Improving education in SenegalSeveral countries in sub-Saharan Africa have 50% or more of their populations concentrated in rural areas. With a high density of people in scattered rural areas, improved education in these areas is a priority. Gaps in enrollment and educational attainment are present throughout these sub-Saharan countries. Due to educational gaps, a group of architects formed an organization called Let’s Build My School (LBMS). LBMS focuses on improving education in Senegal.

Education in Senegal

According to the World Bank, in 2020, 52% of Senegal’s population lived in rural areas. In 2017, the country’s literacy rate was almost 52% for those 15 and older. Since primary school is compulsory and free, the net primary school enrollment rate hovers between 70% and 75%. However, this amount decreases significantly for those living in rural areas because of regional inequalities. The percentage of children in Senegal who are not attending school is about 38%. Rates of out-of-school children include 49% of students in rural areas compared to 21% of students in urban areas.

In addition to the regional inequality gap, there is also a significant gender gap in education in Senegal. Patterns of enrollment for males versus females vary by region. Some areas, such as Matam, have more females attending primary school than males with a little more than a 20% difference. On the other hand, a more typical trend shows males having anywhere from 1% to 40% higher enrollment rates in upper secondary school than females.  Due to these trends in regional and gender-based gaps in education, LBMS chose to focus on Senegal as the first area of its focus.

Let’s Build My School

LBMS is a U.K.-registered charity group of architects advocating for education as a universal right. The charity supports access to education in underprivileged areas around the world. It especially focuses on rural African areas and began its first project in Senegal.

LBMS builds schools in disadvantaged areas and remote villages using locally sourced and sustainable construction materials. It employs building techniques that are cost-effective and easy to implement without the need for advanced construction skills. In this way, the local community can be involved in the building projects. In the future, this will allow locals to replicate these efforts as needed.

Keur Racine

So far, LBMS has completed two projects in Senegal. One of these projects is Keur Racine in the Thiès region. The project was completed between May and July of 2017, mainly using clay and tires. LBMS added on to an existing school with two classrooms and an office. This addition increased the school’s capacity to 62 more students.

The foundation was constructed with tires “filled with compacted clay and sand.” The classroom walls were constructed from “sandbags filled with locally sourced material” to allow for natural insulation. The roof was built in a way that allows for ventilation and natural lighting. The sustainable construction of these schools benefits the Earth and the people living on the land by limiting waste and providing access to schooling for rural students.

Importance of Education

A lack of education and poverty typically go hand-in-hand. This is because those in impoverished areas do not have sufficient access to educational resources or opportunities. Education is essential for improving living conditions and eradicating poverty. Quality education creates an aware, knowledgeable and skilled population able to make a better life. According to UNESCO, about 60 million people could break out of poverty if all adults had two additional years of schooling. Furthermore, 420 million people could escape poverty if all adults completed education through the secondary level. For this reason, improving education in Senegal is imperative.

USAID is Improving Education in Senegal

Prompted by the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, USAID worked “with the Government of Senegal in 2007 through a Fixed Amount Reimbursement program to construct middle schools.” The government constructs school buildings using its own funds and resources. After completion, USAID reimburses the government after confirming that the school structure meets certain specifications.

The goal of the project was to build “46 middle schools and 30 water points” by the close of 2016. In partnership with the local NGO, Femmes Plus, USAID looks to improve learning outcomes through the Our Sisters Read program. The program looks to improve the basic literacy of rural children, especially girls.

With the help of organizations such as LBMS and USAID, education in Senegal and other impoverished regions can improve and lift millions out of extreme poverty. Access to quality education is a proven global solution to ending the cycle of poverty. LBMS is an example of a smaller-scale relief effort that is contributing greatly to the overall fight against global poverty.

Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr

Health AidNot all aid is created equal. In the fight against global poverty, ensuring sufficient funds for aid programs is only half the battle. The other half is ensuring that aid is results-oriented, transparent, expedient and cost-effective.

During the second High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Paris in 2005, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries formulated the Paris Declaration. This declaration was meant to set benchmarks for how to measure the five key categories of effective aid: ownership, alignment, harmonization, results and mutual accountability.

While these five categories are intended to measure the effectiveness of all kinds of aid, they are particularly pertinent to health aid. Developing public health infrastructure in poorer countries is the “gift that keeps on giving,” ideally continuing to serve local populations well after aid has ceased. Thus, a robust public health outcome is an ideal metric to judge the quality of aid using the five categories of the Paris Declaration.

1. Ownership

Ownership, according to the Paris Declaration, involves partner countries exercising “effective leadership over their development policies and strategies.” This category is a measurement of how much aid recipients are involved in developing and executing programs that actually take advantage of the aid they are receiving. Aid strategies have traditionally assumed that once a country reaches middle-income status, it will have sufficient resources and self-interest to invest in public health, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.

For example, Nigeria is technically a middle-income country, but it spends less on public health than Rwanda, which a low-income country. Health aid can really only be considered effective if countries take ownership of health programs that outlive donor support as the country transitions into middle-income status.

