Côte d’Ivoire government investment in private schools: a bad bet for the future of the young and the country

A study commissioned by Education International and carried out by two prominent researchers shows that the Ivory Coast should redirect its investments in education towards the public sector and put end to privatization.

The study on the privatisation of schooling in Ivory Coast (“Etude sur la privatisation de l’école en Côte d’Ivoire”), by Dr Claude Koutou N’Guessan and Dr Théodore Goi Bi Zamblé, launched on 5 April in Grand Bassam, stresses that, since the 1980s, in the face of growing demand for education and the inadequacy of public provision, the Government has been facilitating private provision of education through a public service concession agreement. This has led to the growth of private schools to meet the demand, but provision has developed in a haphazard manner that has done little to ensure quality teaching for all students.

The survey of 286 students, 90 teachers, and 32 parents, which was carried out in 18 schools, 15 of which were in Abidjan and 3 in Daloa, points out that private schools are not always kept clean. Fifty-two per cent of the learners questioned indicated that they considered their schools to be very dirty and students even claimed that they are not safe. And fewer than one in five learners has a library in their school, while approximately 65% say they do not have a computer room.

Concerning teachers, 50% have less than 5 years experience. Because recruiting qualified staff from teacher training institutions is costly for private schools, their founders typically try to keep costs down by predominantly recruiting people with little teacher training. Moreover, teachers are performing under contractually precarious conditions, often without detailed employment contracts according to 71% of those questioned. The 29% of teachers who state that they have an employment contract say that this contract is not always respected and that getting paid depends on the goodwill of the employer.

According to the study, the main problem facing most private  schools in the Ivory Coast is financial. This problem is linked to the late payment of government grants or to difficulties collecting school fees from parents. This has a negative impact on the smooth running of private schools and considerably reduces teaching quality.

According to David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, “new schools are being opened at the start of every school year by people more focused on boosting their earnings than on teaching quality; in a word, commodification”.

He continues: “together with our affiliates and Ivorian teachers, we refuse to see the country’s children denied a quality education provided by quality teachers and educational support staff, in a quality environment with quality teaching materials. We will not give up and will continue to explore other alternatives to first reduce and then halt the commodification of schooling.”

Lastly, he highlights the fact that “this study constitutes a first step in restoring schooling in Ivory Coast to its former glory”, and, to achieve this objective, actively invites the Ivorian government “to redirect its investment spending in the education sector towards the construction and restoration of public schools and drastically reduce or even remove funding for private schools altogether”.

A summary of the report is available here (in French).

The common declaration of EI union members in Ivory Coast (IESCI) against the privatisation of education can be downloaded here (in French).

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