EDUCATION IN AFRICA
The increasing number of children and youth demanding decent primary and secondary education is putting a strain on public budgets since economic growth in most Sub-Saharan countries is not keeping pace. The financing challenge of the state to offer quality education on a satisfactory scale has led to the emergence of a private education sector, putting the burden for closing the considerable education financing gap on private households.
The role of private education differs from country to country: whereas in some countries it has a long tradition, in others parents have only recently begun to send their children to private schools in response to public schools being under pressure due to the demographics of a growing young population. But in general it can be said that private education is playing an increasingly important role in the education sector in Africa, and every parent – even from low-income households – would rather send their children to a private school when possible.
Across the board, the demand for primary, secondary and post-secondary education – public and private alike – is steadily increasing. Concerning both tertiary academy education and TVET (technical and vocational education and training), all countries face one or several of the following challenges in the public education sector: institutions have a high student to teacher ratio, have poor quality infrastructure due to budget constraints, teachers have sometimes little practical experience (especially important in TVET), curricula are outdated and the skills of graduates do not correspond to the demands of the labor market. While countries differ greatly in terms of the fees charged by public institutions, there is a general trend towards cost-sharing mechanisms involving fees of some kind.
As of June 2019, the Fund is providing funding and Technical Assistance to 9 financial institutions in 8 countries; REFFA is also reaching out to 587 schools and approximately 150’000 students and learners.
students & learners
In the effort to provide children and youth with quality education, which prepares them for active participation in society as well as enabling them to make a living, the financing of education is a key issue for governments, education providers and families alike.
For education providers of all levels, from primary upwards, including universities as well as technical and vocational education and training institutes, financial services are an important complement to allow investments in infrastructure, teaching equipment, school buses, etc. as well as help with cashflows constraints due to collection of tuition fees and short-term funding gaps for paying teachers' salary (delays can impact negatively on the quality of teaching and teachers’ motivation).
On the learners’ side, many African families are forced to make great sacrifices to be able to invest in their children’s education and future. Apart from the private education sector, which by nature is associated with high fees, public education now also involves considerable costs for learners and their families. This is due to the fact that many public education sectors in African countries have introduced the principle of cost-sharing, with learners and their families having to take on part of the costs of education. Besides the usual tuition fees, this often translates into additional costs for learning material, equipment, transport and other items – costs that many families are not able to afford, resulting in the exclusion of their children from the education system. In such a context, access to education finance products can be an invaluable tool for helping families to cover these costs and thereby secure education for their children.
This is where financial institutions have a crucial role to play thanks to their experience in lending, their efficient processes and their capacity to serve clients through their branch networks.
Under the REFFA TA Facility, a detailed market analysis for all the countries the Fund is investing in has been done on the importance and effectiveness of the public education sector. The market scoping also includes the contribution of private education providers to the provision of education services as well as the challenges and opportunities that private education overall presents in each respective market. The majority of these market studies have been done by IPC the consulting company that has provided the TA services since inception to the Fund. The TA Manager has also benefited from city focused surveys of other consulting companies which have provided more detailed data on low-income affordable schools in a number of eastern and western African markets. The objective is to combine all sources of valuable information to define the best financing products to satisfy the needs of schools and learners in each country.
While most governments have concentrated very strongly on increasing access to schooling and on keeping children in school, in recent years the focus has been broadened to include the question of education quality: it is not enough to get children to school if they are still unable to read, write and calculate properly by the end of their primary schooling. Quality issues can be expected to pose even more of a problem at the secondary school level, as more and more students now finish primary school and require placement in secondary schools.
When assessing quality, REFFA concentrates on the following dimensions: learning environment, enabling inputs (material and human resources), teaching content and process, learner characteristics and learning outcomes. It is important that REFFA not only responds to the funding needs of schools with minimum quality levels in those dimensions but also helps them in increasing these levels.
On the other hand, when financing education providers, due care should also be given on whether this particular school can be afforded by learners who come from low- and lower middle-income backgrounds. So REFFA strives for both Quality of Education and Affordability.
QUALITY OF EDUCATION
school owners trained
with REFFA support
schools which received
training on education
of the loans to private
education providers were
used to improve facilities
and buy equipment