Ownership is especially important given a recent estimate by the World Health Organization that predicts that in the next few decades, there will be a global health workforce shortage of up to 12.9 million. Aid programs need to ensure that recipients are developing adequate long-term strategies, especially when it comes to investing in health training and education.

2. Alignment

The dimension of alignment measures how well aid matches up with recipient strategies for dispersal and development. Development experts often criticize “tied” aid. This is aid that is contingent on the recipient procuring health products from the donor country, using their distribution infrastructure, employing foreign personnel or involving some other condition which is often not the most cost-effective or desirable for the recipient. Alignment essentially means “untying” aid to make sure that it aligns closely with the national development strategy of the recipient country.

A topical example of the alignment of health aid in the Global Food Security Act of 2015. This bill, currently introduced to the House and awaiting consideration, encourages local procurement of food aid for U.S. aid programs (among other things). Traditionally, food aid dispersal from the U.S. has been tied, requiring that a certain percentage of that aid be procured from the U.S. and dispersed using the U.S. merchant marine.

However, this bill seeks to do away with those requirements and favors recipient-country producers. This encourages the growth of local agriculture and health aid infrastructure, rather than out-competing them. Additionally, local procurement is faster, and in the event of a humanitarian emergency, recipient populations would not have to wait as long for foreign aid to reach them.

3. Harmonization

Harmonization involves cutting down on the plurality of programs that may have the same goal yet interfere and undermine each other. An aid recipient country may be host to dozens of organizations or programs that target public health outcomes yet do not communicate with each other, thus creating redundancies or inefficiency.

Harmonization is especially critical to public health, more so in emergencies. Currently, there is no standard system whereby donors can track and share how much and to where health aid is going, making it difficult to determine where it is most needed. The recent Ebola epidemic was a particularly disastrous indication of the need for better logistics and donor coordination; it is difficult to tell if health aid has even reached a recipient population, much less if it is redundant, or necessary.

4. Results

Just as it is important to harmonize aid efforts, tracking the progress of health programs has also been an ongoing challenge for donors and recipients. Health aid, despite good intentions, can be totally ineffective when it isn’t results-oriented. Tracking public health outcomes generally involves better data collection and census practices, which can be incredibly difficult to implement in developing countries that lack basic infrastructure.

Very recently, the Girls Count Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives. This act directs the Secretary of State as well as the United States Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) to work with developing countries to build adequate civil registration systems as well as create economic and social policies that are deliberately inclusive of women and girls. The idea is that better demographic data and inclusive policy can help traditionally marginalized populations (such as women) take advantage of existing social safety nets. Additionally, better demographic data would lead to more effective health aid, as donors often lack access to accurate census information and thus may be unaware of vulnerable populations, or unable to determine the impact of aid.

5. Mutual Accountability

The final category calls for recipients and donors to exercise “mutual accountability and transparency in the use of development resources.” This emphasis on accountability stems from a history of aid inefficiencies due to a lack of transparency, or even outright corruption in recipient countries. For example, millions of dollars in aid money were simply pocketed by corrupt dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of the Republic of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) during the ’70s and ’80s.

Conversely, donor countries must be transparent about where aid flows are going in order to provide recipient countries (as well as other donors) with accurate information they can present to their citizens. In general, developing genuine partnerships between donors and recipients is crucial in ensuring that resulting health and development programs are effective and long-lasting.

Derek Marion

Sources: Reuters, Devex, Partners in Health, OECD
Photo: OECD

Paris Declaration on Aid EffectivenessThe Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDAE), drafted in 2005, was born out of decades of experience for what does and does not work when allocating and utilizing aid development money. The principles have gained support across the world and within aid agencies – changing aid practices for the better. More and more aid recipients are creating their own national development strategies and aligning with donor groups to streamline efforts and goals, to ensure qualitative results for every dollar spent.

The five core principles of PDAE

1. Ownership: Developing countries set their own strategies for poverty reduction, improve their institutions and tackle corruption.
2. Alignment: Donor countries align behind these objectives and use local systems.
3. Harmonisation: Donor countries coordinate, simplify procedures and share information to avoid duplication.
4. Results: Developing countries and donors shift focus to development results, and results get measured.
5. Mutual accountability: Donors and partners are accountable for development results.
In 2008 the Accra Agenda for Action was designed and added to the Paris Declaration in order to strengthen and accelerate advancement towards the Paris targets. It proposed four main areas for improvement:
1. Ownership: Countries have more say over their development processes through wider participation in development policy formulation, stronger leadership on aid coordination and more use of country systems for aid delivery.
2. Inclusive partnerships: All partners – including donors in the OECD Development Assistance Committee and developing countries, as well as other donors, foundations and civil society – participate fully.
3. Delivering results: Aid is focused on the real and measurable impacts on development.
4. Capacity development: to build the ability of countries to manage their own development agendas.
– Mary Purcell

Source: OECD
Photo: Flixya