Achieving free quality education for all children remains a paramount goal. However, low- and lower-middle income countries face unique challenges in realizing this objective.
These nations require economic growth, increased tax revenue and a supportive regulatory framework to finance and deliver high-quality education. In this context, low-fee private schools emerge as a dual solution, contributing to the development of human capital and bolstering a country's gross domestic product through tax payments.
The Affordable Non-State Sector (ANS) in Ghana, comprising low-fee private schools, faith-based schools and NGO schools, is projected to represent nearly 30% of total school enrollments by 2025 (OPPORTUNITY EduFinance, 2022) - and this trend is not unique to Ghana, with the sector rapidly expanding across low- and lower-middle income countries.
However, many of these schools remain informal. For instance, in Lagos State, Nigeria, 75% of the approximately 20,000 low-fee private schools were unregistered in 2021, while in Jharkhand State, India, more than 80% were unregistered (UNESCO, 2021).
Challenges of registration and categorization
In most countries, when a school seeks government registration, it must categorize itself as either a for-profit business or a charity (not-for-profit).
The application process for charity status rightfully entails stringent requirements as it results in tax exemptions. Consequently, the majority of independent proprietors who establish community schools register as a for-profit business.
This is the case even when schools operate at a loss as their primary motivation is to make enough to keep the doors open and continue to serve their communities.
By operating as for-profit entities, these schools become integral to a country's economy, generating employment opportunities and tax revenue while supporting the government's education goals by increasing access – which has led to basic education enrollment numbers reaching almost 100% in most Sub-Saharan African countries (UIS, 2022).