News / Africa

Low-Fee Private Schools on the Rise in Africa

FILE - Students arrive for class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone.
FILE - Students arrive for class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone.
Across the African continent, schools are popping up. These aren't public schools responding to population growth, but rather low-fee private schools, which are meeting the demands of picky parents, new communities and areas where other education options are of poor quality.

When Sepheu Nkoele was looking for a school to begin his daughter's education he had certain criteria.

It had to have a Christian point of view, rigorous academics and it had to be affordable.

Nkoele, a firefighter in a suburb north of Johannesburg, spends around $1000 on annual tuition for his daughter to attend Vuleka Schools.

"I wouldn't go to a public school, because in the public school it is not the education that I want," he explained. "I don't want the government school because I've been to the government school, so I don't want my kids to be like me. That's why I chose Vuleka because Vuleka's an affordable school. Vuleka's a school for the people."

Across the African continent, parents like Nkoele want a better education for their children than the state schools provide, but can't afford traditional private schools.

In Ghana, it's estimated that one third of schools are low-fee private schools. The model is also booming in Nigeria and Kenya, as private companies and non-profit organizations start their own schools.

Dr. Jane Hofmeyr, the executive director of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa, said low fee schools have grown tremendously over the last decade.

"Low-fee independent schools, as they are called here, are an absolutely growing phenomenon, in all developing countries. In South Africa they've been growing hugely, particularly more recently. This year alone, the Gauteng Department of Education has had 246 applications for new, independent schools," she said.

Gauteng, the province of Johannesburg, has had 120,000 more students going to independent schools in the last three years, Hofmeyr said.

Low-fee private schools are in demand in fast growing informal settlements and developments, where the public system just can't keep up.

Pieter Steyn is the headmaster at Masibambane College in Orange Farm, an informal settlement south of Johannesburg.

The Anglican church-based school serves more than 1,000 students in the low-income community, and charges tuition of $500 to $850 per year.

His school has a long waiting list, including many parents who want to transfer their children in from one of the 23 public schools in the area. The academic rigor of his school can be daunting for some who make the change.

"Normally their reports are very promising, until they write the tests, and then they really struggle, the children. And that's quite a sad indictment, really, of what's happening in the public schools," said Steyn.

What he notices is strong parent involvement with those who send their children to his school. 

"They are making huge sacrifices. They're very ambitious. They have a very clear vision of what they want for their children and what they know their children are capable of and for that. I have parents who sometimes pay as much as 50, 40 percent of their income to get their kids to come to the school," he noted. "It's a big sacrifice but they really want their children to have a leg up in the world."

Tuition for such schools is often based on family income, and some schools also receive state subsidies based on need in the area, which can drive down costs further.

Research has found that parents believe the school is more accountable if they pay a fee to the school and feel they have more of a stake in their child's education. Steyn also says they have a much more direct connection with him than they might with the head of a public school.

Along with non-profit and church-run schools, there are also private companies getting into the education business.

Stacey Brewer, the founder of Spark Schools, studied the business model for low-free private schools while pursuing her MBA.  The Spark school saves money by not offering sports programs, and uniforms and meal plans are not included in tuition.  The company has one school in Johannesburg and will have another built by the end of the year.

"Either way, people aren't building schools quick enough. You know the population is growing, the waiting lists at schools are getting longer and no one's really offering any other schooling model. … So that's where I would say low fee private schools can come in because they can respond a lot quicker," said Brewer.

Responding quickly is the key phrase. Spark plans to build 62 more schools in South Africa over the next 10 years.

You May Like

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs