This study investigates the emergence and supply-demand dynamics of a market for low-fee private schools (LFPS) at the level of early childhood care and education (ECCE) in a slum of Lusaka, Zambia. Based on data collection over 1.5 years, the study reveals that, despite a government policy to support ECE, over 90 per cent of ECCE centres are private; that school operators tend to be former teachers, businessmen/women, and religious leaders; and that LFPSs charge, on average, 2.5 times as much as government ECCE centres for tuition, not including additional indirect costs. The paper discusses how teachers in LFPSs are caught in the middle, making less than the average income earned by others in the surrounding slum, and are unable to afford LFPS fees themselves. Importantly, the paper highlights that lower income quintiles spend a greater percentage of their income on ECCE, and that a majority of families in the study must make trade-offs between ECCE, food, housing, and other basic expenditures in order to afford private ECCE, which is a necessity given the inadequate supply of government ECCE centres. In addition to addressing school strategies for keeping costs down, this study reports on parental decision-making when it comes to school selection. Finally, beyond a straight market analysis of LFPSs at the ECCE level in Zambia, this article also comments on how this market fits into the dialectical nature of local and global contexts. That is, it draws attention to the workings of the Zambian state and its precarious position in the global capitalist economy.

 

The Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE, by its Spanish acronym) is a pluralistic network of civil society organizations with a presence in 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, which promotes social mobilization and political advocacy to defend the human right to education. This collection of articles, essays and statements reflect on the vital role of public education in the region and the fault lines exposed by the pandemic, considering both the challenges public education in Latin America faces and possible solutions, alternatives and ways forward.

 

 

In recent decades, governments have made considerable efforts to provide education for all. However, a large gap remains between international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goal 4, and the actual achievement of equitable quality education for all. As a result, certain actors often critique public education as ineffective and inefficient, and thus incapable of addressing this issue. They argue for privatisation as a solution, deeming private providers as more innovative and effective than public ones. However, shortcomings in public education often arise not from lack of capacity, but lack of political will.

This review of examples of public education in low- and middle-income countries shows that, in direct contrast to widely disseminated (and empirically unvalidated) ideas, public education can be highly effective, efficient, and transformative and, crucially, it is possible to develop quality public education everywhere.