The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights welcomes the recent findings and recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the human rights impact of privatization of education in Haiti and Kenya.
Regarding Haiti, the Committee expressed concern that:
“(d) Educational infrastructure is poor, schools are poorly equipped, particularly in rural and remote areas, few teachers are adequately qualified, and salaries are not regularly paid, leading to frequent cancellation of classes;
(e) The education sector is dominated by private schools, which are often not officially authorized and monitored by the authorities and charge high fees exacerbating existing structural discrimination in the access to education, particularly affecting children in poverty;
(f) “Ghost schools” have mismanaged funds received in the context of PSUGO; [PSUGO is a large-scale Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme set up by the government, based on a similar program initiated before by the World Bank and GPE]
(g) The Office National pour le Partenariat en Education (ONAPE), which is supposed to improve the public-private partnership is not operative.
59. The Committee reminds the State party its primary responsibility for guaranteeing and regulating education and urges the State party to provide for free access to primary education and to take all necessary measures to guarantee access to education for children in vulnerable situations. It also recommends that the State party:
(c) Increase the budget allocated to education, rehabilitate the infrastructure of the educational system, including by building additional schools, ensuring that schools are adequately equipped;
(d) Ensure that teachers are adequately qualified, expand and improve both pre-service and in-service teacher training, and provide adequate salaries for teachers paid in a timely manner;
(e) Establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for and regularly monitor private education providers, to ensure that they comply with quality standards, regularly report on their financial operations to relevant authorities, including on school fees and salaries, and that they do not engage in for-profit education;
(f) Ensure that public-private partnerships do not impede access to quality education for all children and guarantee that they do not serve private interests or entail any form of commercialization of education.”
These pronouncements are significant as they address “structural discrimination” and that the Committee implies that the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the State to provide for free access to primary education, which means it consider there’s an obligation to directly provide public education, which is an advance from previous statements. Additionally, the criticism of the public private partnership scheme indirectly critiques the World Bank’s PPP schemes after which it was modeled.
Most strikingly, the Committee makes two ground-breaking statements on the nature of education: they consider that States should regulate private schools sot that they do not engage in for-profit education, and consider that PPPs should not entail any form of commercialization of education.
Regarding Kenya, the Committee stated:
“56. The Committee welcomes the increase in enrollment and completion rates at primary and secondary education. However, the Committee is concerned about:
…(d) Low quality of education and rapid increase of private and informal schools, including those funded by foreign development aids, providing sub-standard education and deepening inequalities.
57. With reference to the Committee’s general comment No. 1 (2001) on the aims of education, the Committee:
(b) Guarantee the legal right to free mandatory education for all, without direct or hidden costs, including non-Kenyan citizens such as in particular refugee children. In doing so, prioritize free primary quality education at public schools over private schools and informal low cost schools and regulate and monitor the quality of education provided by private informal schools in line with the Convention;”
Significantly, this is the first time that foreign development aid has been discussed, thus bringing in the extra-territorial obligations of other States. The fact that Kenya is asked to regulate and monitor private non-formal schools is also very important and timely at the time where there’s a big debate around that in Kenya.
Finally, according to Sylvain Aubry of the Global Initiative for ESCR, “The request to ‘prioritize’ public schools over private and low-cost schools in guaranteeing the legal right to free mandatory education for all is the furthest we’ve seen a Committee going in promoting public over private education. The best we had before was in the concluding observations of Brazil, where the CRC was requesting to prioritise the public education sector ‘in the distribution of public funds’ only. “