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Involve private actors in education to bolster access in marginalised areas

By Isaac Koome | Published Sat, October 7th 2017 at 15:16, Updated October 7th 2017 at 15:21 GMT +3

Over the years, successive Kenyan governments have introduced policies aimed at confronting illiteracy levels in the country. One of the policy actions include introducing free and compulsory basic education at primary school level and subsidising secondary education.

Much has been achieved through such programmes, but Kenya still faces challenge of increasing access to and improving quality of education. Despite considerable progress in lifting enrollments at the primary education level, the risk of not achieving inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all as per the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs), still remains.

But what can the government do to achieve equitable and inclusive education?

One of the most viable ways is to replicate the Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) model used in other sectors in education. But how do these PPPs work and how will they boost the quality of education and guarantee benefits to all children of school-going age?

In countries where PPPs have been implemented such as India, they are perceived as an innovative policy approach to provide education for all and the most vulnerable population.

According to a 2009 research by the World Bank Group, there are several benefits that come with the implementation of the PPPs. To begin with, PPPs can increase access to good quality education for all. This will especially bolster education standards for poor children who live in remote, underserved communities and those in minority populations.

Being an innovative approach to financing education, PPPs can be extremely helpful in conflict and insecurity prone zones that need a re-construction of the education sector.

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In India, the government can outsource any government school with less than 20 students or any that scores less than 25 per cent in the national examination tests. Since its launch in December 2015, the PSSP programme has resulted in the transfer of nearly 4,300 schools to the private sector in two phases.

Last week, India’s Education Secretary, Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik said schools under PSSP are performing better. Enrolment in these low-cost schools had increased from 309,909 to 497,255 as of May 2017 and the number of teachers increased by more than 100 per cent.

In July, Liberian Education Minister, George Werner declared success of a new education initiative – the Partnership Schools of Liberia (PSL) – that allowed eight non-state operators to manage 93 public primary schools in a trial period. Liberia was later to allow Omega Schools and Bridge International Academies (BIA) to take over majority of public primary schools. This has greatly improved education standards in public primary schools.

Can Kenya borrow from such models? Yes. But there is need to put in place a definitive law that governs the PPPs and how best they can suit the Kenyan education system.

The government should team up with stakeholders, define operational policies and guidelines on how to implement the PPPs. This is the only sure way to achieve the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) No. 4 on education.

- The writer is managing director at Donate A Book Kenya.

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