Challenging the conditionalities
In April 2006, as part of the Global Week of Action (see Section Four), civil society organisations in Kenya raised their voice to demand a stop to the IMF conditionalities, bringing the role of the IMF into the public view. Students, communities, teachers, and education coalitions, rallied to confront the government, which in the same breath, had both proclaimed primary education free and preventing hiring of additional teachers. Children, teachers and parents in seven districts created dossiers about the real situation of Kenya’s schools, using poems, videos, essays, songs, traditional dances, open letters, official statistics and debates. At the official ‘Back to School’ day, district- level education officials, political figures and local leaders were invited to visit a school and respond to the questions raised by the dossiers. Children and adults rallied around schools, markets and government offices, holding banners and posters. The extensive media coverage exposed the sad state of schools nationwide. Following these events was a national level ‘hearing’ with the Assistant Minister of Education. The forum focused on the need for more teachers and the constraints to hiring more teachers, including IMF conditionalities.
Kenya’s GWA 2006 proved that linking the shortage of teachers to IMF policies is a powerful way to rally people behind these issues and demand for change.27 A similar process was followed in Sierra Leone, where there are caps not only on teacher numbers, but also on the ‘other benefits’ to teachers, such as providing accommodation for teachers returning to their posts after the civil war. During the GWA, civil society activists in Sierra Leone not only engaged directly with Commonwealth Education Ministers Meeting (ActionAid Sierra Leone was able to attend the meeting and show a presentation on the negative impact of IMF policies on education); but also campaigned actively outside the conference. Members of the Education For All coalition wore t-shirts and displayed placards challenging the IMF and governments to take action to ensure that African countries in particular achieve the education MDG targets. The event was covered by a twenty-four hour TV channel and reported on the BBC Africa service and local radio stations.
However, it is not just civil society that can campaign to influence IMF policy, as is illustrated by the example of Mozambique. In April 2006, Mozambique became the first country ever to remove an IMF-imposed public sector wage bill cap. The government argued compellingly for the cap to be discontinued ‘as it was introduced in a post- conflict situation when there were concerns regarding a loss of fiscal control through a ballooning of the wage bill, which is not the case anymore.’28 The Ministry of Education was particularly vocal, insisting that it beallowed to hire more teachers as the teacher- pupil ratio had risen from 1:61 in 1999 to 1:75 in 2006, following the abolition of user fees in teachers needed, if it must also attain a strict 7 per cent inflation target and a 2 per cent fiscal deficit target. Removing the public sector wage2004.The government of Mozambique was bill is only the first step – but it is a hugely actively supported by 18 donor agencies in-country who wrote to the IMF: ‘We would recommend to the [Government of Mozambique] and the IMF that wage bill ceilings and, more broadly, the line ministries expenditures and hiring procedures, be the subject of more in-depth discussions and scrutiny. We would also welcome a more in- depth analysis of the…linkages between the wage bill ceilings, the fiscal framework and the new PARPA [PRSP] objectives as well as the MDG.’
Under the joint pressure of the government and donors, the IMF conceded to remove the cap from its loan conditionality. Though this marks a step forward, the underlying macro-economic framework remains unchanged. It will still be impossible for the Government of Mozambique to hire and train all the significant one that creates some space for movement towards achieving education goals. The next step will be continued pressure by civil society at the local and national levels, monitoring teacher recruitment and training and using this information to demand appropriate budget allocation to achieve rights to and in education.