Education and Youth Empowerment

Quality and Access to Basic Education

The Center, as one of a handful of institutions conducting research on education in sub-Saharan Africa, has made substantive contributions to the understanding barriers to schooling, quality in teaching, and measurement of
learning outcomes – especially among poor and marginalized populations in both urban and rural East Africa. Intervention models piloted during the last strategic period looked to improve retention of adolescent girls and boys in school and to encourage transition to secondary school among some of the populations most vulnerable to discontinued schooling: residents of urban slums.

There are, however, huge gaps that remain in understanding the role of quality education in meeting the development challenges confronting sub-Saharan Africa, and the extent to which education, vocational training and skills building can contribute to substantive and quality human capital to deliver on the promise of a demographic dividend. We need better understanding of what is needed to build the necessary human capital in order to fully
harness the potential of Africa’s young people to meet development goals. This calls for a broadening of the research agenda beyond basic formal education to other forms of training aimed to build the skills of young people as they prepare for the world of work.

The overarching goal of this Unit is to generate evidence that will promote stronger, more inclusive education systems across Africa, in three programmatic areas:

The signature issue for this Unit is understanding how to make Africa’s education systems more inclusive and equitable. We will seek to consolidate evidence on access to schooling and quality of learning among marginalized populations and explore the influences of management and administrative practices in schools. This includes developing and evaluating interventions and instructional approaches for improving quality and learning outcomes.

The unit will also aim to understand pathways to productive human capital in Africa by examining structural enablers in the transition from education and training to the world of work for youth, and the match (or mismatch)
between skills required in the labor market and skills output from existing education systems.

The third program of work will examine the alignment of education policies to national development goals. This will entail an analysis of education policies in sub-Saharan African countries for concurrence, contradictions, duplications and overlaps, and relevance to national and global development goals. Working with the Research Capacity Strengthening division, this program will also examine the role and contribution of higher education to
national development in Africa.

Featured Project

From Evidence to Policy and Practice: Improving Urban Education in East Africa

Program: Education and Youth Empowerment

This is the second phase of the urban Education project that seeks to ensure improved access to quality education for children living in the urban informal settlements through evidence-based advocacy in three countries in East Africa – Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. In the three countries, basic education is a right that is safeguarded by each country’s constitution. However, in the era of urbanization, children living in urban poor populations are increasingly being left out – excluded.  For instance, in Kenya, one in every two children in urban informal settlements are enrolled in low-cost private schools that do not benefit from government programs such as free primary education.

Following this, the first phase of the project created a strong voice among state and non-state education stakeholders on the need to focus on the education of urban poor, more so access to quality education as envisioned by the sustainable development goal 4. This was made possible by working in close collaboration with national education coalitions in each country: Elimu Yetu Coalition (EYC) in Kenya, IDAY in Uganda and Tanzania Education Network (TenMet) in Tanzania.

The second phase aims at consolidating existing evidence as well as conducting population and education projections in order to gauge the future demand for education in the context of urbanization in East Africa and as evidence tool for engagement. This will provide evidence to inform effective medium and long-term planning of education provision among the urban poor populations in East Africa. In particular, the project will utilize existing evidence and the projections to engage state and non- state policy stakeholders in order for them to plan adequately on how to provide access to quality basic education to all the children living in urban spaces.

PROJECT PERIOD: October 2017 –October 2019


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