Private education in Africa An insight by Professor A. Skelton

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During an interview in occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Professor Ann Skelton was asked her point of view on the benefits and drawbacks of private and public education. As UNESCO Chair in Education Law in Africa and Director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, she is particularly concerned with the African educational landscape.

According to international law, private and public education ought to be provided at least at the same level of quality, however in many cases this is far from reality. Governments may abdicate their responsibilities and leave private education in the hands of low-quality, non-regulated service providers, as it happened in Kenya or Nigeria. Therefore, it is crucial to have an adequate framework to hold states accountable for the provision of private education. With regards to this, a useful lesson can be learned from the Netherlands: here most schools are privately managed but publicly funded, and this combination proved effective for the establishment of an indisputably high-quality educational system.

In order to tackle this shortcoming, Professor Skelton suggests first of all the development of some standards for State’s regulation of private education. Keeping in mind that state control on private education should never become a threat for educational freedom, assigning accountability on governments is essential in order to ensure the quality and effectiveness of private education. There are indeed encouraging signs which show that some progress has already been done. Uganda and Kenya, for instance, have taken a stand line with private service providers, defending the role of the State in the regulation of private education and the establishment of quality and efficiency standards.

Secondly, professor Skelton assigns great importance to the promotion of education law, boosting young generations’ awareness and interest in this domain. Together with a group of doctoral students at the University of Pretoria, she launched a new project aimed at shedding light on the role and the potential of law to ensure the provision of quality education. She highlights that the reports of the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Mr Kishore Singh, represent an indispensable reference point for the achievement of such objective.

Find out more on this topic here:

Cecilia Litta Modignani



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