LOW-COST SCHOOLS, revolutionising education in AFRICA? – VisualPolitik EN


Africa is a continent of challenges, great
challenges. We’re talking about a continent that has
begun a process of modernization, but there’s still a lot to do: Develop a true health network; boost industry,
mechanize agriculture and, of course, respond to the enormous challenge of improving education. If we look at results from recent decades
and identify the countries that have taken the greatest economic leaps, we can see that
the common denominator has been an effort to implement high-quality education systems. In countries such as Japan, South Korea or
Singapore, the commitment to have first-rate education systems really facilitated their
economic transition. Within a few years, all of these countries
went from poor, rudimentary economies to becoming high value-added economic powers. That’s exactly what is happening now in
China. Of course, China’s success is due to many
factors, but throughout this entire process of economic takeoff, education played an important
role. And not only for economic reasons, but also
social, cultural and political ones. And now it’s Africa’s turn. Listen up. (SCHOOLS THAT AREN’T SCHOOLS) Obviously, getting Sub-Saharan Africa to the
education level of developed countries will be a mammoth task that will take decades. And just as a house is constructed from the
foundations up, all kinds of public and private organizations have invested billions of dollars
in reducing illiteracy and improving schooling throughout sub-Saharan Africa for more than
three decades. However… the challenge is sooo enormous…
that there’s still a lot to do. For example, the lack of access to education
in Africa is one of its biggest problems. Despite all the efforts made, more than 20%
of children aged between 6 and 11 still don’t go to school, and if we talk about children
aged between 12 and 14, the figure rises above 30%. The usual reason given for this situation
is the need in the poorest regions for children to work in the fields from a young age and
the difficulty in meeting the costs of education. Because you see, even though the free public
education model has been adopted widely throughout the African continent, parents still have
to pay expenses such as uniforms, shoes, books or transportation. And, of course, in such a poor region this
is often quite complicated. But if you think that the lack of access or
not being able to pay for expenses are the only problems hindering education in Africa,
you’re very, very wrong. The other great, and perhaps most significant,
challenge facing education systems in Africa has to do with very poor teaching quality
and with the wasteful and uncontrolled use of public funds. And many of you may be thinking, Simon, surely
you didn’t expect Africa to have Ivy-league class colleges after just a few years… But wait, because when we talk about “poor
quality teachers” we mean the standard is really low… In many African countries, such as in Sierra
Leone, it’s common to find fake teachers. These are teachers who receive a salary from
the government but who neither teach nor work. Since 2009 in Sierra Leone alone, more than
6,000 fake teachers have been detected and eliminated from the state payroll. Although, to be fair, this doesn’t only
happen in Africa. It’s a frequent problem in other poor countries
too. In Pakistan, for example, there were more
than 8,000 schools that received funds from the state but didn’t really exist. They were ghost schools. Where did that money go? Better not to ask. But that’s not all. Even when teachers do show up… Well let’s just say that in Africa, not going
to school, skipping classes, often has more to do with the teachers than the students. Check this out. Yes, in sub-Saharan Africa it’s common for
teachers to not show up regularly at school. Some studies show that in countries such as
Kenya or Nigeria this absenteeism affects 15% of the entire workforce. But if this already sounds crazy, listen up. In Kenya this percentage increases to almost
50% if we include teachers who go to school but who don’t actually go into the classroom
to teach. And then there’s the fact that it isn’t
uncommon for many teachers who do teach to, well… have difficulties reading or to not
really have a mastery of basic mathematics, even if they’re mathematics teachers. Basically… it’s a full-fledged disaster. And, no, opening more schools ISN’T enough. That won’t solve the problem. More things are needed. But wait just a second, because not all the
news is bad. In addition to public schools and the schools
that NGOs have opened with cooperation aid, there is another alternative that has recently
gained a strong following in the region: Private low-cost education. Yes, yes, you heard that right. Private and low-cost education in the same
sentence. Even though in many parts of the world private
education is reserved for people with high incomes, in Africa this barrier is eroding. Could private education help overcome the
problems of the continent’s education systems? I’m sure you’ve never asked yourself that
question. To delve deeper into this phenomenon and to
figure out what’s going on, in this video we’ll focus on the examples of two very
different countries: Kenya and Liberia. Kenya is one of the stars of Africa’s takeoff. Since 2013, its economy has been growing at
an average of more than 5% per year. Liberia, on the other hand, is still one of
the ten poorest countries in the world and is bogged down with a lot of social and economic
problems. So.. What is a country as poor as Liberia doing
with private education? How and why would a struggling country promote
a private education model? Listen up. (LIBERIA, AWARE OF THE DISASTER) The Liberian government has noticed that it
has a huge problem, so huge that it’s practically impossible for them to manage it themselves. After 14 years of civil war and constant epidemics,
education has remained a second-, third- or fourth-level priority. Add to this uncontrolled corruption and the
failure of public services is evident. Of course disastrous management goes hand-in-hand
with disastrous results. However, the Liberian government has decided
to break the mould and bet on a fairly novel way to ensure that the poorest have access
