Catégories
blog

#10 Sub-Saharan Africa as a priority of foreign aid in education?

In this tenth post, we take stock of potential progress in prioritizing international aid, focusing on the education sector in sub-Saharan Africa.

First of all, let us recall the definition of aid: it is “material help given by one country to another”, and one “would expect aid to go to those most in need”1. Note that aid has remained at about 0.3 percent of donor countries’ gross national income for the last 15 years. In 2005, European Union countries committed to allocating 0.7 percent of their gross national income to official development assistance (ODA). However, of the 30 OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries, only five had met the 0.7 percent target by 20192.

Why make Africa a priority?

Many children in sub-Saharan Africa are still out of school. When they do attend school, they often do not acquire basic skills, as many surveys have revealed in recent years. Foreign aid, even if it is not commensurate with the overall budget of the states, is therefore necessary to carrying forth the development of education systems. This is all the more the case in the wake of COVID-19: National education budgets have experienced or will experience relatively significant cuts as a result of the pandemic2.

Aid to the region

Paradoxically, while the needs of many Sub-Saharan African countries are substantial, a surprising amount of aid goes to countries that are far from the poorest1. To illustrate this point, it should be noted that between 2000 and 2010, more than half the World Bank’s education funds were allocated to three countries: India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh3. In recent years, aid has increased most in North Africa and the Middle East2.

However, aid to education in Sub-Saharan Africa, which had been falling until the first half of the 2010s, has been on an upward trend over the last five years. Between 2014 and 2019, aid to Sub-Saharan Africa increased from USD 1.4 to USD 1.7 billion (Figure 1). These figures may underrepresent the total allocated to Sub-Saharan Africa, as it is likely that a share of aid that is not allocated to countries in the OECD database (unspecified aid) flows to the region2.

Figure 1. Total aid to education disbursements, by region, 2009-2019 Source: World Bank & GEMR-UNESCO (2021)

Basic education still a priority for the region. And yet…

Let us look, in particular, at aid to basic education, which encompasses preschool, primary, early secondary, and adult literacy. It is at this level that students acquire basic knowledge and skills, including literacy and numeracy. This period corresponds to what is internationally recognized as the time when schooling should be compulsory.

While aid to this sector increased between 2015 and 2016, it has since fallen (Figure 2). This has been due, in part, to a lower allocation from the United Kingdom (-29%), much of which was for basic education. Another observation: while the needs are great for this educational sub-sector, more aid is destined for post-secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, i.e., USD 1.27 billion as opposed to USD 829 million for basic education, which is a challenge in terms of social justice4.

Figure 2. Total aid to education disbursements, by level of education, 2009-2019 Source: World Bank & GEMR-UNESCO (2021)

What about marginalized populations?

Ainsi, non seulement l’aide ne cible pas nécessairement les pays et les Not only does aid not necessarily target the relevant countries and education sectors, but the most marginalized populations are not always the first to benefit from aid, either. For example, the poorest girls are 60 years behind the richest boys in terms of universal primary completion1. How effective, then, has the educational aid of the past 30 decades actually been? The same applies to disparities between populations living in rural and urban areas, with the latter being favored by aid. This is reflected, in particular, in the figures on school retention or on the level of qualification of the teaching staff in rural areas (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Percentage of the population with less than four years of education for the age group 20-24 years Source : World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE) (2021)

More aid… but more importantly, better management of that aid

Of course, an increase in resources is not enough to bring about change in education. Indeed, recent increases in public education spending have been associated with relatively small improvements in education outcomes. Although access to education has improved, according to the World Bank, 53% of ten-year-olds in low- and- middle-income countries are unable to read or understand a short, age-appropriate text. This is largely due to deficiencies in the management of resources by the States. From the perspective of resource management, few countries are able to communicate, in particular to UNESCO, how much they spend on primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Furthermore, countries like Chad and Niger spend amounts similar to those spent by Malawi and Sierra Leone, but achieve less than half the learning adjusted years of schooling.2.

