-paying schools blight Ghana‘s rural communities

Thursday 4th May 2017

FELICITY COLLIER reports on the union fight against exploitative ‘pay-as-you-go’ education

A TEACHER’S union in Ghana is leading a campaign against the widespread privatisation of education in Africa.

Delegates to NASUWT’s annual conference in Manchester [in England] last month heard from David Ofori Acheampong, the general secretary of the Ghana National Association of Teachers about the worrying epidemic of fee-paying, profiteering “shack” schools.

Since 2009, these makeshift education factories have been set up throughout Ghana’s rural communities — by entrepreneurs.

This “pay-as-you-go” system of private schooling operates from people’s homes which, he says, the company Omega rents out.

There have been reports of similar schools across Africa which have been described as “squalid.”

In Kenya, 10 such schools were closed down for failing to meet basic educational standards.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, along with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and eBay’s Pierre Omidyar run Bridge International Academies in Africa and India, which was condemned by global organisations Education International and Public Services International, as reported recently in the Star.

So troubled are teachers by the situation, they mobilised to urge the World Bank to stop funding the schools. Britain’s teaching trade unions NUT and NASUWT joined the Uganda National Teachers Union and Kenya National Union of Teachers to deliver a letter to World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim last week, calling for high quality public education to be a “primary responsibility of governments, not corporations and entrepreneurs.”

It added that the so-called “low fee” schooling was still unaffordable for most families.

Acheampong said that in Ghana, rural communities are being exploited for their lack of schools and that over the years, the government has not planned properly. The population has tripled, and there is not even enough space to build more schools.

He proclaims that Omega set itself up there without the government’s prior knowledge, offering “pay-as-you-go” schooling.

The idea is that if parents cannot afford school fees on any given day, children do not attend and they are not charged.

The schools run by Omega in Ghana work in secret. “When the union informed the Ghana Education Service,” Acheampong continues, “it had no knowledge of these schools.”

He pointed out that the company had been taking advantage of “the prestige of attending private schools and also where schools don’t exist.”

And while rural communities in Ghana with a population of 20,000 lack schools, the teachers employed by Omega are inexperienced and lack formal qualifications.

“These schools recruit anybody at all,” Acheampong says, which could be high school leavers with just four to six weeks’ training.

“The teachers are recruited from senior high schools students who are unable to make it into the universities. They have practically no training in teaching at all.”

Omega’s website is currently advertising for a Chief Operations Officer, which requires experience in “maintaining the highest operational efficiency and profitability,” which indicates much about its attitude.

Mr Acheampong says that the unions in Ghana work to “draw attention to the harmful effect of these schools on the education of pupils in the communities” — which, he says, has been welcomed by some parents.

The unions in Ghana regularly engage with the district assemblies and and MPs in areas where these schools operate, and encourage district assemblies to set up schools instead. It is gradually succeeding — numbers have dropped from 13,000 to 9,000.

He has also spoken to Ghana’s minister of education about how to regulate these schools. And there is the possibility of going to court to block Omega from starting up more schools, although negotiation with the district assemblies and the members of parliament is proving effective so far.

“We’re still carrying on with the campaign,” Acheampong says. “The real challenge is the absence of state schools in these communities to absorb these pupils should the schools be withdrawn.”

For NASUWT in Britain, the issue about privatisation of schools is the marrying of commercialisation.

Phil Kemp from its executive committee says: “We need to really oppose academisation and all the abuses.

“In 2015, there were 41 teachers [in Britain] earning more than the Prime Minister [£150,000] and it’s appalling.”

NASUWT said that the test for education is whether it promotes equality, transparency and value for money. It highlighted issues such as educational standards, class sizes and staff morale, as well as cost, pay and working conditions, and trade union recognition.

The union is calling for the effect of academisation to be investigated.

9 thoughts on “Ghanaian teachers against for profit education

  1. Pingback: British students voting Labour | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Friday 5th May 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Editorial

    PERHAPS it is too much to hope that protesters outside Shell-Mex House on London’s Strand today will prick the consciences of shareholders attending the Pearson AGM.

    Those who make their profits through the privatisation of education systems in the developing world are unlikely to object to privatising education systems in the developing world.

    Even so, the education unions and NGOs organising today’s protest highlight an issue which has escaped public scrutiny for too long.

    Pearson is the elephant in the room for anyone looking at developments in education worldwide, one of the most powerful engines of what teachers call the Global Education Reform Movement (Germ).

    It’s up to its neck in the privatisation of schools in Africa and Asia, helping to fund Bridge International Academies, a so-called “low-fee” school chain backed by some of the world’s cuddliest corporate philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

    Bridge has also received millions from Britain’s overseas aid budget in its mission to educate children in the world’s poorest countries (at a price) — attracting criticism from the United Nations committee on the rights of the child, which pointed out that using aid money to fund private education providers clashes with UN sustainable development goals on providing “inclusive and equitable” education to all children.

    Bridge has been booted out of Uganda for teaching kids in unsanitary conditions and for using unqualified teachers — the latter a common theme with the “free” schools promoted by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government from 2010-15.

    Bridge’s “academies” undermine public education in Third World countries, starving it of investment and funds.

    Britain’s academies and free schools do not charge fees at the door, but they are built on the same marketised vision of education.

    Like Bridge, they reduce education from a right all children deserve to a commodity provided for a return.

    Schools are designed to compete against other schools and teachers made to compete against other teachers for the “best” results, which are measured by subjecting children to endless standardised tests.

    Teaching unions in Britain and beyond in Africa, Asia and the Americas have highlighted the weaknesses of this approach, where a standardised and scripted curriculum is delivered by teachers following lesson plans on a tablet.

