Sunday, October 02, 2005

Monsters of the Moment

I'm playing catch-up with some things I missed over the past few months.

1. The Guaridan's John Vidal blasted the west for demonizing Robert Mugabe. A bunch of letters blasted him back.

2. Also, a new study by James Tooley, of Newcastle University (you can download it here) purports to show that poor people in the 3rd world are increasingly chosing private schools over public schools--and criticizes the UN for pushing for universal free primary education by 2015.

Here's something from his press release: Where the “success” of free primary education (FPE) is celebrated, as in Kenya, which introduced FPE in 2003, the research shows that the reported increase in enrolment is, at best, children moving from private slum schools – forced to close – to overcrowded state schools. “That’s not a success story, it’s a disaster," adds Prof Tooley.

I visited many of the private schools in Kibera, Nairobi's largest shantytown, and many of them were little more than overcrowded warehouses for kids and big money-makers for their owners. Public education is not perfect, certainly. I was in Kibera at the time free public education was insituted, and I didn't many parents who preferred to send their kids to private schools. The biggest problem was that the public schools didn't have capacity for all the kids from Kibera. It would have been good to see the best of the 'slum schools' integrated into the public education system. But I doubt that has happened, and I'd bet many slum schools, most of which are woefully overcrowded and short of textbooks and supplies, are still profiteering off of desperate parents.

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