Author: Ghebremedhin Haile
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The Donkey for School Project is implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare (MoLHW) in close collaboration with UNICEF and other government partners. The Swiss Committee for UNICEF provided a financial grant of USD 775,960. The overall goal of this project is to improve the social protection of children through access to basic social services, enhance and increase income levels of an initial 870 vulnerable households through the provision of:
(i) 870 children access to schools, especially hard to reach girl children and those physically challenged with disabilities in 30 communities/kebabis; and
(ii) 870 vulnerable households with 870 donkeys, and household income levels increased by 15 percent.
The project’s implementation period is from July 2009 to December 2011. This evaluation is jointly commissioned by UNICEF and the MoLHW, and is conducted by an independent consultant.
The objective of the evaluation is to assess project achievements, relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability. The intended audience of the evaluation includes UNICEF, the Swiss Committee for UNICEF, MoLHW, Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Information (MoI), local administration offices in the six regions, and Child Wellbeing Committees (CWCs).
The evaluation was conducted in a participatory manner involving all stakeholders using both quantitative and qualitative research instruments. A total of 283 sample respondents (32% of the total project beneficiaries) were covered by the quantitative survey in 28 sub-regions of the six regions. A structured questionnaire was developed and administered to interview household heads together with their supported children. The qualitative survey was conducted through key informant interviews and focus group discussions held at central, regional, sub-regional levels involving a total of 211 participants in all the six regions. A summary of the main findings, conclusions and key recommendations is presented as follows.
Findings and Conclusions:
Overall, the project has succeeded in generating most of the expected results as planned and is on track to deliver the remaining results. By distributing 875 donkeys and accessories, it has slightly exceeded its initial plan of helping 870 vulnerable children. Moreover, the project has effectively addressed the children’s mobility problems with locally available resources - donkeys and accessories which are both appropriate and affordable.
As the beneficiaries have received the donkey support in 2009 and 2010, it would be premature to expect major socio-economic impacts being generated by the project at the time of the evaluation. However, by providing donkeys to vulnerable households, the project has reduced their domestic burden especially for those who live in the rural areas. The most significant educational impacts of the support include increased school enrolment, reduced dropouts, and improved attendance which in turn contributed to improved academic performance.
The children interviewed as key informants said that they were on average missing one or two school days per week prior to the project and this has tremendously declined after the support. Of the total children with disability, 84% claimed to have not been absent from school in the past two weeks before the survey. Average travel time taken by children with disability to reach school is reduced by almost one-half, i.e., from 65 minutes to 35 minutes, which allowed them to be in school on time and properly follow their lessons.
The survey further showed that average mark of sampled beneficiary children increased from 67% before the support to 70% after the support. Although this improvement cannot be entirely attributed to the project, improved morale as a result of the support as well as their timely arrival at school due to reduced travel time appears to have made some positive impact on the children’s academic performance.
A very high percentage (92.5%) of the children supported by the project were attending school at the time of the survey, and this can be taken as a proxy indicator of the project’s impact in terms of motivating children with disability to continue their education as well as encouraging parents to send their children living with disability to school. Note that the main reasons given by children with disability for being dropouts are mobility problem and illness.
Moreover, the project eased the burdensome household chores for beneficiary households. Prior to the support, the majority of households were greatly dependent on human labour to fetch water (55%) and fire wood (60%) from far places. But now, a large percentage of the supported households are using the donkeys provided by the project to fetch water (87%) and firewood (60.3%). Since fetching water is primarily the responsibility of women and children (94%), these members of the beneficiary households gained more from the initiative.
The economic impact of the project was limited to a small amount of additional income earned from the sale of fire wood and forest products, and renting the donkeys. Increase in income has been constrained mainly due to the short life span of the project (2 years) and limited income generating opportunities in the rural areas that can be exploited by employing a donkey.
