Lessons learned: primary education in Cameroon and South Africa

Corruption and poor governance are both a cause of poverty and a barrier to overcoming it. In primary education this is particularly true. When there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the public school system and supplies go missing or parents face fees for services that are supposed to be free, it is the poor that suffer most.

A decade ago the structure of primary school administration in Africa started to change from a centralised bureaucracy to a more decentralised management approach. The change coincided with the Education for All target of achieving 100 per cent enrolment of school-age children by 2015. Global primary school enrolment is increasing, but there is real concern that the quality of education is jeopardised by poor management and corruption.

For the past three years Transparency International has been working in Cameroon and South Africa to identify where there are risks of corruption and where poor management leads to a breakdown in services. This is part of a larger programme to promote Transparency and Integrity in Service Delivery in Africa, (TISDA), which includes work in seven Sub-Saharan countries on education, health and water.

The goal of the programme is to show what can be done to improve basic services. First, it had to find out what is happening in the field.

Field work

In 2010 researchers fanned out across school districts in Cameroon and South Africa to ask parents, parent-teacher associations, teachers, school principals and government education directors about what is happening on the ground in primary education. In Cameroon 1450 questionnaires were filled out by the school communities in 48 schools in three different districts. In South Africa more than 1500 surveys were carried out in 45 schools in three different districts.

The approach was similar to Africa Education Watch, a seven-country education study that was completed by Transparency International in 2009, which provided recommendations to governments on how to limit corruption and improve both parent participation and administrative processes.

The Waiting Game

It’s July in the Delmas Circuit of the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, four months after the school year has begun and the local primary schools have yet to receive their budget allocations. The schools are barely operational and with mid-year exams around the corner, the staff and school principals are trying to ensure that lessons continue and the exams go ahead without disruption. Many of the schools are no fee paying school, which solely rely on allocations from government. A four-month delay means that the children do not get the education they are entitled to and may fall behind.

The report from South Africa shows that although 29 per cent of school principals report receiving their money on time, 27 per cent of principals never received their budgets on time. In Cameroon 88 per cent of headmasters said budgets do not arrive on time and 57 per cent said they do not include materials and supplies that matched requirement.

Hidden fees exclude the poor

In Cameroon primary education is supposed to be free. Alhadjii A., a parent in one of the districts surveyed cannot send his children to school because the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) charges fees. “Students who don’t pay the PTA fees are chased out. In my village our children don’t go to school because of the problems. They are still chased out even though their parents are poor.”

Thirty percent of Cameroonians live on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank and the literacy rate is just 77 per cent. Mr. Guy K. reported paying 30,000 FCFAs ($63.60) a year including a PTA fee. “PTA fees have replaced the enrolment fees.”

In South Africa only half of the educators interviewed believed that rules relating to school fees and fee exemption are respected. Gross enrolment in South Africa has been declining since a high in 1999, according to World Bank data.

Key Findings

The key findings show that lack of governance can have profound effects for pupils and teachers alike.

Recommendations

In both Cameroon and South Africa the key recommendations focus on greater financial management training, timely budget allocations and the need to increase parent involvement in schools. The delivery of quality education requires:

The full list of recommendations and findings are available for both Cameroon and South Africa in the individual reports.

Resources

Mapping transparency, accountability and integrity in primary education in South Africa

Mapping transparency and integrity deficits in primary education in Cameroon  (French version)

Africa Education Watch

TISDA South Africa blog

The South African NGO network

Equal Education

Teach South Africa

JET Education Services

South Africa official government education portal

TI Working Paper: Corruption in the Education Sector

Media coverage

Business Day: Provinces, districts are failing schools, says Transparency

Times Live: Primary education in crisis

All Africa (Democratic Alliance, Cape Town): Education Report - Schools Need More Transparency, Accountability, Integrity And Participation

News24/SAPA: Education departments not delivering - report

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

Troika Laundromat signals a different kind of financial crisis

The Troika Laundromat investigation shines a spotlight on a cast of new and familiar characters in the ongoing saga surrounding flows of dirty money through the world’s financial system.

الأبعاد الخطيرة للتعديلات الدستورية المقترحة في مصر

يتأهب نواب البرلمان المصري للمصادقة على سلسلة من التعديلات الدستورية، التي ستؤدي في حال تمريرها إلى ترسيخ مزيد من السلطة بيد الرئيس، وتنصيب الجيش مجددا كأعلى سلطة في البلاد.

The alarming message of Egypt’s constitutional amendments

Parliamentarians in Egypt look set to approve a series of constitutional amendments this week that, if passed, would consolidate power in the office of the president, while restoring the military as the ultimate authority in the country.

Восточная Европа и Центральная Азия: слабая система сдержек и противовесов

Индекс восприятия коррупции (ИВК) за этот год представляет печальную картину касательно мер по борьбе с коррупцией в Восточной Европе и Центральной Азии. За несколько лет в этом регионе был достигнут очень незначительный прогресс в борьбе с коррупцией.

الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا: انتشار الفساد في ظل ضعف المؤسسات وتراجع الحقوق السياسية

كشف مؤشر مدركات الفساد 2018 عن صورة قاتمة لواقع الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا حيث أن معظم بلدان المنطقة قد أخفقت في مكافحة الفساد على الرغم من أن قلة قليلة من البلدان قد أحرزت تقدما تدريجيا.

Afrique subsaharienne:Les régimes non démocratiques sapent les efforts de lutte contre la corruption

L’Indice de perception de la corruption (IPC) présente cette année un tableau bien sombre de l’Afrique : seuls 8 pays sur 49 obtiennent un score supérieur à 43 sur les 100 points que compte l’Indice. Malgré l’engagement pris par les dirigeants africains de faire de 2018 l’Année africaine de lutte contre la corruption, les avancées concrètes se font encore attendre.

Trouble at the top: why high-scoring countries aren’t corruption-free

For the third year running, the top seven countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 consist of the four Nordic nations – Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway – plus New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland. Yet that doesn’t mean that these countries are corruption-free.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media