IN CONCLUSION, IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT WHILE FOREIGN AID IS SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASING IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA, THE CHALLENGE IS TO ENSURE THAT IT SUFFICIENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY TARGETS COUNTRIES, SECTORS, AND POPULATIONS IN NEED. THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT GIVEN THAT DONOR COUNTRIES ARE LIKELY—AND SOME HAVE ALREADY BEGUN—TO SHIFT THEIR AID BUDGETS TO NATIONAL PRIORITIES RELATED TO UNEMPLOYMENT, AND TO BUSINESS SUPPORT MEASURES ADDRESSING THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE PANDEMIC. DONOR PRIORITIES MAY ALSO SHIFT TO HEALTH OR OTHER EMERGENCIES IN RECIPIENT COUNTRIES. SOME ESTIMATES PREDICT THAT EDUCATION AID COULD FALL BY USD 2 BILLION FROM ITS 2020 PEAK, AND NOT RETURN TO 2018 LEVELS UNTIL 2027.


References

1 Antoninis, M. (2014). Let’s clarify the definition of aid to education so that it benefits the poorest

2 World Bank & GEMR-UNESCO. (2021). Education Finance Watch 2021

3 RESULTS Educational Fund. (2010). World Bank Education Financing: Less or More for the Poor in IDA 16?

4 OECD. (2019). Development Aid at a Glance. Africa

Catégories
blog

#09 SDG4: From International Ambitions to National Realities. The Example of Education for Global Citizenship

For decades, governments in the global South, including in sub-Saharan Africa, have been officially adopting international development goals and, therefore, education goals. From 1990 to 2015, along with the Millennium Development Goals, the well-known Education for All agenda focused on the mass enrollment of students at the primary level. Although there has been clear progress in the number of students enrolled in schools worldwide, the fact that too many children and young people are out of school and lack basic literacy skills has prompted the international community to continue its efforts.

Thus, the international agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was adopted in 2015. Unlike previous agendas, the SDGs are universal in that they also concern the countries of the global North. Another particularity is that these goals are much broader, emphasizing both access and quality at levels of education other than merely primary. In this article, based on research conducted over the past two years, we question the relevance of this international agenda considering African national realities, using the specific example of global citizenship education (GCE).

This concept is explicitly reflected in the SDG 4.7: “Ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development” [1]. UNESCO, the institution that has propelled this concept onto the international stage, outlines the concept: GCE aims to “instill in learners the values, attitudes and behaviors that support responsible global citizenship: creativity, innovation, and commitment to peace, human rights and sustainable development” [2].

First challenge: before addressing the global nature of citizenship, should national citizenship not be stabilized on the African continent? Indeed, this citizenship, with its colonial legacy (in terms of the arbitrary distribution of national territories), has been increasingly contested since the end of the Cold War; and has been a source of violent political and democratic struggles throughout the continent. More recently, in Mali, for example, the fragility of the state and the ethnic tensions fueled by jihadists have led to violent attacks on Dogon, Fulani, and other villages. 

Second challenge: citizenship education, whether national or global, must be able to bring about changes in the students, who will be the citizens of tomorrow. This requires a certain quality of teaching and learning. However, due to large class sizes and teaching practices that emphasize recitation and memorization, it is difficult to actively engage students in complex tasks. Moreover, many people interviewed in the field, including at UNESCO, recognize that among all the SDGs’ education-related targets, Goal 4.7 is not necessarily a priority for Africa: there are higher priorities like teaching and learning issues. This also raises questions about the choices made in terms of the language of instruction. In many African countries, the language of the former colonial power is still the one taught in school. However, without mentioning the socio-cultural dimension that is flouted, here, it has been widely demonstrated that students tend not to master this language. This underlines the importance of teaching in the mother tongue, at least partially, to effectively implement education for active citizenship and to train students capable of reflecting on what it means to be a citizen in their own contexts.

