The UK Department for International Development (DfID) is complicit in increasing educational discrimination against low income families in the global South, by its continued investment in so-called 'low fee private schools', according to an important new report. The report was published by a range of teaching unions and NGOs in the UK as well as in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa.

Low fee private school chains are burgeoning in South Asia and many parts of Africa and although their name suggests that they are affordable, the report shows that the fees are beyond the reach of many poor parents. The growth of such schools contributes to the systematic running down of public education, driving parents to the private sector, often at the cost of impoverishing their families still further.For profit chains like Bridge International Academies and Omega, which operate in parts of Africa, are supported both by billionaires by Mark Zuckerberg, corporations like Pearson and also DfID. 

The standard of education can be lamentable - teachers are often school-leavers with little or no training. Lessons are commonly scripted, with the teacher simply reading from a printed sheet and eliciting rote answers (see the video below). Moreover, such schools often pay teachers even worse salaries than those in the public sector. A recent article from Nigeria illustrates the point, teachers in many schools earn as little as $50 a month and sometimes even that is not paid, resulting in hardship for teachers and a very high turnover of staff.

The report points out that DfID does not fulfill its obligation to assess its projects for human rights implications, and that such research as it has commissioned, often points to its being in breach of them. It concludes: 

The UK’s increasing support for the development of private education, particularly through forprofit education companies, raises concerns in a context where it has been shown and recognised by human rights institutions that the growth of private actors in education (including countries where the UK supports such schools) has a negative impact on the right to education.