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Centre of African Studies: Events


The rise and rise of low-fee private schooling in Africa: helping to achieve SDG 4 or leaving the poor behind?

The rise and rise of low-fee private schooling in Africa: helping to achieve SDG 4 or leaving the poor behind?
Speaker: Dr Joanna Härmä # University of Sussex
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Date and Time
30th Nov 2017 12:30 - 30th Nov 2017 14:00
Project Room, 50 George Sqaure

The issues surrounding the rise of ‘low-fee private schools’ targeting the relatively poor have over the last decade been hotly debated, with some proposing these schools as a way forward for educational development in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. Others have dedicated substantial efforts to attacking the spontaneous development of these schools on equity and human rights grounds. There are also questions surrounding the quality of education on offer at low-fee private schools. The phenomenon appears to be here to stay, having developed organically in several countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia (and also in India and Pakistan amongst other places). In contexts of growing disillusionment with government education provision, to what extent has relatively low-fee private schooling developed in various places and why have these schools appeared? Who goes to these schools? What are the implications of this development? Dr. Härmä will draw on her recent research on low-fee private schooling in Maputo, Abuja, Lagos, Lusaka, Kampala and Dar es Salaam, and will contrast these urban settings with findings from her past research in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, and Kwara State in Nigeria, to discuss the extent of developments on the ground and their implications for educational development.

Speaker Bio:

Joanna Härmä is an independent researcher and writer on low-fee private schooling for the poor in developing countries. She works for a wide range of clients including the UK’s development agency DFID, private development foundations, major international non-governmental organisations and human rights campaigning organisations. She has authored many academic journal articles, book chapters, working papers and reports on the topic of private schooling in developing countries. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of Sussex in 2008, with a thesis entitled ‘are low-fee private primary schools in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, serving the needs of the poor?’, which was one of the earlier studies to examine low-fee private schooling in an exclusively rural context. She then went on to be a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University, New York. In 2009 she moved to Nigeria to work on DFID’s biggest education programme to date, where she worked with the government on its administrative data systems. She pushed the private school research agenda forward by conducting studies of low-fee private schooling in rural villages and urban centres in a poor area of the country (Kwara State). She also gathered a team of 260 fieldworkers to conduct the only comprehensive census of private schooling in Lagos State where over 12,000 schools were found, rather than the 4,000 or so known to the Ministry of Education at that time. She has since gone on to research private schooling in the slums of Maputo, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Abuja, and Lusaka. She has also worked in Kenya, Malawi and Bangaladesh. She has also worked as a researcher on the Education for All Global Monitoring Report team at UNESCO in Paris. The highlight of her three plus years there was authoring the chapter on Early Childhood Care and Education for the final report of the series, published in 2015. She is currently Team Leader on a World Bank system analysis of the pre-primary education system in Liberia, and Lead Academic Advisor on an evaluation of a public-private partnership for secondary schooling in Uganda. She will be conducting a research study on low-fee private schools in Ghana in November.