Strengthening education in Africa: uniting for tax justice and increased public funding

published 28 June 2023 updated 12 July 2023

Educators in Africa came together for the Education Financing Forum: Go Public! Fund Education in Accra, Ghana from 21-22 June. The event, held in collaboration with the TaxEd Alliance, aimed to strengthen education unions' capacity in advocating for fair and just taxation to fully fund public education systems.

With a focus on Education International’s global campaign: "Go Public! Fund Education," the Forum brought together Education International member organisations from Ghana, Senegal, and Zambia to share knowledge, strategise, and amplify the call for increased public funding of education.

Addressing challenges through advocacy for equitable funding

On 21st June, participants received an overview of the current state of education financing worldwide and identified challenges and opportunities to articulate union strategies for equitable education financing. In its opening remarks, EI’s Africa Regional Committee President, Dr Christian Addai-Poku, stated: “According to UNESCO, there is a US$100 billion annual education financing gap to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 globally. Many sub-Saharan African countries will need to double their education budgets to achieve SDG 4 by 2030. This low share of public investment in education acts as a catalyst for privatisation and commercialisation of education. “

The Forum shed light on one of the primary obstacles in attaining quality public education for all: the global teacher shortage, which amounts to a shortfall of nearly 70 million teachers worldwide. This shortage has had a particularly detrimental impact in Africa, as evidenced by UNESCO staggering statistics:

  • Sub-Saharan African countries need to recruit at least 16 million teachers to replace those lost due to attrition and to reduce class size to 1:40 (primary) and 1:25 (secondary), from 1:56 (primary) and 1:34 (secondary) in 2020. ​
  • Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi, Mozambique and Niger, will need to increase the number of secondary teachers by, at least, 15 percent every year; South Africa by 3.7 percent annually.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the lowest percentage of qualified teachers: 57 percent in pre-primary, 67 percent in primary and 61 percent in secondary education.

Austerity policies and constraints on public wage bills in Africa, imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), are considered major obstacles to enhance the teaching profession. Education International has consistently called on the IMF to stop advising countries to cut, or freeze, public wage bills which, research shows, has devastating consequences on the education sector, hindering the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers and undermining efforts to strengthen public education systems.

Against this backdrop, participants explored ways to support and actively engage with the Go Public! campaign at the national level, as well as further strengthening collective efforts to assess, monitor, and advocate for consistent and increased public funding for education in the African region.

The Forum emphasised the importance of advocating for governments to increase domestic financing of public education through fair taxation practices. In this respect, the Tax and Education (TaxEd) Alliance plays a pivotal role in raising awareness and fostering understanding regarding the direct connection between taxation and education financing.

Go Public: a joint call to fully fund public education in Africa

On 22nd June, Education International hosted a high-profile event attended by key politicians and stakeholders including the Minister of Education from Ghana, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum. The EI Africa Statement on Education Financing took center stage as a unified call by education unions from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia, highlighting key recommendations and priorities for sustainable education financing in the region.

The statement urged African governments to prioritise public education, commit adequate funds and invest in the teaching profession by “increasing domestic financing of education, including through fair and progressive taxation”.

The statement also called on International Financial Institutions, in particular the IMF and the World Bank, to “desist from imposing austerity measures and harmful loan conditionalities on African governments”. Also, it urged the United Nations, as well as international and regional financial institutions and development partners, “to grant debt forgiveness to African countries”.

To read the EI’s Africa Statement on Education Financing please click here.

This event is part of a series of engagements around the Go Public! Fund Education campaign in line with other activities in the African region including a recent workshop on commercialisation and privatisation of education. For more information and campaign updates please go here.