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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More