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Strengthening Inclusion and Access to Quality Education in Ethiopia through Performance Based Financing (PBF)  

News Inclusion and Access to Quality Education
Jimma -

A pilot project to strengthen human capital by improving access and utilisation of good quality and inclusive primary education in Jimma Zone, Oromia Region.  

Portrait of Sumeya, a student at Abdi Migira primary school, Jimma Zone 

Ethiopia is a country with diverse communities – there are over 90 ethnic and linguistic groups and a population of over 120 million people, 80% of which live in rural areas. The government of Ethiopia has made remarkable progress with improving access to education; basic primary education is now accessible in many communities in most regions of the country. However, access to quality education remains a challenge. Cordaid is supporting the government of Ethiopia’s efforts through piloting an innovative financing approach to strengthen the education system in the Jimma Zone, Oromia Region. With the primary objective to strengthen human capital in the area, the pilot has been designed to complement and build on lessons learned from Cordaid’s flagship PBF health programme.  

I always wished we had schools like the ones I saw in big cities

– Sumeya, 7th grade student at Abdi Migira primary school.  

Snapshot of the Primary Education System in Ethiopia  

The education system in Ethiopia consists of both formal and non-formal education. Schooling starts from early childhood care and education (ECCE), primary level education, secondary level education, adult, and non-formal education. Standard primary education in Ethiopia includes 8 years of schooling; on average, most students start at the age of seven. Schooling is available through publicly funded and private institutions. Private schools tend to have better facilities and more qualified teachers. Access to private schools however is only afforded to a minority of the population who fall into a higher income bracket. Most students attend public schools, which are plagued with challenges that lower the quality and inclusivity of education they provide.  

Enrolment rates for primary education are generally high. These tend to be higher in urban and wealthier communities when compared to remote and rural communities. Students in these areas face intersectional marginalizations that hinder their access and option to attend school. Furthermore, while enrolment rates are high, completion rates are very low. On average, 1 in 10 students do not complete grade five, and 5 in 10 do not complete grade eight. So, the dropout rate increases as students become older and progress to higher grade levels.  

Most Ethiopians live in rural, highly remote, and geographically dispersed settlements. Further, traditional gender norms, high domestic work burden, long travel distances, low education quality, and poor (infrastructural) facilities are barriers that make ensuring equitable access to education challenging. These challenges result in high student absenteeism and eventually dropouts, especially among girls.

Poorly maintained library with outdated books on a bookshelf at Abdi Migira Primary school 

Female students are the most absent, and their dropout rate at our school is very high. The main reason for this is that most of them have household responsibilities and must support their mothers at home and attend market days. Some drop out due to early marriage. Male students miss classes on market days as well; they go to market with their parents, help with harvesting and are sometimes sent to religious studies during the schooling period. They do this because their family members may become angry with them if they do not accompany them, support, or follow religious practices–this is seen as being disobedient. Aside from market days and household help, female students are absent during their menstrual periods due to embarrassment and unavailability of proper hygiene facilities at the schools.” – Tofik, teacher at Abdi Migira primary school  

Students at Gembo Migira primary school  

Performance Based Financing (PBF) In Education

Performance Based Financing (PBF) is a specific form of Results Based Financing (RBF) which is a social financing mechanism used in the health, education and security and justice sectors in various Low- and Medium-Income Countries (LMIC) across the globe. The approach can be distinguished because it incentivises public service providers at various levels based on their performance achievements in accordance with agreed quality, quantity, and other target performance related indicators. Participation in the programme and subsequent performance monitoring is subject is strict protocols and verification processes.  

In Ethiopia, Cordaid has been implementing PBF in the health sector since 2015. The PBF health programme, which started off as a small-scale pilot in the Borana zone has demonstrated remarkable success. It has since been scaled up and covers several zones in the Amhara and Oromia Regions and reaches millions of people annually. The human capital theory postulates that people can increase their productive capacity, through greater education, skills trainings, health, and well-being. With this in mind, we aim to create a constructive collaboration and complementarity between these two sectors. We are doing so by building on the lessons and achievements made in the health sector and piloting the PBF approach in education. Furthermore, we are supporting the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Education (FMoE) in achievement of the goals set in the Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP VI).  

