Public money is being used to subsidise private education companies – and UNISON members can do help to do something about it.
The money comes from the UK government’s international development funds, which are increasingly being used to support so-called low-fee pivate schools and other models of private education.
These are pushed as an alternative to free, quality public education.
UNISON is urging members to write to their MP and international development secretary Penny Mordaunt to highlight the issue and ask them to end the government’s support and funding for these schools.
The union is working with sister unions, campaigning organisations and Public Services International to argue for the World Bank and national governments to stop funding the private corporations that run these schools.
It wants the UK department for international development to instead invest in quality public education that is free for learners and their families.
South African liberation icon Nelson Mandela once said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and UNISON believes that quality public education is the most effective and sustainable way to improve education and to tackle poverty and inequality.
But more and more schools for profit have been growing across the global South as multinational education corporations recognise the opportunity for profit and open chains of these “low-fee” private schools in Africa and Asia.
Studies in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda have shown that the poorest households would need to spend up to 40% of their income on school fees to send one child to one of these schools – and that is without additional costs for school uniforms, transport, text books and exam fees.
And the problems become even more acute where there is more than one school-age child in a household. If families have to prioritise which child to education, they often choose boys over girls.
And the UK Department for International Development is a major advocate and funder of these low-fee private schools, awarding a number of contracts to private education companies seeking to expand in Africa and Asia – despite criticism from the UN and concerns from MPs.
UNISON is urging members to write to their MP, asking them to highlight the concerns about low fee private schools, and to Ms Mordaunt, calling for an end DFID’s support and funding for these private schools.