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Education in Africa suffers from bad management

A study looking at education systems in seven African countries has sparked worries about financial accountability in primary schools and a lack of interest among parents in how schools are run. Schools in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Senegal, Morocco, Madagascar and Niger had poor systems and practices, with bad financial record-keeping standing in the way of progress. The survey by anti-corruption campaign group, Transparency International also showed parents were largely not interested in how their children’s schools were run. The report comes out as top-level talks start in Ethiopia, about how the global financial downturn has hit education.

Without good management, the scarce resources available for primary education in Africa will be wasted, says Transparency International. More thought, it says, needs to go into management training and building expertise locally to make sure money for education is well spent. More primary school age children in Africa are going to school than ever before over the past 10 years, and in many countries primary education is, by law, free. But the report, Africa Education Watch: Good governance lessons for primary education, found that parents who can least afford to pay still face fees. In the countries covered, 44 per cent of parents were asked to pay registration fees for their children. In Morocco the figure was 90 per cent. The abuse of power by teachers through alcoholism, absenteeism and sexual exploitation of children was also uncovered.

Financial records, were either missing or deficient in 85 per cent of the schools surveyed, the study said. "Additionally, the unpredictability of when and how much funding or resources reach schools, undermines both planning and any meaningful financial oversight," the report said. Sources of funding were not always recorded, which raised issues about transparency. Overall, 64 per cent of schools surveyed did not publish any budgetary information at all. Ghana and Senegal were found to be the worst in this respect – with 80 and 85 per cent of schools respectively not displaying any information. "To ensure true, lasting progress in education levels and best use of the scarce resources available, oversight and accountability must be improved," said Transparency International’s Stephane Stassen, "poor accounting and reported diversions of budgeted funds clearly show that funding must come with better management capacity and accountability mechanisms."

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children