Low-cost private education a ray of light for the poor

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“What’s been happening is that parents have been voting with their feet in slum areas and shanty towns around the world, away from free public schools, in order to pay perhaps two to three pounds per month, which is about 30 to 40 rand, for their children to gain an education in these low-cost private schools,” Pauline Dixon, director of research in international development and education at Newcastle University, told CNBC Africa.

Low-cost private schooling is fast-becoming a solution to poor governmental educations systems and expensive private schooling for parents in low income areas around the world. A new wave of education entrepreneurs, or ‘edupreneurs’, has emerged, who have begun running the schools.  

 “The research that we’ve been doing at Newcastle University has really taken place in Africa and Asia and we’ve looked at shanty towns and slum areas in low income areas in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, India and China, most recently in Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Liberia,” Dixon explained.

“What we found is that 60 to 70 per cent of schools in urban areas are these low-income private schools run by edupreneurs. About 70 per cent of children from illiterate parents in slum areas are actually attending these schools. And there are different reasons for them wanting to attend these low-cost private schools, but these are schools that have grown organically from within the community. It’s not a fly-by-night guy coming to dupe the poor.”

Edupreneurs tend to come from within the low-cost schools’ communities and whom parents are familiar with, allowing for a higher level of trust. Teachers also come from within the community.

According to Dixon, the appetite for low-cost private schooling is gaining massive popularity as parents are starting to see low-cost private schooling as the only chance for quality education they can provide their children with.

“In the research what we found is that the quality is much better in these low-cost private schools, not only the facilities. Teachers are teaching when they’re supposed to be teaching,” said Dixon.

“If these kids are sitting in a government school where nothing’s going on, the teacher doesn’t turn up, that’s a complete waste. The parents really want their children to be educated and that’s why they’re choosing these low-cost private schools.”