The UK corporation Pearson, the biggest player in the global education 'market' has turned its attention in recent times to the global South. Pearson backs the Omega chain of private schools in Ghana as part of its 'affordable learning' model. In the video above its co-founder Ken Donkoh, talks about the 'Pay as you Learn' model, where children can come to school if they can afford to pay for the day. He is happy to say that the schools do not employ trained or experienced teachers but high school graduates who are 'flexible and malleable.' Pearson in fact has tapped into a huge market: as Donkoh said on another occasion: 'It’s getting more and more interesting… There’s huge wealth at the bottom of the pyramid.' The bottom of the pyramid being not quite the bottom - the poorest of the poor - but those on about $1500 a year - like a lot of public school teachers in the global South.

Pearson also has a chain of private schools in South Africa, Spark schools, which as one of its promotional videos puts it has found a 'massive gap in the market.' Another private school chain which has its nose in the trough is called Curro schools, which discovered the appetite for Afrikaans private schools in the country. It runs its schools on a differentiated model - a different class of education depending how much you can afford - small classes for the slightly better off, large classes for the poor. 

However, trouble has brewed because some of the white Afrikaans parents at the schools object to children from other ethnic groups attending. The schools have done their best to oblige. Although they are avowedly Christian they do not allow students to 'display any form of religious orientation' - a rule clearly aimed at preventing head-covering and therefore Muslim children attending. It gets worse however - in one school they were openly practising racial discrimination justified on the grounds that there was 'white flight' from the school and that parents had urged the school not to enroll 'so many blacks'.

All this was described in an excellent article by a representative of Equal Education, a South African group which organised a protest against the government's investment in Curro schools. As he puts it: 'The appeal of private schools is partly due to a lack of confidence in public schools. But international evidence that private schools will outperform their public equivalents is thin and mixed, while the evidence that they increase segregation and inequality is compelling.'

As long as public schools are starved of funds, continue in too many countries to charge fees to the poorest of the poor, vilify their teachers and pay them poverty wages; and as long as governments continue to follow World Bank and corporate pressure to increase data collection, performance related pay and temporary contracts, the shareholders and top brass of outfits like Pearson will continue to enrich themselves by extracting money from the poor who are seduced into paying as their children learn. And organisations like Curro schools will attempt to satisfy the market in outrageous ways.