    Education is not geared to the needs of the student but to the needs of the test — producing a “rapidly growing set of data that Pearson can use to develop products to sell back to the people who create the data,” in the words of the British Colombian Teachers Federation’s Larry Kuehn.

    Free schools have avoided the limelight recently, with Theresa May’s crazed mission to disinter the 11+ and segregate children by supposed ability (in reality, by ability to pay) taking centre-stage.

    But they remain at the heart of Tory education policy, with the March Budget promoting plans to build another 140 free schools despite opposition from parents, teachers and even the National Audit Office, which pointed out that millions of pounds of public money has been squandered on free schools standing empty in areas where they are not needed — while other communities are desperate for more school places to become available.

    Local authorities are barred from opening new schools to meet this need — although Labour has promised to return this power to councils if elected on June 8.

    Pearson is not the only driver of the Germ — but it is the world’s biggest education company and wields an enormous influence on education policy in numerous countries.

    That influence is wholly negative, promoting a neoliberal education market that’s bad news for teachers and children alike.


  3. Friday 5th May 2017

    In Africa private education companies such as Bridge International Academies have been accused of providing poor-quality education, unregulated teaching and leaving the poorest children without any education at all. AISHA DODWELL has the story

    NO-ONE is in any denial that there are huge challenges in many African countries in providing access to education. The question then is about how best to meet that need.

    A new report from Caerus Capital uses the benevolent language of development, but is at the same time a pretty naked pitch for investors to start pumping their capital into a variety of private education schemes across the continent.

    Education is a basic human right and must not be turned into a commodity. The more we concede its provision to the private sector, the more we risk excluding entire communities on the basis of their ability to pay and the more we exacerbate social inequality.

    It’s distressing to see financial advisers eyeing up the lack of education infrastructure in African countries when we know that their investments will be fundamentally driven by maximising profit return rather than by the need to provide quality education to marginalised communities.

    Unfortunately, British aid money is being diverted to further this privatisation agenda.

    We published a report in 2015 that exposed many of the problems associated with the Department for International Development’s (DFiD) ideological agenda in promoting private education.

    DFiD has also faced criticism from the UN special rapporteur on education, the National Union of Teachers and the International Development Committee over its funding of private education schemes in countries in Asia and Africa. The UN committee on the rights of the child (CRC) has warned that British aid’s support for low-fee private schools run by for-profit businesses could even be considered a violation of children’s rights.

    Private education companies such as Bridge International Academies (which has received DFiD funds) have been accused of providing poor-quality education, unregulated teaching and leaving the poorest children without any access to education at all.

    Uganda’s high court recently ordered the closure of Bridge schools across the country, claiming they “provided unsanitary learning conditions, used unqualified teachers and were not properly licensed.”

    Kenya’s National Union of Teachers also released a damning report, claiming the schools provide “poor-quality education” and that they remain unaffordable to many households, contributing to “educational segregation” in the country.

    In February, the High Court of Kenya in Busia County ruled that the county education board could proceed in closing 10 Bridge schools for failing to meet education standards.

    Aid money could and should be used to support the development of robust public services to deliver education rather than supporting a controversial private-sector approach that has been shown time and time again to worsen conditions of inequality.

    DFiD should instead be focusing on increasing its existing support for schemes that have successful results, such as the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

    The GPE, to which DFiD is a major contributor, pools donor funds to strengthen public education systems in developing countries and achieve equitable, quality education and learning for all.

    Under the GPE, governments develop their own education plans in consultation with their citizens and civil society.

    GPE funds then support those government-led plans, rather than separate, fragmented, donor-led initiatives.

    This is why we’ll be joining allies, including Britain’s National Union of Teachers, today to protest at the annual general meeting of Pearson, the well-known private education company.

    Pearson is one of the companies that receives money from DfiD for running controversial private school programmes across Africa, and itself is financing the controversial Bridge International Academies.

    The introduction of universal education, the increasing length of compulsory education, the creation of comprehensive schools — these are some of the greatest social achievements Britain has made.

    The aid budget could be used to help others to achieve these vital components of a decent society where every life counts.

    Aisha Dodwell is the campaigns and policy officer for Global Justice Now.


  4. Monday 12th June 2017

    posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

    TAXPAYERS are gifting private schools a bumper £522 million a year subsidy because of their charitable status, research by CVS, Britain’s “leading business rent and rates specialist,” revealed yesterday.

    More than half of the 2,707 private schools in England and Wales are registered as charities, which means they receive tax relief on their business rates.

    The lucrative tax break means that private schools will pay only £634.3m of a £1.16 billion business-rates bill over the next five years, denying a staggering £522.3m in much-needed revenue for local authorities.

    This comes at a time when local-authority schools pay the full amount in business rates. The National Union of Teachers has also warned that under Tory manifesto plans a whopping £3bn would be cut from the state-school education budget.

    Some 586 out of 1,038 private schools received the relief, CVS research found. Based on these results, it was estimated that 56 per cent of private schools held charitable status.

    Eton College — the school of 19 former prime ministers — is among those offered the biggest rates relief. It will pay just over £821,000 out of a £4.1m bill over the next five years, saving a bumper £3.3m.

    Labour has been campaigning to remove the exemption that allows private schools to use their charitable status to avoid paying 20 per cent VAT, which the party would use to boost funding for state schools.

    Chief executive of CVS Mark Rigby said: “It cannot be right that council-run schools pay normal business rates but 56 per cent of all private schools, using their charitable status, receive an 80 per cent discount.”


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