2005 ESARO Regional [Eastern & Southern Africa]: Evaluation of the role of UNICEF in Education Sector Wide Approaches in Eastern and Southern Africa: Business as Usual or Making a Difference…?
Author: Virtue, J.
The need for this evaluation originated at the ESARO Education SWAp Workshop in Nairobi in August 2003.
The adoption of sector-wide approaches in education (and other sectors, particularly health) is more prevalent in Africa than anywhere else. In countries in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) it is particularly prevalent. A number of countries in the region began developing SWAps in the mid to late 1990’s and other countries have adopted the approach since. Some of these countries are relatively advanced in using SWAp and more countries are currently initiating SWAps. With the benefit of experiences elsewhere, coupled with associated national reform processes and the new aid agenda, the pace of developing and adopting SWAps is increasing. It is very unlikely that this trend will be reversed.
Against this background, it is widely understood, both internally and amongst external partners (Governments and other Development Partners), that SWAps present considerable challenges for UNICEF. The organisation has generally been good at identifying the most pressing challenges. It has also identified opportunities for engagement and its value added in SWAps, much of which seems appropriate.
The overall objective is to assess the effectiveness of UNICEF's engagement in education SWAps in the region, highlight good practice, and make recommendations on improving effectiveness.
The study was undertaken through a combination of discussions with UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) staff, one week visits to seven countries in the region between July and September 2005 (Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda), and document review.
At country level, discussions were held with UNICEF staff and a wide range of stakeholders including Government staff (at central and decentralized levels), representatives from Development Partner agencies and NGO’s, and communities. In total, 216 people were consulted. Numbers by type of organisation and country are provided in Annex 1. Discussions were undertaken through a combination of individual/small meetings and larger group meetings. This included, where possible, observing some regular meetings/forums, for example UNICEF management meetings and Development Partner coordination meetings. Where time and logistics permitted, a short (usually half day) field visit was undertaken to a UNICEF supported project. Discussions were semi-structured around key areas. This provided focus, enabled comparison of information and also facilitated open and flexible discussion.
A large number of relevant documents were obtained and reviewed including: UNICEF global and regional policy, strategy, planning and procedures documents; UNICEF country strategy, programme/project and review documents; Government policy, planning and review documents; Other Development Partner planning and review documents; Other related reports/studies.
Findings and Conclusions:
o Insufficient external understanding of UNICEF position and approaches to SWAp and ‘the new aid environment’. There is a risk of negative perceptions, misunderstanding and loss of credibility.
o Insufficient internal understanding, in particular at country level, of UNICEF position on SWAps in terms of what UNICEF should/should not and can/cannot do.
Country Policy and Programme
o In some countries, supporting too many policy areas is compromising the achievement of key results. Working in too many areas can distort Government policy and restrict staff capacity to engage effectively.
o Too much project implementation is a burden on Government and is severely restricting staff capacity to effectively engage in policy development and advocacy. This militates against achieving key results and there is a risk of negative external perceptions and loss of credibility.
Programming and Procedures
o Intensive and time consuming programming planning and review procedures are a burden on Government, limit meaningful participation, and restrict staff capacity to engage in other work, in particular policy development and advocacy.
o Parallel, intensive and time consuming project and financial management procedures are a burden on Government, compromise Government accountability, and are severely restricting staff capacity to effectively engage in policy development and advocacy.
o Insufficient skills and expertise in high quality evidence based evaluation, lesson learning and documentation, is restricting effective policy advocacy and scaling up.
o Insufficient capacity, skills, knowledge and experience at regional level* in key areas relevant to SWAp (outlined in section 10.2) is restricting effective engagement.
o Insufficient capacity, skills, knowledge and experience at country level in key areas relevant to SWAp (outlined in section 10.2) is restricting effective engagement.
o Produce a comprehensive paper for external consumption summarizing UNICEF’s position, including key commitments related to ways in which UNICEF will work within SWAps and the new aid environment.
o Systematic engagement in high level discussions with Governments and Development Partners, including through UNDG where appropriate.
o Revise SWAp guidance in 2006. Guidance should ensure clarification on key issues including how to operate within SWAps (key issues, including the use of pooled funding are identified in this study).
Country Policy and Programme
o Where necessary, reduce scope of policy development support.
o Reduce project implementation by reducing the scope of projects. Including through more selective piloting in terms of focus and coverage, and developing exit strategies.
o Further simplification of programming based on the principle of using Government documents and processes as far as possible. Move forward with existing UNDG harmonization and alignment plans in these areas, e.g. UNDAF harmonization.
o Introduce framework for cash transfers as soon as possible in 2006 in all countries (subject to agreement on timing with Government and other UNDG agencies).
o Ongoing review of procedures and consideration of selective use of pooled funding mechanisms.
o Reduce scope of project implementation (see above).
o Strengthening HR capacity particularly at the regional office level;
o Selective recruitment focusing on areas that cannot be quickly developed in existing staff (policy development, sector analysis, ECD, gender analysis);
o Capacity development in key areas (policy development, strategic planning, education finance, sector analysis, HIV/AIDS, quality in education, education in emergencies, and gender mainstreaming).
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