Education Development Trust response to International Development Committee inquiry “Humanitarian crises monitoring” considering the impact of coronavirus on developing countries around the world and the UK’s response


  1. Education Development Trust (EdDevTrust) is a leading education not-for-profit organisation, with over 50 years’ experience of improving educational outcomes internationally. Serving governments and donors, we have worked in over 90 countries to improve the life chances of children and young people through transforming education. Established in 1968, we are proud to employ a rich mix of educationalists and responsive teams of delivery experts to address the challenging needs of clients globally. We deliver programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, South-East Asia and the United Kingdom, and combine our on-the-ground insight with international best practice to improve education systems and transform lives around the world. We are a key supplier of educational services funded by UKAid, with our DFID-funded work equivalent to around £25m annually.


  1. EdDevTrust is submitting evidence on “longer term issues, implications and lessons to be learnt” in relation to four of the areas identified in the scope of the inquiry, namely:



  1. Summary of key messages and recommendations for the UK Government


3.1  Key message: Education must form a core part of global responses to Covid-19 to mitigate long-term negative economic, social and public health impacts.


The UK Government and DFID should:



3.2  #1: While the use of ed-tech is a very important factor in ensuring education continuity, it is not a panacea: low-tech and no-tech responses will be critical to maintaining education provision in some contexts and ensuring the learning crisis is not worsened.


DFID should:



3.3 #2: The aid sector will need to consider how to maximise impact within the constraints of shrinking budgets, mobilising the existing workforce across sectors on innovative projects and approaches.


DFID should:



3.4 #3: Consider the longer-term impact school closures will have on Sub-Saharan Africa and how education systems will need to respond.


The UK Government and DFID should:




  1. Key message: Education must form a core part of global responses to Covid-19 to mitigate long-term negative economic, social and public health impacts.


4.1  Areas of the inquiry:


      4.2 Missed schooling is likely to result in profound economic impacts. Drawing on extensive previous research, World Bank education economists have estimated the impact of missed schooling due to Covid-19 on future earnings. They conclude that every four months of lost schooling results in a 2.5% loss in future earnings over a student’s working life. Applied to the US school-age population, the future nationwide earnings loss would total US$2.5 trillion, or 12.7% of annual GDP. Extrapolating these figures internationally (on the assumption that the US economy represents about a quarter of global output), the global economy could lose around US$10 trillion as a result of four months of school closures.[1] If schools are closed for longer and effective means of supporting remote learning are not put in place, such losses could be substantially higher.


.3 This underlines the need for education to be considered as part of both immediate and longer-term responses to Covid-19. Over the last 15 years, the education in emergencies community has successfully advocated for education to be considered a core part of humanitarian crisis response and funding, as opposed to being considered only in post-crisis moves to longer-term development. This resulted in the creation of the Education Cluster to uphold education as a basic human right and a core component of humanitarian responses, and an increase in the percentage of the humanitarian budget spent on education. This approach must now be taken in the response to Covid-19.


4.4               School closures are impacting over 90% of the world’s children and young people.[2] In a previous epidemic – the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa the Global Business Coalition for Education outlined three important crisis responses for the education sector:


  1. Emergency provision whilst schools are closed;
  2. Safe reopening of schools;
  3. Sustaining safe schools and healthy communities where learning can take place.


These responses are applicable to any public health crisis and highlight the need for the education sector to be involved in both emergency provision and post-crisis recovery.


4.5 The UK Government and DFID should therefore:



Below, we outline three important considerations for DFID in looking at Covid-19 support to the education sector.


5.               #1: While the use of ed-tech is a very important factor in ensuring education continuity, it is not a panacea: low-tech and no-tech responses will be critical to maintaining education provision in some contexts to ensure the learning crisis is not worsened.


5.1 Area of the inquiry:


5.2 Digital learning, while significant, is being adopted far more by schools and governments in high-income countries where a greater proportion of the population has access to computers, tablets, smartphones and connectivity than those in low- and middle-income countries. While nearly 70% of countries worldwide have introduced a national distance learning platform, only 30% of low-income countries have done so.[3]


5.3 The Young Lives study of childhood poverty, following the lives of 12,000 children in Ethiopia, Peru, Vietnam, and the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, demonstrates how internet access is not evenly distributed, with large disparities between rich and poor households, between urban and rural households, and in India, between girls and boys.[4] Such inequalities mean that digital learning is not always possible: disadvantaged students are unlikely to have access to high-tech solutions.[5] The experiences of some of the adolescent girls that EdDevTrust is supporting in Kenya illustrate this challenge. Sharon, a Grade 8 student in an informal settlement in Nairobi, stated:


“Staying and learning at home is not easy. I’m very worried because I’m in Grade 8 and we are supposed to prepare for exams. For me, I can only learn better when I’m in school. I also cannot learn through the internet because we are not connected. My father was a lorry driver, but he has not been going to work for some time now. It is very difficult for him to buy books and sometimes even food.”


