23 May, London, UK: The Global Schools Forum—alongside the IDP Foundation, Jacobs Foundation, and Vitol Foundation—hosted a side event this week (21 May, 2024) where a number of African education ministers committed to investing more time, money, and energy into working with non-state actors in education to achieve greater learning outcomes for African children.

The exclusive event was held in Westminster, London alongside the Education World Forum gathering taking place from 19-22 May. The annual Forum attracts education and skills ministers from across the globe to discuss global issues and priority policy areas affecting education.

Entitled “Innovative Partnerships at Scale to Achieve SDG 4 in Africa” the event was an opportunity for education ministers and policy officials from Sub-Saharan African countries to highlight successes in their education systems, acknowledge where improvements could be made, and identify opportunities to drive change through meaningful partnerships. The event was attended by UK government officials, multilateral representatives, NGOs, philanthropies, and senior education leaders.

Alicia Herbert OBE, Director of Education, Gender and Equality and Special Envoy for Gender Equality for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), provided introductory remarks for the event where she commended the “valuable contribution…that non-state education providers play in delivering education in low and lower-middle income countries”. Ms. Herbert reiterated FCDO’s recognition of the need to support non-state programmes and interventions to deliver education through alternative providers alongside governments, as well as efforts to increase education financing by unlocking investment for non-state actors via the private sector. She spoke of the need to “reset” the way that all actors work together—citing the UK Government’s white paper, released last year, which focused on the country’s plan to accelerate international development efforts with education as a central tenet.

The Liberian Minister of Education, Hon. Dr. Jarso Jallah—appointed by Liberian President Joseph Boakai earlier this year—spoke on a moderated panel discussion alongside the Minister for Basic and Senior Secondary Education for Sierra Leone, Hon. Conrad Sackey, and the Minister of Education for Ghana, Hon. Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum. Their discussion was moderated by Dr. Vongai Nyahunzvi, Founder and CEO of the Alliance For Women and Girls and Co-Chair of Global Schools Forum. The discussion focused on the ways in which African states and non-state actors can scale successful partnerships and models of delivering education from a broader spectrum of providers. The ministers agreed on the urgent need to identify solutions and mechanisms that have had a positive impact across Africa’s differing education systems, building evidence of impactful strategies, and scale successful models.

Ghana’s education minister encourages African nations to “step up”

Minister Adutwum acknowledged Ghana’s track record in being an early adopter of partnering with the non-state sector, and that African nations need to “step up” and see “children as a true investment in [achieving] socio-economic transformation” in their societies if they wish to achieve long-term development objectives. His comments reiterated how non-state partnerships have been integral to ensuring every child has access to an education and outlined how this “transformation is happening”. The Minister remarked on the benefits of measuring and tracking data on non-state providers and being able to see the human capital gains made from investing in non-state collaboration.

Liberia’s minister speaks of her “lived experience” of non-state education

Liberia’s successful testing of non-state education helped address the country’s learning gaps–ensued from decades of civil war and health crises—and get children learning. Minister Jallah commended the early gains that the Liberian government saw in their programs with non-state actors and since her appointment earlier this year, she has “requested budgetary support from the national budget for the Liberian Education Advancement Program to indicate the commitment that we see and that we need to have with non-state actors to delivering educational services”. The Minister noted the country’s 511% increase in the number of non-state schools operating in the country and that she has a personal connection—having been educated in non-state education systems as a child herself.

Non-state partnership key to education recovery in Sierra Leone

Minister Sackey spoke of the “creative ways” in which the country is pursuing to build a more resilient education system that harnesses innovative approaches to focus on achieving greater learning outputs. During the panel discussion, he spoke of the non-state actors that have pledged significant sums of investment in outcomes-based funds and programs to support the national focus on learning. With particular mention of the Sierra Leone Education Innovation Challenge, the Minister said that his government pinpointed where innovations and good practices could be scaled up and replicated these in schools operating across the country. He concluded by suggesting that the Sierra Leonean government is open to working with more actors—acknowledging that the national budget allocation of 22% for education is nowhere near enough to address the “challenges that we face” across the continent.

Reflecting on the discussion, CEO of Global Schools Forum, Aashti Zaidi Hai, said:
“This side event in parallel to the Education World Forum has been such a significant convening of both state and non-state partners who are committed to not only achieving positive outcomes in education, but to strengthen valuable collaborations that have yielded tangible results for children. FCDO’s and the Education Ministers’ remarks indicate the strong recognition that they have of non-state actors in instigating innovation and working as a complementary force alongside state education providers. Our mission of supporting non-state education organisations across the world has never been more important and we need all hands on deck to help governments around the world to achieve SDG 4 by 2030”.

