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2012 Sierra Leone: Evaluation of UNICEF role as a Lead Partner in Education



Author: Anna Haas

Executive summary

"With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is "Outstanding, Best Practice", "Highly Satisfactory", "Mostly Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory" before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labeled as 'Part 2' of the report."

Background:

This evaluation assesses UNICEFs role as Lead Partner in the coordination of the education sector in Sierra Leone. The longstanding presence and convening role played by UNICEF in the sector led to the appointment of the Agency as Lead Partner in 2005. The main purpose of the evaluation is to take stock of UNICEFs performance as Lead Partner since the launch of the Education Sector Plan in 2007. While the evaluation includes a summative element to assess the performance of the Lead Partner, the evaluation is primarily formative in nature. This means that the central rationale is to learn from past experiences and provide guidance for how UNICEF can best fulfill its role as Lead Partner in the years to come.

Methodology:

In accordance with the Terms of Reference (TOR), the evaluation examined four main areas, including the relevance, effectiveness, risks and benefits of UNICEFs role as Lead Partner. A mixed set of methods was used to generate and analyse data on the role of the Lead Partner. The main source of data was a series of interviews with 22 key stakeholders in the education sector in Sierra Leone including representatives from the Ministry of Education, bilateral donors, multilateral agencies and international NGOs. This was supported and complemented by a review of relevant documenation and observations at the 2012 Annual Education Sector Review. The evaluation was commissioned by UNICEF Sierra Leone and spanned a period of six weeks work for one person.

Findings and Conclusions:

The overarching conclusion of the evaluation is that the Lead Partner is largely fit for purpose and has, bearing the major contextual constraints in mind, successfully fostered stronger coordination of the education sector over the past five years. Key achievements include UNICEFs crucial role in establishing, chairing and managing the Education Development Partner (EDP) Group, as well as the Lead Partner’s constant insistence on government involvement and control of the sector. There is strong endorsement from stakeholders of the Lead Partner’s focus on capacity development of the Ministry of Education and great appreciation for UNICEFs investments in producing more quantitative data on children and education in Sierra Leone.

The case for UNICEF to be the Lead Partner in the education sector has been, and continues to be, very strong. Above all, UNICEF has a number of comparative advantages, including longstanding presence in the country, strong technical expertise and close relationship with the Ministry of Education. The Agency’s unique position in the sector is further reinforced by the limited presence of education specialists among other multilateral and bilateral donor agencies. Identified benefits for UNICEF of being Lead Partner include visibility, easy access to information and staff and easiness for the Agency to make important statements.

At the same time, to achieve the full potential of the Lead Partner, the evaluation identifies some areas for improvement. While the objectives of the EDP Group are comprehensive and have been specified in the TORs for the Group, the formal roles of the Lead Partner are far less comprehensive. The evaluation finds that this lack of clarity in the formal roles and responsibilities of the Lead Partner adds to the informal character of some parts of the coordination of the education sector. Further, one group of partners express an interest in a more ambitious agenda for the coordination of the sector and hence sees room for improvement in the work of the Lead Partner. Areas identified by partners include better integration of the work of all stakeholders in the regular planning and monitoring of the Education Sector Plan and more active fostering of education policy discussions.

Recommendations:

The findings in this evaluation results in the following key recommendations for the role of the Lead Partner:

1. To suggest a revision of the TORs for the EDP Group in which the roles and responsibilities of the Lead Partner are better defined in relation to the overall objectives of the EDP Group.

2. To give high priority to support the strengthening of the planning and monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of the Education Sector Plan, as this is the basis for better coordination of the work of all major actors in the sector.

3. A stronger role for the Lead Partner in assisting the Ministry of Education in monitoring disbursements of all external funds supporting the implementation of the Education Sector Plan.

4. To consolidate and expand the Lead Partner’s collaboration with INGOs for better coordination of education sector work at the district level.

5. The Ministry of Education and the Lead Partner should together make sure that every district has at least one strong partner to work with.

6. To foster stronger policy discussions within the EDP Group and to move away from discussing detailed grant implementation issues at the EDP Group meetings.

7. To take the lead in harmonising levels of fees and per diems used by partners for participation in national workshops and training activities.

8. Continue to focus on capacity development of the Ministry of Education as an important measure to reduce risks linked to the governance, management and financing of the education system.

9. Continue to invest in data on education and children as an important measure to address risks linked to poverty and inequalities.

10. Conduct a thorough risk assessment of the likely upcoming funding from the Global Partnership for Education, including measures to manage implementation risks with clearly defined responsibilities for the parties involved.



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