5.4              Such unequal access to technological solutions is likely to disproportionately impact learning outcomes for disadvantaged groups, if low-tech or no-tech approaches are not also considered. The EdTech Hub has warned against transitioning the most marginalised students to digital learning over the next six-to-twelve months, stating that is unlikely to lead to scalable outcomes.[6]


5.5              Consideration needs to be given to the different ways that learning can happen remotely and innovatively, not only through digital learning, but also through educational television, interactive radio instruction, and the provision of physical learning materials.


5.6              For example, in EdDevTrust’s Building Learning Foundations programme, we have worked with the Government of Rwanda to ensure education can continue for over 2.6 million learners during school closures, through radio broadcasts.


Educational radio in EdDevTrust’s UKAid-funded Building Learning Foundations (BLF) programme


In Rwanda, our BLF programme has rapidly adapted to help support children learning remotely while schools are closed. Radio is the most popular and accessible source of information in Rwanda, used by over 98% of the population. It is an especially helpful means of getting information to remote and rural areas, where few households have reliable internet access or devices such as laptops. Radio broadcasts of lessons offer a much more inclusive and accessible model than high-tech learning solutions.


In response to a request from the Rwanda Education Board, the BLF team’s expert content developers have produced thirty scripts for English and maths lessons for pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 grades. In collaboration with UNICEF and the Rwanda Education Board, these lessons, which are aligned with the national curriculum, are aired on five radio stations every week. Each lesson is approximately 20 minutes long and focuses on interactive learning. The lessons are designed in such a way that students can participate independently, but parents or caregivers can listen in and support learning at home. The lessons are currently reaching over 2.6 million learners.



5.7 A recent evidence review of best practice in pedagogy for remote teaching, undertaken by EdDevTrust on behalf of the EdTech Hub, found that for learners to thrive when studying remotely, it is important to develop and maintain ‘teaching presence’, even where centralised provisions, such as broadcasts, are in place.[7] Indeed, centralised education provision supported by the ‘presence’ of local teachers may be a very powerful combination in ensuring engagement with remote learning. Such ‘presence’ can and should be facilitated through technological solutions (which can sometimes be associated with primarily student-led approaches), although it is also possible to establish teacher presence without online learning. Similarly, the Education Endowment Foundation’s evidence review on supporting students to learn remotely highlighted how teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered.[8] We are helping to facilitate such ‘teacher presence’ in our programmes for example, in schools in Mombasa, Kenya, we are using WhatsApp to facilitate continued learning, with high levels of teacher involvement and interactions with parents.


Parent-teacher partnerships using WhatsApp for education continuity in Kenya


In an informal settlement in Mombasa, teachers and parents from eight primary schools have formed a joint WhatsApp-based e-learning platform to facilitate learning for pupils.


Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (WWW) [Let Our Girls Succeed] Senior Coach, Mariam Said, mobilised the teachers in these schools, who then contacted parents to discuss how they could help pupils to continue learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project is funded by UKAid under the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) and is implemented by a consortium led by EdDevTrust.


The teachers and parents agreed to form separate groups for each level of instruction: Grades 6, 7 and 8. Parents were then added to the relevant group for their child. The teachers share learning resources and revision exercises (mainly in mathematics and English) for parents to download or print. Parents supervise their children through the exercises, after which they mark the scripts using corresponding marking schemes sent by the teachers.


If parents and children face any learning challenges, they can directly contact their respective teachers, who record and share explanations of how to handle specific challenges.


5.8    To help ensure educational continuity, DFID should:



  1. #2: The aid sector will need to consider how to maximise impact within the constraints of shrinking budgets, mobilising the existing workforce across sectors on innovative projects and approaches.


6.1  Area of the inquiry:


6.2  The aid sector can draw on examples of promising practices in cross-sectoral working, both in the rapid innovations and adaptations of governments and organisations in the face of Covid-19, and in lessons from past epidemics, such as the Ebola crisis in West Africa.


6.3               In the education response to Ebola, there were strong examples of how the sector embraced working in a more multi-disciplinary way. In Sierra Leone, for example, around 7,000 teachers were redeployed to disease control and social mobilisation activities, while in Liberia, around 18% of teachers were involved in social mobilisation and health awareness workshops within their communities.[9] In the DRC, UNICEF trained a small number of women, including teachers, as psycho-social assistants.[10] Schools were also given additional responsibilities to help raise both teacher and student awareness of disease-related learning, the importance of good hand-washing, and other measures to mitigate the transmission of the disease in and beyond schools.[11] In Sierra Leone, some school sites were turned into community-based care centres, although this was met with resentment amongst teachers and pupils.[12]


6.4               With smaller overall aid budgets, it will be important to think creatively about how integrated services and more cohesive working across governments and donors can result in a more coordinated and value-for-money response. The health, education and social welfare sectors have traditionally worked in silos, as have their respective technical advisors within donor agencies. The DFID Nigeria office stands out as a counterexample of working together on more integrated programming. The Covid-19 response represents a critical juncture to disrupt traditional ways of working, to think more innovatively, and to mainstream the practices of the DFID Nigeria office.