to better education. The people responsible for this strategy change
are the largest company dedicated to low-cost private education in Africa: The Bridge International
Academies, a company founded in 2008 in Kenya by two American friends. It currently has more than 600 schools that
offer education to more than 120,000 students. But, of course, it isn’t the only company
dedicated to this activity, not at all. There’s also the Rising Academies, another
of the main low-cost private school companies in Africa, which was founded by British and
Canadian entrepreneurs. But… as we don’t have time to talk about
all the emerging companies, we’re going to focus today on Bridge, which is the largest
of them all. And the first question we need to ask ourselves
is… How is it funded? Well… nowadays it can continue operating
mostly thanks to the support of institutions such as the World Bank and with donations
from business heavyweights such as Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, the founders of Facebook and
Microsoft. Because, in most cases, these kinds of educational
companies aren’t profitable. They only appear to be viable because of the
donations they receive. For example, let’s take the case of Bridge
International. In 2016 they declared an income of 16 million
dollars but had operating losses of 12 million. That means their total costs were a whopping
28 million, meaning their costs were 75% greater than their income. But, just a second, don’t think we’re
talking about something like an NGO, not at all. These companies are for-profit. What happens is that they conceive a long-term
business model. They hope that the economic development that
has begun in many African regions will soon allow them to reap the benefits. And of course, in the meantime they receive
support in the form of multiple donations, such as those of Bill Gates, that more than
compensate for all business losses. But they often receive these donations precisely
because they have a feasibility plan. That is, because they expect it to be a profitable,
and therefore autonomous and sustainable project in the medium-term. Of course, spending is easy but managing to
create a self-sustaining project… that’s something else. And it is precisely for this reason, and despite
all these losses, that the company continues with its expansion plan. It’s all thanks to the more than 140 million
dollars it has earned in investments and donations. Surprised? The fact is that in 2016, the government of
Liberia, a country where less than 40% of children receive primary education, decided
to work with Bridge International. Why? Well… because obvious that public education
wasn’t working in this country. (“Teachers don’t show up, even though
they’re paid by the government. There are no books. Training is very weak. School infrastructure is not safe. We have to do something radical.” – George Werner, ex-minister of Education
of Liberia.) The point is that the Liberian government
signed an agreement for Bridge International to operate 93 public schools with more than
27,000 students. Access to these schools is still free, the
government pays for the students. To date, this is the largest agreement signed
between an African government and a private education company. And this experiment seems to be quite a success. In level tests, students from schools managed
by Bridge International achieve much, much better results than students from schools
operated by the state. To give you an idea of the divide, in the
level tests the Bridge students’ results can be 100% higher. That is, Bridge students do twice as well
as students from government-controlled schools. But… just a second, because in spite of
these positive results, not every country is making things easy for this type of education
business. Take for example Kenya, the very country where
Bridge International was born. Listen up. (KENYA’S MISTRUST) Let’s not fool ourselves. Private schools can pose a threat to state-controlled
education and many governments don’t like that. Neither do public school teachers. That’s exactly what’s happening in Kenya
where the National Teachers’ Union has been conducting a very tough campaign against the
low-cost private schools’ model for years. Supposedly they are against the teachers in
these types of centers who don’t have a government license. Even though the students’ academic results
are much better. (“Bridge is unauthorised and illegal”. – Wilson Sossion, secretary-general of the
Kenya National Union of Teachers.) There is some truth however to their arguments. The company itself recognizes it. (‘Technically, we’re breaking the law
but so are thousands of other schools who are operating like this”. – Shannon May, co-founder of Bridge International
Academies.) Among other things, the educational programs
aren’t written in the country they’re destined for, nor do they meet the local governments’
requirements, they’re usually written abroad. In Bridge’s case, educational performance
is even evaluated by Harvard professors. Which, to tell the truth, and without meaning
to offend anyone, is probably not such a bad thing when you consider Kenya’s politicians. Of course, not everything is rosy with the
private model. And sometimes unpleasant situations occur. Companies like Bridge International are still
for-profit companies, which requires parents to keep up with payments. And that can be a struggle in a place like
Africa. However, what’s the alternative? Public schools where teachers go to class
when they feel like it or where math classes are taught by people who hardly know how to
multiply? In sub-Saharan Africa, governments have proven
very ineffective in providing public services. That’s why many alternatives are emerging. In some cases, they are companies and in others
they are non-profit organizations. The important thing is that these initiatives
are revolutionizing education in Africa. (Low-cost schools are transforming Africa. – Forbes) Could it be that investing in private low-cost
schools that aim to be profitable is one of the best ways to help develop quality education
in Africa? Could it be that investments are better than
mere handouts? Leave your answer in the comments. So I really hope you enjoyed this video, please
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