Education International
Education International

Kenya: teacher unions and civil society unite to condemn the privatisation and commercialisation of education

published 26 January 2016 updated 27 January 2016

Education International has joined its affiliates and partners in Kenya to urge the government to halt the growth of edu-businesses throughout the country’s education sector.

Article 53 of Kenya’s Constitution makes it clear that every child has the immediate right to free and compulsory basic education. However, a 2009 Policy for Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET), which recognises alternative or ‘non formal’ schools, has inadvertently opened the door to big corporations and edu-businesses to benefit from lower legal requirements and to profit from the delivery of non-formal education in areas of the country that remain largely under-served by public schools.

This legal loophole caught the attention of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, all of which have expressed concern over the growing privatisation of education and fee charging for-profit schools in Kenya, such as Bridge International Academies.

“A precondition to achieve quality education for all is a qualified teacher in every classroom,” said Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary General, Wilson Sossion said in response to the situation. “It’s astonishing that Bridge opposes a minimum requirement that 50 percent of their staff be qualified teachers. Equally, it is disturbing that the World Bank is promoting and financing the Bridge model.”

Most recently, on 21st January 2016, the 71st session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child asked the Kenyan government to respond to the growing privatisation of education, specifically the impact of Bridge on the quality of education in Kenya.  Olga Khazova, UN Committee member and Rapporteur for Kenya asked what the government is doing about Bridge being able to sidestep regulations that are meant to protect the quality of education children receive.

“Adopted in September 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on education is clear: governments must ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education,” said Education International (EI)’s Angelo Gavrielatos. “The commercialisation of education represents the greatest threat to achieving this.”

Together, teacher unions and civil society are calling on the government to:

·         close existing legislative and regulatory loopholes and ensure compliance in relation to minimum national standards with respect to the provision of education. Registration of schools must be conditional on full compliance with minimum standards.

·         fulfil its obligations consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4. By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals governments have committed to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  Target 4.1 requires governments to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

·         fulfil its primary obligation to properly and adequately fund free quality education for all children regardless of the background. This is crucial to Kenya’s future prosperity.