Third challenge: behind the concept of global citizenship lies the idea of the place and role of citizens in an increasingly globalized world. We believe that the concept of global citizenship makes sense in Africa, given the challenges that this continent faces: population growth, urbanization, the climate crisis, and socioeconomic inequalities. However, we know that in the context of globalization, there are winning and losing countries—and that the balance is tilted against Africa, which generally does not fully benefit from the supposed advantages of the new global economy. So, can there really be a sense of belonging to a global community that leaves many by the wayside? Even in Northern countries, GCE is viewed within a minimalist framework that considers global citizenship, at best, a Band-Aid solution to the social and ecological challenges of globalization (e.g., via learning to sort one’s waste, exchanging letters with students in distant countries, etc.), but certainly not one that enables deep societal changes.Fourth challenge: the ‘global’ nature of GCE implies not being locked into merely local issues, but also being open to the rest of the world. However, we note a gap between what the curriculum suggests in terms of student decentration and classroom practices. Our research in Senegal shows that most teachers mainly cover issues related to that country because they are not sufficiently trained or informed about foreign issues—including what is happening in neighboring countries. This would require the availability and mastery of digital tools to research issues with a global scope—in particular, the Internet or social networks—as well as the ability to operationalize them at the local community level. This is far from being the case at present.

Beyond these challenges, it is important to note that the concept of GCE has not remained solely at the international level. It has already been integrated into numerous reports and declarations at the national and regional levels in Africa. Indeed, it appears that the discourse around GCE has been systematically taken up in the key texts of national education policies since 2015. Could one say blindly? A detailed examination of these policies shows there is no explicitation of the concept or precision as to how it is perceived in specific national contexts. At the regional level, the concept of GCE is found in the Kigali Declaration of the Ministerial Conference on Post-2015 Education for Sub-Saharan Africa. Also, a recent UNESCO report, Global Citizenship Education: Taking it Local, demonstrates that there are national/local/traditional concepts that aim to promote ideas reflecting those at the heart of GCE. This is the case, for example, with the Charter of Manden in Mali [3].

IN CONCLUSION, WE BELIEVE THAT GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION, A GOAL OF THE 2015-2030 INTERNATIONAL AGENDA, IS A CONCEPT THAT HAS VIABLE PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR AFRICAN COUNTRIES. NEVERTHELESS, PROGRAMS RELATED TO GCE CANNOT IGNORE THE CHALLENGES OF CITIZENSHIP (INTERNAL CONFLICTS, TYPES OF PEDAGOGY, AND LANGUAGE CHOICES) AND GLOBALIZATION (PROFOUND CHANGES AND KNOWLEDGE OF GLOBAL ISSUES), WHICH COULD POTENTIALLY COMPROMISE ITS DISSEMINATION. FINALLY, IT SHOULD BE REMEMBERED THAT EDUCATION ALSO TAKES PLACE IN AN INFORMAL SETTING, OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL; THE MOST PROMISING EXPERIENCES IN GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP ON THE CONTINENT COME FROM AWARENESS-RAISING WITHIN LOCAL COMMUNITIES OR SOCIAL NETWORKS.


Références

[1] UNESCO, Republic of Korea, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women et al. (2015). Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4

[2] UNESCO. (2021). Global Citizenship Education

[3] UNESCO. (2018). Global Citizenship Education: Taking it Local

Catégories
blog

#08 ‘We are Somewhat Competitors’: The Challenge of Coordination in International Cooperation in Education in Africa

As a preamble, let us recall that to compensate for African states’ financial incapacity to meet the educational needs of their populations, international cooperation has historically been present on the African continent. Aid to education in sub-Saharan Africa has seen an upward trend over the past five years. Between 2014 and 2019, it increased from US$1.4 billion to US$1.7 billion [1].

