In an attempt to lower cost and reach low-income families, low-cost private schools are emerging around the world. The schools pull migrant teachers and unauthorized students from public education systems.

Education privatization schemes rely on cost structures that keep labour costs lower than traditional public education to maximize potential for profit. Little research has been done to analyse these schemes through the lens of migration, but examples suggest intersections that warrant further examination. 

Low cost private schools

Low fee private schools are on the rise in countries from India to Nigeria and Brazil. They aim to create an alternative to public schools in poor communities. In South Africa, the number of schools believed to be in operation varies widely, but by all accounts their presence is growing. A study carried out by Sinyolo (2013) and interviews with officials from the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) indicate that many of the unqualified migrant and particularly refugee teachers in South Africa are finding employment on fixed term contracts in these low fee private schools. With an average two years’ wait to have qualifications recognized, migrant teachers in South Africa often have little choice but to accept positions with the low wages and no benefits from independent schools or in governing board posts. According to Center for Development and Enterprise, what constitutes low fees in South Africa is still relatively high by international standards, preventing the sector from serving the very poor at present. As a result, further efforts are sought to reduce costs and increase subsidies in order to attract even more students away from the state school system. The ability to hire well trained and yet vulnerable teachers from Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo at low wages may prove to be one of the factors that helps these schools offer a low cost alternative to public education. 

Working conditions in low-cost private schools are usually worse than conditions in public schools. Do you agree? Please, join the online community to share your experiences.  


Center for Development and Enterprise (2013), Affordable Private Schools in South Africa, Johannesburg: CDE Insight.

Sinyolo, D. (2013). A Strategy for Managing Teacher Migration in Southern Africa: Principles, guidelines and policy considerations. Saarbrucken: Scholar's Press.