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Poor governance jeopardises primary education in Africa

New report shows strengthening governance is key for achieving education goals in seven countries

Poor governance and management are jeopardising efforts to provide quality basic education in seven African countries according to a new report published today by Transparency International (TI).

The report, Africa Education Watch: Good governance lessons for primary education, shows that despite ten years of efforts to increase school enrolment through the Education for All initiative and the Millennium Development Goals, deficient or non-existent governance systems and practices are limiting progress.

“Increasing school enrolment is not enough. To ensure true, lasting progress in education levels and best use of the scarce resources available, oversight and accountability must be improved,” said Stephane Stassen, Senior Programme Coordinator at TI, who leads the Africa Education Watch programme.

The report, which assesses primary education management structures in Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, analyses data from 8,500 questionnaires completed by parents, head teachers, heads of Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and district education officers.

In the past decade, according to UNESCO, more primary school age children in Africa are going to school than ever before, and in many countries primary education is, by law, free of charge. However, TI’s report found that parents who can ill-afford it still face fees. In the countries covered, 44 per cent of surveyed parents were requested to pay registration fees for their children. “Poor accounting and reported diversions of budgeted funds clearly show that funding must come with better management capacity and accountability mechanisms,” said Stassen.

The report identifies where the transfer of funds and supplies from central governments to schools is likely to be diverted. Most schools do not keep complete or even basic records of their finances, the report shows. There is also an overall lack of training in financial management by head teachers and those responsible for managing school budgets.

TI chapters in the seven countries will work with governments and civil society to increase management capacity and strengthen accountability mechanisms, in order to ensure, that Education for All goals are met.

Key Findings:

  • Funding for schools is not transparent and external inspections are conducted infrequently. The roles and responsibilities of decentralised authorities managing schools are often unclear.
  • Parents in all countries surveyed reported paying registration fees for primary education even though by law primary schooling is free. This ranged from 90 per cent of surveyed parents in Morocco to 9 per cent in Ghana.
  • Overall, 85 per cent of schools surveyed across all countries had either deficient accounting systems or none at all. This ranged from 100 per cent in Niger to 69 per cent in Madagascar.
  • The majority of head teachers in Madagascar (58 per cent), Morocco (77 percent), Niger (92 per cent) and Senegal (59 per cent) and most members of School Management Committees in all countries received no training in financial management though they are responsible for budgets.
  • Parents in all countries said they believed the education system was affected by corruption, ranging from 10 per cent in Madagascar to 85 per cent in Sierra Leone.

Strengthening the governance framework in education management results in a more efficient management of resources, and is a necessary step to improving the delivery of quality education. The report recommends Ministries of Education introduce stronger accountability norms. Specifically, clearer and more robust rules for keeping school records are needed, coupled with more frequent inspections to ensure that these rules are respected. It also recommends that Ministries of Education and civil society invest firstly in training to ensure school managers and parents have the capacity to administer and oversee budgets, and secondly in public awareness campaigns to educate parents about their rights.

Africa Education Watch is a three-year programme (2007-2010) made possible by funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The programme aims to assess whether the decentralised education management systems, which began a decade ago, are effective in controlling corruption and making primary school administrations accountable. Surveys were carried out from March to May 2008 and coordinated by TI chapters.

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Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption

Note to editors:
Download the full report here
Download individual country reports: Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda

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Gypsy Guillén Kaiser
T: +49 30 343820662
E: ggkaiser@transparency.org

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