In this context, the 2000 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness is explicit: “Donors commit to harmonize their activities. Harmonization should focus on […] co-ordination of political engagement; and practical initiatives such as the establishment of joint donor offices” [2].

Indeed, aid coordination would make it possible to act more effectively in favor of populations in need, particularly in remote areas of the continent, by joining human and financial forces rather than leaving each party to act alone in its corner. This would be all the more the case in the context of a proliferation of cooperation institutions and new financing mechanisms in Africa.

However, these intentions, relevant as they may be, have been in vain for decades of cooperation in the education sector in Africa. As far back as 1967, the British think tank ODI pointed out the lack of coordination among aid agencies, criticizing the anomalies resulting from conflicts of interest, different administrative procedures, and contradictory prescriptions for the social progress of recipient countries [3].

In recent years, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which brings together a variety of entities from the international community, was created in part to address this challenge with the “by working better together, through collaboration and coordination, the aid regime will become more democratic and participatory” [4]. But the multilateral and bilateral cooperation institutions represented in the GPE continue to act independently according to their own agendas, which limits this coordination effort. Additionally, the instruments have been multiplying as new international financing mechanisms have been set up in recent years, even though the GPE could be able to accommodate these different funds.

We would like to illustrate this challenge of coordinating international cooperation actions in Africa with two concrete examples. We recently conducted research [5] on the practices of NGOs based in Switzerland whose context of action is mainly on the African continent. These NGOs have clearly shown that it is at the level of coordination of actions on the ground that the challenges remain difficult to address. Only 50% of respondents in a questionnaire think that their actions in the field are coordinated with similar actions of other institutions: « There is a special atmosphere among the actors. We are somewhat competitors, » said an informant during an interview. More concretely, dozens of NGOs intervene in the area of in-service training for teachers with their own approaches and their own programs, without necessarily consulting each other on the possibility of joint actions. Moreover, « the big and small actors are not at the same level, » since some institutions have a more privileged place than others in the decision-making process at the national level, and not all have access to the same level of information about the actions carried out in a given country.

Another example is the action of French cooperation in the context of the G5 Sahel. The effects of a lack of coordination can be dramatic in these contexts of extreme adversity: schools are closed by the hundreds, leaving thousands of children are unable to attend. These challenges have been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis. Key people in the French cooperation system go so far as to say that « if we take this a little further, the problem of financial resources is not a problem. There are about 40–50 projects and dozens of actors, often with a lack of coordination and an overlap of projects.” A report published in 2019 by the French Coalition Education network showed that the inventory of actions in the field does not reveal any real overall coherence, which poses the risk of amplifying existing imbalances [6].

But beyond the necessary efforts on the part of international cooperation institutions, the primary responsibility for this coordination effort lies with the states; not only are they responsible for the development of the education systems, but their lack of centralized coordination can lead to an unequal supply of education and cause harm to already vulnerable areas. We observe that this lack of coordination can be convenient for some people in the state machinery who see it as an opportunity to multiply financial inputs.

This brings us to the question of capacity building, which should be at the heart of international cooperation actions at all levels (from international to local). In this case, how can we ensure that the state is able to effectively regulate the education system rather than substituting itself for it? Also, in a growing context of decentralization, it is more than recommended to refer to state authorities at the local level to make known the action taken. In this way, they have a better knowledge of the activities on the ground and can better coordinate them.

Finally, we would like to highlight the existence of positive experiences in favor of better coordination. Let us mention the “Education Champions” initiative launched in France by the French Development Agency (AFD) and Coalition Education, and the Thematic Days of the Swiss Network for Education and International Cooperation (RECI). Based on common issues, these actions aim to encourage dialogue and strengthen partnerships by sharing the existence of activities in the field and identifying best practices. In addition, more and more consultation frameworks are being created in the field, bringing together the country’s Ministry of Education and major cooperation institutions. In Mali, for example, the Education Cluster, jointly managed by the Ministry, Save the Children, and UNICEF, aims to develop capacity and coordination mechanisms to improve responses in humanitarian crises and to strengthen the capacity and readiness of humanitarian staff and government authorities for planning and managing the quality of education programs in emergency situations.

