Education International
Education International

International campaigners say British aid to private schools could violate human rights

published 14 October 2015 updated 21 October 2015

A new ground breaking report has found that the UK’s education development funding policies that favour for-profit low-fee private schools may be in violation of the country’s obligations to the right to free quality education.

A group of British and global organisations, including Education International (EI) and its affiliates, have expressed concern that the British government, and specifically its Department for International Development(DfID), could be violating the right to education with its support for the growth of private schools across Africa and south Asia.

“Surely, taxpayers pounds intended for the educational well-being of students shouldn't be siphoned away to line the pockets of billionaires and global corporations,” said EI’s Angelo Gavrielatos, the Project Director of the Global Response to the privatisation of education.

The organisations, which include campaigners from Kenya, Uganda and Ghana, have submitted reports to the UN Committees on the Rights of the Child and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the Right to Education Project to condemn the increased use of British aid money to support for-profit primary schools, in particular so-called ‘low-fee’ private schools, which are fuelling inequality, creating segregation and undermining the right to education.

The UK’s support of the growth of private education through its development aid: Questioning its responsibilities as regards its human rights extraterritorial obligations” targets DfiD’s support of low fee for-profit school chains, which are employing unqualified teachers.

“Education is a human and civil right and a public good. Nothing in the UK’s aid policies should undermine this principle. Clearly DfID’s promotion of privatisation across Asia and Africa jeopardises the right to free, quality public education. Up until now we had anecdotal evidence but now we have research evidence, which shows the scale of the problem. This needs to stop,” said Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers.

Among the private actors being funded, Bridge International academies, operating in Kenya and elsewhere, is protesting a possible government requirement that half, not all, “half of all teachers in any one school should have a recognised teaching qualification and be paid accordingly.” Instances such as this have made it clear to organisations, including EI, that private actors’ decision to hire unqualified “teachers" is driven by their business plan to maximise profit.

The reports have been submitted to the UN Committees on the Rights of the Child and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the Right to Education Project with the support of: ActionAid International, ActionAid UK, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Center for Public Interest Law, Child Rights International Network, the East African Centre for Human Rights, the Eastern Africa Collaboration on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Economic and Social Rights Centre-Hakijamii, Education International, the Federation of Education NGO’s in Uganda, the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition, the Global Campaign for Education, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Global Justice Now, the Human Rights Advocacy Centre, the Human Rights Network for Journalists, the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights in Uganda, the International Commission of Jurists – Kenyan Section, the Kenya National Union of Teachers, the Kenya Youth Foundation, the Mathare Association, the National Union of Teachers, the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative, the Soweto Forum,  the Uganda National Teachers’ Union, the University and College Union and Women Uganda.