It is very encouraging that the communities value education for their children. Most parents in our district are willing to send their children to school. In fact, most schools in were built with their financial support. We, as a government body, have done little compared to the contributions made by the community” – Kedir Abdella, Head of Shebee Sombo district Education Bureau  

Our PBF Education programme in Ethiopia aims to improve access and utilization of education service, improve the quality of education service provision, improve the accuracy and reliability of reported data, and strengthen governance structures within the education sector. The pilot project currently supports 54 schools in the Shebee Sombo district, in the Jimma Zone. In addition to working with service providers, we compliment these efforts by working closely with parents and other key community stakeholders.

Regarding the challenges faced in the Shebee district and how the PBF programme plans to address it, Eubert Vushoma, Cordaid PBF Expert said that “Enrolment and completion of primary school are compromised due to several challenges including inadequate facilities to service an increased student population, dealing with Children With Disabilities (CWD) and meeting their learning needs, discipline, and absenteeism for both teachers and students. There is also high gender disparity in access with girls highly disadvantaged largely due to cultural issues as well as lack of enabling menstrual hygiene products and facilities. The PBF project is designed to address this challenge by ensuring access to menstrual hygiene kits and services at schools through incentivising the indicator ‘number of eligible girls who have received 1 kit of menstrual hygiene products per month’. This means schools and communities will come up with innovative ways to provide enabling facilities and products for girls for menstrual hygiene purposes and will be incentivised for this effort. Schools will be incentivised for other services and the funds will be used to improve school facilities whilst supportive supervision by regulators from the Woreda and Zone will also be improved through performance-based funds awarded to these regulators based on predefined indicators for each level.” 

A student in a class at Abdi Migira primary school

PBF implementation in Jimma zone has generated a lot of interest from stakeholders and communities who have already witnessed positive results from the health sector. There has been improved collaboration between the health and education sectors which was lacking before inception as well as improved supportive supervision for schools by regulators from both the Zonal and Woreda levels. Before inception, schools were provided with readiness funds based on their urgent needs and available budget. The funds have since been disbursed and are being used to make improvements based on approved school improvement plans. The readiness funds were matched with community contribution (in cash or in kind) with these contributions improving the role of communities in the education system for sustainability.  

In the meantime 

Education must gain thoughtful consideration in rural and remote areas because it is one of the pillars to achieve sustainable development goals, wherein education should be inclusive and equitable. We must find ways to increase access to education in these areas and fostering an enabling and a student-friendly learning environment. Schools need access to resources to have sufficient and clean water, lights, and other essential facilities and materials. Furthermore, improved school governance, improved data quality and evidenced based decision making is needed.  

We are all ready to support PBF intervention in our woreda and we are lucky to get the opportunity that we will utilise properly. We will collaborate in every aspect with the intervention to improve our schools to be more accessible and utilised by our community.“- Kedir Abdella, Head of Shebee Sombo District Education bureau  

Students at Gembo Migira primary school  

Cordaid Ethiopia calls on the support of all stakeholders and duty bearers to ensure the achievement of the international sustainable development goals and the Ethiopian government’s efforts in poverty reduction and development by improving children’s access and utilisation of primary education.  

Despite being one of the older students in my class, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and the privilege of continuing to learn. I take my studies seriously and must do overtime time in my spare time. We are learning in amongst all our school’s several shortages because education is key to have better life than we are in now I hope our school can be improved in such a way that we have access to IT computers, we are taking the class, but we have never seen what a computer looks like in our eyes. We require computers, science lab equipment, more chairs in the classroom, light or solar energy, clean and safe playgrounds, better support for female students, textbooks in the new government curriculum, and a variety of other supplementary books.”- Kedir, 28, 7th grade student at Abdi Migira Primary School  

Interested in learning more or collaborating with Cordaid on this novel education financing approach? Please Contact us!