TO CONCLUDE, LET US REMEMBER THAT INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION ACTIONS IN EDUCATION CANNOT BE IMPROVISED BECAUSE, IN THE END, IT IS THE BENEFICIARIES OF THESE ACTIONS, OFTEN AMONG THE MOST VULNERABLE, WHO SUFFER. THIS COORDINATION WILL BE MORE CRUCIAL THAN EVER IN THE COMING YEARS; FOLLOWING COVID-19, GOVERNMENTS IN 65% OF THE POOREST COUNTRIES HAVE REDUCED THEIR FUNDING FOR THE EDUCATION SECTOR, AND INTERNATIONAL AID IS LIKELY TO DECREASE BY 12% BY 2022 [7].


Références

[1] World Bank & GEMR-UNESCO. (2021). Education Finance Watch 2021

[2] OCDE. (2005). Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness

[3] ODI. (1967). Aid coordination

[4] Menashy, F. (2017). Multi-stakeholder aid to education: power in thecontext of partnership

[5] Lauwerier, T. (2019). Profils et pratiques des acteurs de la coopération internationale en éducation. le cas des coopérants basés en Suisse

[6] Coalition Education. (2019). Relever les défis de l’éducation dans un Sahel en crise

[7] World Bank & GEMR-UNESCO. (2021). Education Finance Watch 2021

Catégories
blog

#01 Aid to education: To the right destination?

Update: 20.05.2019

This article focuses on the priorities of international cooperation in education, and it raises the question:

IS AID GOING TO THE RIGHT DESTINATION?

To answer this question, let us clarify the definition of aid: it is « material help given by one country to another »— and one « would expect aid to go to those most in need »1.

A positive point is that aid to education increased by 17% between 2015 and 2016 and reached its peak in 20162.

This increase has not been confirmed since between 2016 and 2017, this aid fell by 2% (-US$288 million). The budgets of governments in low-income countries are not particularly increasing to offset this decline9.

Let us look in particular at aid to basic education (Figure 1), which encompasses preschool, primary, early secondary, and adult literacy. Students acquire basic knowledge and skills, including literacy and numeracy. This period corresponds to what is internationally recognized as the time when schooling should be compulsory. Sixty-one million children in the world are still out of primary school, and tens of millions of those who attend school do not receive even the most basic education. Therefore, focusing on basic education further counterbalances the trend of previous years that was counterintuitive in terms of social justice, namely the high priority given to higher education.

However, while aid to this sector increased between 2015 and 2016 (Figure1), the overall decline between 2016 and 2017 was partly due to a lower allocation from the United Kingdom (-29%), much of which was for basic education.

Figure 1. Total aid to education disbursements, by level of education, 2002–2016 Source: GEMR-UNESCO (2018)

As UNESCO points out, many donor countries have not kept their promise to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income to foreign aid: « Doing just that and allocating 10% of that aid to primary and secondary education, would have been enough to fill the US$39 billion dollars annual financing gap »9. The Global Campaign for Education estimates that aid for preprimary, primary, and secondary education will have to increase by at least six times compared to the current situation, particularly in low- and lower-middle-income countries4.

In terms of priorities for basic education, aid has moved to the right destination in recent decades, as a large proportion of investments in school infrastructure, including school construction, have helped meet the high demand for education. Indeed, as mentioned above, we can still identify many people excluded from school throughout the world, which made it possible to justify the emphasis on access, particularly after the international Education for All (EFA) initiative in 1990. Its main objective was universal primary enrollment (a goal that is still far from being achieved almost 30 years later). However, the following testimony by a manager of international cooperation projects in a large European city (anonymized identity) provides a more pragmatic justification for actions mainly related to infrastructure rather than to the quality or governance of education systems.

