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Abolishing School Fees in Africa: 5 case studies

REPORT:

Abolishing School Fees in Africa: Lessons from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique (The World Bank in collaboration with UNICEF)

This book constitutes one of the main outputs of the School Fee Abolition Initiative (SFAI). The initiative, launched in 2005 by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank, was designed to support countries in maintaining and accelerating progress toward universal primary education as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All (EFA) goals. Specifically, SFAI have attempted to strengthen country efforts to eliminate school fees and/or implement targeted exemptions, subsidizations, and incentives to reduce education costs for the poor.

Abolishing School Fees in Africa begins with a comparative overview of the processes, challenges, and lessons learned by five countries that had already attempted to abolish formal school fees: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Mozambique. The subsequent chapters delineate the actual experiences of each of the countries in planning and implementing their policies. This book is a resource for national policy makers and their development partners - civil society, the private sector, development agencies and others - in efforts to open access to a quality basic education to all.

While the book builds on case studies which by now are a few years old, it is still highly informative in documenting the process of attempting to eliminate school fees. Where it falls short is that it does not challenge sufficiently the numerous problems that also surround the agendas of influential actors (especially the World Band and the IMF) when they engage in countries. The narrow focus of these institutions on strict fiscal policies and public sector wage caps often works to the detriment of free education for all.

Nor is this book very systematic in its use of the normative framework surrounding the right to education, which very clearly spells out countries' legal obligation to provide free education, especially at primary level. In downplaying the role of duty-bearer for the government and the international community (Unicef, WB et.al), the introduction of free education can all too easily be presented as a signal of state benevolence rather than the fulfilment of an entitlement. In such a scenario the provision of education becomes a volatile political tool, and talk of rights-holders is rendered futile. Needless to say, this is greatly problematic.

Click here to read the full report.