Measuring the effectiveness of education programs in Abuja

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Abuja Community Manager
Abuja, 5 October 2015

In an effort to improve socio-economic conditions in cities in the developing world, a variety of programs are constantly being introduced. Ascertaining which programs are sustainable and worth investing in requires careful evaluation and assessment. To identify the most cost-effective and impactful program, organizations such as The Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CESA) conduct independent assessment of public programs. This article looks at CESA's evaluation of two educational assistance programs introduced in Abuja to increase access and quality education at the primary level.

CESA is a public policy think-tank and nonprofit organization dedicated to evaluating the economic impact of policies in Nigeria. It was established to "advocate for greater fiscal transparency and accountability, reduction in leakages of public funds and improvements in governments' delivery of social and public services" through evidence-based research. The Abuja-based organization focuses its research and evaluation on seven major areas, one of which is Program Evaluation, Poverty Measurement and Analysis (PEPMA). This arm of research evaluates the effectiveness of various programs, policies and projects aimed at addressing development challenges. PEPMA has two main elements – Program Evaluation, and Poverty Measurement and Analysis – and cuts across a number of areas such as gender disparity, social inclusion and inequality.

Under Program Evaluation, the emphasis is on impact evaluation of intervention programs across multiple sectors, including access to health care services and school programs. For instance, a 2010 program evaluation conducted by CESA attempted to measure the impact of education assistance programs through cost effectiveness and benefit analysis. The projects analyzed were the Home Grown School Feeding & Health program (HGSF&H) and the Education Assistance Program, both implemented in Abuja. The HGSF&H program aims at increasing school attendance and retention rates by providing feeding programs in public schools using locally-grown food crops, thereby creating sustainable demand for local farmers. The HGSF&H program is based on the New Partnership for Africa's Development's vision for "nationally owned, sustainable programs aimed at improving smallholder farmers' food security". In Abuja, the HGSF&H program started in 2003 with only one school, and then expanded to 30 schools by the end of 2005, and to 144 in 2007. The Educational Assistance program also targets improvements in education, but is focused on increasing access. It functions as an indigenous scholarship program and was initiated in Abuja in 2007.

When evaluating the effectiveness of these programs, CESA faced challenges regarding the identification of suitable indicators and data. As such, the organization used the probable impact of intervention model developed by Schiefelbein and Wolff (2007). Relying on this measure, they estimated the incremental unit costs of the HGSF&H and EA programs. Based on the cost benefit analysis, the organization concluded that the EA program was a more cost-effective and sustainable model. Due to the limited availability of data, measuring the impact of these programs relied on a number of assumptions, such as supposing that existing infrastructure facilities were not at capacity and would cater for the projected enrollment of pupils. The difficulty in obtaining data and identifying indicators highlights the importance of accurate and available data for measuring impact.

Photo: Feed My Starving Children.

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