“We most often finance infrastructure. we can easily see the effects of our support. after one year, we have a report with indicators, such as a number of schools have been built. donors are proud to go to the inauguration of such a school in Africa. They can bring in the journalists to see their actions. on the other hand, we fund few projects that would result in a change in people’s behavior, such as peace education in conflict areas. these are changes over time. Even if we are convinced that this type of project is relevant and necessary, it is difficult to see the fruits of our intervention, which makes donors cautious”

This leads us to make an initial criticism of the priorities accorded by aid, which does not take the quality of education seriously enough. To take the example of one of the most powerful actors in international cooperation, the World Bank has contributed to increasing access to education and improving equity, while fewer than half of its projects have achieved objectives related to the quality of education. Especially since improving the quality of educational inputs (textbooks, teachers, and so forth) has not necessarily contributed to improving learning5.

But even if international cooperation chooses to prioritize access over quality, it does not take into account the populations, areas, or sectors that are most in need. Indeed, nearly one-fifth of what the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) considers to be aid never leaves donor countries, as revealed by the research group Development Initiatives. In addition, a surprising amount of aid goes to countries that are far from being the poorest1. To illustrate this point, it should be noted that between 2000 and 2010, more than half of the World Bank’s education funds were allocated to three countries: India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh6.

On closer examination, we can see that the share of basic education aid to low-income countries has fallen from 36% in 2002 to 22% in 2016. This is reflected in the long-term decline in the share allocated to sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for half of the world’s out-of-school children (Figure 2). Moreover, non-formal education programs, which are perceived by international cooperation as a possible alternative to address out-of-school youth, are not supported by aid, whereas the budget for these programs represents no more than 5% of the total national education budget in many countries8.

Figure 2. Share of low income countries and least developed countries (LDCs) in total aid to education and to basic education disbursements, 2002-2016 Source: GEMR-UNESCO (2018)

Not only are the poorest countries not targeted for aid but the most marginalized populations do not necessarily receive aid as a priority. For example, the poorest girls are 60 years behind the richest boys in terms of universal primary completion1.

The same applies to disparities between populations living in rural and urban areas, the latter being favored by aid, which is particularly reflected in the figures on school retention (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Percentage of the population with less than four years of education for the age group 20-24 years Source: World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE) (2018)

And once again, when an organization is concerned with populations in need, it is to provide answers that are not always appropriate, as revealed by the case of « low-cost » private schools supported by many international organizations, even though the schools often do not meet minimum quality standards7.

Still on the priority sectors, while current events remind us of the existence of refugees around the world, particularly in low-income countries, humanitarian aid recorded a fourth consecutive year of increase in 2017, but the amount allocated to education represented 2.1% of the total amount of this aid2.

TO CONCLUDE, ON THE ONE HAND, INTERNATIONAL AID HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO CONTINUE THE INCREASE OBSERVED IN THE PREVIOUS PERIOD. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE AID DOES NOT SUFFICIENTLY TARGET COUNTRIES, POPULATIONS, AND SECTORS IN NEED.

References

1 Antoninis, M. (2014). Let’s clarify the definition of aid to education so that it benefits the poorest

2 GEMR-UNESCO. (2018). Aid to education: a return to growth?

3 UNESCO. (2017). Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8. Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments

4 Global Campaign for Education. (2015). Education Aid Watch 2015

5 World Bank. (2011). World Bank Support to Education Since 2001: A Portfolio Note

6 RESULTS Educational Fund. (2010). World Bank Education Financing: Less or More for the Poor in IDA 16?

7 Srivastava, P. (2015). Low-fee private schools and poor children: what do we really know?

8 Mercer, M. (2013). Donor policies, practices and investment priorities in support of education, and post-2015 prospects: a review

9 GEMR-UNESCO. (2019). Aid to education falls slightly in 2017, shifts away from primary education