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We are here : Home / Publications / Newsletter / N°27, 11 - 2005


Free education : amnesia
Letter n°27, November 2005

Even after having adopted the principle of free universal access to education in 1966, and ratified the contents ten years later; even after announcing, in 1990 and again in 2000, that free education could finally see the light of day, the “community of states” continues to swim in the troubled waters of amnesia and indifference.  The right to education remains badly managed, submerged in the obscurity of forgotten engagements solemnly proclaimed and repeated since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. 


According to UNESCO, educational fees continue to be imposed in more than 100 countries in the world.  Thus, it is noted that tuition fees, to which are added other expenses such as the purchase of books and the costs of transportation, amongst others, are one of the principle reasons for the lack of education of children and particularly of girls. 


Certainly, the cost of education represents an important part of public expenditure and the burden is particularly heavy for developing countries dependent on international aid, which is far from sufficient at this time(1).  In fact, it is observed that public aid for development has decreased since the beginning of the 1990’s even though the economic and social situation of numerous developing countries, notably in Africa, has deteriorated.  In fact, very few rich countries contribute 0.7% of their GDP as aid to poor countries, an objective advanced in 1969 during a UN Assembly. 


Although less felt in the North, the deficiency in free education is a reality in certain countries of this hemisphere.  “Incidental” fees such as the purchase of workbooks, cafeteria food and gym clothes significantly cut into the budgets of households with modest incomes.  In higher education, the increase in tuition fees reduces a number of students to long-term debt once they reach the job market.  There too, countries seem to have forgotten the engagement they undertook in 1976 by ratifying the InternationalCovenant on economic, social and cultural rights, which stipulates in article 13 that “Secondary education shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”


Will the “new” UN Millennium objectives be achieved, when others of similar nature that preceded them are now forgotten and ignored?  Will we finally be able to speak of education as a common good of humanity?



References :

Le Monde diplomatique.( 2004 ). « Une nécessaire réforme de l’aide internationale »


Agir ici. « Les frais de scolarité : l'une des causes de la non-scolarisation ».


Le Devoir. (2004 ). « Le prix de l’indifférence ».


L’Expansion. ( 2002 ). « Le fossé entre riches et pauvres s’élargit encore ».


« Le droit à l'éducation : quelles effectivités au Sud et au Nord ? ». Colloque international tenu du 9 au 12 mars 2004, Université de Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso.


ONU. « Les objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement ».



(1) Certain African states are nevertheless progressing towards free education.  This is the case in Ghana, whose president recently declared that his government had decided to institute free public education for all children between the ages of 4 and 16.  In Kenya, this time, it should be noted that education became free in 2003.  Nevertheless, it is added that “this increase in the number of children enrolled in schools is translated into overpopulated classes where more than 70 pupils are piled into classes intended for 40.  Lacking desks, educational materials and qualified teachers.” 


See :  « Kufuor annonce à Paris la gratuité de l'école de base au Ghana ».



And also : « Les frais de scolarité : l'une des causes de la non-scolarisation ».

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