Together, the ministers spoke of the need to work with everyone—from the private and non-state sectors to philanthropy and civil society organisations—and across geographic boundaries to ensure African nations remain on course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for Quality Education (SDG 4) by the end of the decade. In addition, they spoke of increasing funding that education receives as a whole and ensuring this translates into quality outcomes through government spending and collaboration with partners to combat the continent’s most urgent needs.

The ministers’ statements come as the global financing gap in education continues to widen. Estimated to be US$1.8 trillion shortfall per annum, sustainable financing remains a concern for the global community—especially amongst those represented by Global Schools Forum, its foundation partners, and the United Nations. Despite an increase in overall government expenditure on education in real terms, the demands from the world’s youngest and fastest growing continent are outpacing supply. This is set against the backdrop of an increasing number of out-of-school children with Africa representing the largest share of these children, at an average of 33.9% across Sub-Saharan African countries.

It is clear that education systems need to be “re-imagined”, in the words of the United Nations, and that barriers to partnerships need to be removed so that new sources of finance can be deployed for education and further collaboration can take place.

Innovative programs led by philanthropies, NGOs, and civil society groups have proven to be effective in driving positive change in African education systems. This event offered an insight into public-private partnerships that have helped to unlock opportunities for many children across Sub-Saharan Africa—primarily by increasing student enrolment in disadvantaged areas, expanding access to education for underserved communities, improving overall school quality standards, boosting basic literacy and numeracy rates, and increasing the pipeline of trained teachers.

Held during what the African Union has described as the ‘Year of Education’, the event was a significant moment to set the trajectory of how SDG 4 can be realised, to learn from other successful examples of education innovation and partnership, and to strengthen links between key partners in education sectors across the continent.

For further information on the work of Global Schools Forum’s community, please visit Program updates and backgrounds on the work of the foundation partners can be found via their respective websites.


About Global Schools Forum:

Global Schools Forum is a collaborative community, innovation accelerator, and partnership builder for non-state organisations working to improve education at scale for underserved children in low- and middle-income countries. Their vibrant, innovative and collaborative community spans 123 organisations globally, collectively running or supporting more than 252,772 schools who provide quality education to over 22.4 million children in 60+ countries.

About IDP Foundation:

IDP Foundation is an active funder and champion of the affordable non-state education sector. Established in 2008 by philanthropists Irene Pritzker and Liesel Pritzker Simmons, the Foundation works to strengthen the global education system by advocating for a mixed economy of provision, so all children have access to quality education. IDPF’s keystone initiative is the Rising Schools Program, a groundbreaking education finance and training initiative created over 15 years ago to empower existing low-fee private schools across Ghana. The IDP Foundation launched the Ongoza Program in Kenya in September 2022.

About Jacobs Foundation: 

Headquartered in Switzerland, the Jacobs Foundation invests in the future of young people by enabling and promoting high-quality research into learning and development. Its vision is a world in which every child is given the evidence-based learning opportunities they need to thrive. To do this, the Foundation is executing its Strategy 2030 plan to translate evidence into policy and practice—underpinned by an ambitious Research Agenda to identify the variances between how children live and learn in different environments. Across several portfolios, the Jacobs Foundation works with public, private, and civil society partners in Switzerland, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Colombia. The Foundation also funds researchers globally, encouraging networking and partnerships to help inform evidence-based policy and practice worldwide.

About Vitol Foundation: 

The Vitol Foundation aims to make a difference in the lives of people around the world trapped in poverty. It is passionate about supporting organisations and programmes that can take children and families in the poorest of countries across the world out of the vicious cycle of multi-dimensional poverty. It does so by providing different types of financing to non-governmental organisations and social partners. Taking a multidimensional approach, Vitol Foundation works with partners who address deprivation and need, organised under five themes: education, health, humanitarian emergencies, enterprise and livelihoods and WASH (water sanitation and hygiene). The Vitol Foundation considers its grants as investments, actively funding initiatives with the potential to generate a social return in a sustainable way. It supports projects and programmes globally and operates independently of Vitol’s business activities.


The affordable non-state sector (ANS) comprises a variety of formal and non-formal schools which are not owned or operated by government entities. They are typically locally-owned, independent schools, and the largest subset is understood to be low-fee private schools. Faith-based and NGO schools are also often considered part of the ANS. The latest UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) for 2021/22 estimated that the ANS supports the education of over 350 million children across the globe.

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