Malawi, Ghana, Africa: #TaxJustice to fund education

Published on 
08/22/2017

Only one month after our Global Week of Action #TaxJustice for #PublicServices, ActionAid just launched reports in Malawi and Ghana, in an effort to link the right to education to #TaxJustice.

In Accra, Ghana, the report entitled "Tax, Education Privatization and the Right to Education--Influencing Education Financing" was launched on July 19th, at a National Workshop and Policy Dialogue on the same issue, to “discuss and make recommendations on harmful tax incentives & education financing”. Participants at the two-day workshop included the national chapter of the Global Campaign for Education (GNEC), representatives from NGOs, the national Tax Justice Coalition (TJC), teachers trade unions, the University of Cape Coast (UCC) but also representatives of the Ministries of Finance (MoF) and Education (MoE), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). ActionAid Ghana also issued a policy brief, "Leveraging Domestic Taxation for Sustainable Financing of the Education Sector in Ghana", which "examines the dwindling state of education financing in Ghana and its impacts on learning outcomes and inequality. Despite the government’s commitment to free and compulsory education, the brief demonstrates that the budget for education is insufficient and sometimes not fully disbursed. It further reveals that the underfunding of education in Ghana has led to public schools charging unauthorized levies while delivering poor quality education. This has led to an increase in private schools, which are also not well regulated and supervised to ensure the maintenance of minimum quality standards."

The workshop was aimed at providing the opportunity for participants to assess the effectiveness of Ghana's educational policies and the alternatives available.

Mr Sumaila Abdul-Rahman, ActionAid Ghana Country Director, urged stakeholders “not to make compromises on the quality of education as such compromises would negatively affect the future of Ghanaian children and the destiny of the country”. He introduced the report as part of the progressive work of ActionAid Ghana on tax justice, education financing and its framework on Promoting Rights in Schools (PRS).

The Co-ordinator of the Tax Justice Coalition, Mr Benard Anaba, disclosed that 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria annually gave away US $9.6 billion in tax incentives, Ghana's share being US $2.27million.

Indeed, ActionAid published on August 9th an Africa-focused policy brief titled "Missed Opportunity: How could funds lost to tax incentives in Africa be used to fill the education finance gap?". The NGO stresses: "Governments in sub-Saharan Africa may be losing an estimated US$38.6 billion a year, or 2.4% of their GDP, to tax incentives. This is equivalent to nearly half (47%) of their current education spending. Having a much clearer pro-poor policy for granting incentives and using some of these resources to fund education could provide a much-needed and significant boost to education budgets across Africa".

In Malawi, the study conducted by ActionAid is entitled “Citizen’s Education; Tax pays for education”. It was carried in 20 primary schools in the country and presents important findings of research and analysis by learners, parents, teachers, school stakeholders and community organizations.

They actively scrutinized the performance of their local schools against core dimension of the right to education. The study highlights “areas where the right to education has been undermined and promises to free primary education, broken”. It was presented to a broaden public and NGO audience in Lilongwe on July 14th, where ActionAid Malawi’s Acting Executive Director, Mohamed Sillah, said there was numerous indirect compulsory schooling costs placed on parents for their children. Sillah said most guardians and parents are unable to meet all these costs needed for their children at school, which has compromised access to education for many poor families.

In both countries, the launch featured school pupils, such as Elifa, Beauty & Owen from the Chisamba Primary in Malawi:

On August 9th, ActionAid International issued the "Out of Pocket: how much are parents paying for public education that should be free?" report, based on the research in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Nepal as well as UNESCO figures, stating "Many governments are failing to meet the internationally-recognised targets of spending 15-20% of national budgets and 4-6% of GDP on education. At the same time, many are losing vast amounts of resources by providing tax incentives, such as tax holidays and exemptions on paying import duties or value added tax. ActionAid estimates that sub-Saharan Africa alone could be losing US$38.6 billion from such tax incentives."

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