Community awareness about the rights of children with disability to basic social services has improved, though this positive change cannot be entirely attributed to the project. As a result of increased awareness, the vast majority (81.6% male and 87.3% female) of the respondents confirmed that they give high value to education of children with disability. The perception of children with disability about the value the society gives to their education was also positive. Nine out of ten children with disability said that their families give high value to their education with no variation between male and female respondents. Most children with disability claimed to have received some kind of assistance mainly moral support from their classmates, teachers, school administration and Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).
To contribute towards the national efforts of making school environment more friendly and responsive to the needs of vulnerable children, the project financed training of 787 teachers to improve their knowledge and skills on how to help children with special needs. In addition, learning materials targeting vulnerable children are imported by the project and are expected to be distributed shortly to the beneficiary schools.
The project also enhanced the human and institutional capacity of the Ministry of Health in the area of Injury Surveillance System (ISS). The Ministry has successfully piloted the ISS in Zoba Maekel, and will soon be replicated in two other regions- Debub and Gash Barka.
The participatory approach followed by the MoLHW and its partners in implementing the project using existing government system rather than establishing a parallel structure resulted in improved project efficiency. By allowing communities to take part in project implementation and follow up, the project increased communities’ sense of ownership, which is an essential prerequisite for project sustainability. However, collaboration and coordination among project partners has been less effective. The coordination mechanism that was initially put in place to facilitate joint planning, supervision, monitoring and review did not work as planned. Mobility problems caused by shortage of transport facilities, increase in the cost of donkeys and accessories in some zobas, shortage of qualified staff on the part of government partners have affected project efficiency.
1. Avail additional resources to scale up the project so that an increasing number of children with disability could be assisted.
2. Put enough contingency in preparing budget proposals in future so that risks associated with increases in cost of donkeys and accessories could be easily mitigated.
3. Provide children with disability with school materials, school bags and crutches to solve their mobility problems and also boost their morale.
4. Ensure timely supply of good quality accessories by overseeing purchase of accessories at the head office level and developing detailed technical specifications.
5. Intensify community sensitization and awareness raising activities about child rights in general and the rights of children living with disability in particular.
6. Ensure that Community Based Rehabilitation Workers (CBRWs) remain motivated by providing them with additional trainings and refresher courses.
7. Make school infrastructure friendly to children with disability, provide pre-service and continue in-service training to teachers on inclusive education. Expand provision of learning aids to schools to improve learning environment for children with disability.
8. Strengthen coordination and collaboration among project partners especially in relation to joint planning, supervision, reviews, monitoring and evaluation.
Lessons Learned (Optional):
• The project has produced encouraging impact on the schooling of the supported children. However, as most of the donkey distribution (79%) was done in 2010, the time that has elapsed since the start of the project is not enough for significant impact to occur, especially economic.
• The absence of baseline data has made impact assessment exercise more challenging as there were no benchmarks against which evaluation results could be compared to determine the magnitude of changes generated by the project.
• The use of donkeys as a means of transport by children with disability especially girls was more visible in the rural areas. Those who live in urban areas prefer other means of transportation such as bicycle and wheelchair.
• Community awareness activities appear to be more effective in areas where education levels of the general population are higher such as in urban areas. Attitude of communities towards the education of girls with disability is less positive compared to boys with disability, and this is better in the highlands and among the young population with better education.
• The involvement of CBRWs, village administrations and village elders has improved project implementation. They have played an important role in identifying the neediest children and the most vulnerable households. As they have almost complete knowledge of their respective communities, it is practically difficult for families to hide a child with disability at home and keep him out of the educational system.
• Procurement of donkeys is done with the direct involvement of the beneficiaries or their designee, village administration and three eye witnesses. The process was carried out in a transparent manner with the responsibility of selecting a donkey being left to the beneficiary, and this was assessed as one of the merits of the project.
• Those who bought female donkeys appear to benefit more from the support due to the reproductive potential of the donkey, which has already happened for some families
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