6.5               As argued in a recent evidence review on efforts to mitigate the negative educational impact of past disease outbreaks, undertaken by EdDevTrust for DFID,[13] it is important that cross-sectoral working does not only redeploy education staff and resources to support healthcare (as in the rapid onset of the Ebola crisis), but also mobilises health resources and personnel to support learning continuity. EdDevTrust’s current work in Kenya demonstrates a good example of this working in practice.


Health and education workers collaborating to support radio learning Marsabit County in Kenya


In EdDevTrust’s Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu (WWW) [Let Our Girls Succeed] project (part of the UKAid-funded GEC), we have mobilised our network of instructional coaches, field officers, and Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) to reach out to girls during the Covid-19 pandemic. These networks help to make pupils and their parents aware of the learning programmes being delivered by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and are set to help provide solar radios to help more girls to access educational broadcasts. Timetables for the radio programmes have been printed and shared in strategic locations and shared on social media to help spread awareness further.


The project uses cross-sectoral working to help to monitor student engagement with this remote learning provision. Instructional coaches contact parents by phone to check in on pupil’s participation, and CHVs visit households and speak to parents and pupils, asking similar questions. Data from both sources is compiled on a weekly basis to monitor engagement. To date, the campaign has reached over 800 pupils, of which 75% are girls.


      6.6 Under the constraints of increasingly limited aid budgets, it is also important to consider how DFID could work in new ways to leverage existing country education resources. Most education systems allocate significant budgets for the wider education workforce (such as district officials), but the latest research from the Education Commission’s Education Workforce Initiative, which EdDevTrust supported, finds that this wider workforce is underutilised. It calls for policymakers to pay much more attention to the impact that a stronger wider workforce would have on learning outcomes.[14] There is potential here for DFID to offer high value-for-money technical assistance to improve the effectiveness of these wider roles and leverage them for increased impact.


6.7  DFID should:



  1. #3: Consider the longer-term impact school closures will have on Sub-Saharan Africa and how education systems will need to respond.


7.1 Area of the inquiry:


7.2 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that as a result of Covid-19, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 will be -1.6%, the lowest level on record. Lockdown and social distancing severely threaten the livelihoods of vulnerable people with limited social safety nets available. This is further compounded in East Africa, where the locust invasion is devastating crops. As a result, both the IMF and the OECD have called for international solidarity on external financing on grant and concessional terms.[15]


7.3 As the international Covid-19 response moves from immediate health system responses and disease containment, to mitigating secondary effects[16] and potential further waves of infection, it is vitally important that education is considered as an integrated part of the response. This has not been the case in previous epidemics: evidence from UNICEF showed that only 11% of UNICEF’s budget for the Ebola crisis was spent on education, compared to 35% for health and 17% for water, sanitation and hygiene.[17]


7.4              In addition to the general impact of Covid-19 on children (including ill health, economic hardship and malnutrition),[18] we must also consider the longer-term impact of school closures on the future learning and employability prospects of young people. This includes:




7.5 To mitigate these secondary impacts of school closures, there should be consideration of appropriate psychosocial support measures and informative campaigns to help students manage their mental, physical and sexual health. It may also be helpful to continue conditional cash transfers to encourage families to keep children – especially girls – in education, preventing early marriage and school dropouts.[20]


7.6 UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report argues that the world should have been more prepared for a global pandemic, given that one typically occurs every 10 to 50 years. Following the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, the World Health Organization reported that closing schools “can reduce the demand for healthcare by an estimated 30-50% at the peak of the pandemic”.[21] This highlights the need for education sector planners to prepare for interruptions to education as a result of pandemics, rather than to respond, albeit admirably, only at the onset of a major outbreak.[22]


7.7 There are likely to be future waves of increased infection of Covid-19: this requires governments to build resilience and flexibility into the education sector, to enable it to support potential cycles of schools opening and closing. Doing so will enable education systems to adapt and flex to provide some learning continuity and help mitigate the secondary impacts of the pandemic, even if schools are closed for substantial periods.


7.8 The UK Government and DFID should:







[3] United Nations (2020). Policy Brief: The Impact of Covid-19 on Children.


[5] See also United Nations (2020). Telecommunication Development Bureau Statistics. which shows that digital access in all countries is closely connected to household socio-economic advantage and


[7] McAleavy, T. and Gorgen, K. (2020). Overview of emerging country level response to providing educational continuity under COVID-19: Best practice in pedagogy for remote teaching. EdTech hub.


[9] Santos, R. and Novelli, M. (2017). The Effect of the Ebola Crisis on the Education System’s Contribution to Post-Conflict Sustainable Peacebuilding in Liberia. Centre for International Education, University of Sussex. report_march2017_lowres.pdf

[10] Alcayna-Stevens, L. (2018). Planning for Post-Ebola Lessons Learned from DR Congo’s 9th Epidemic. UNICEF.

[11] USAID (2020). Covid-19 and Education: Initial Insights for Preparedness, Planning and Response.

[12] Oosterhoff, P., Mokuwa, E. Y. and Wilkinson, A. (2015). Community-Based Ebola Care Centres: A formative evaluation.

[13] Hallgarten, J. (2020). Evidence on efforts to mitigate the negative educational impact of past disease outbreaks. K4D Helpdesk Report 793.

[14] Education Commission (2019). Transforming the Education Workforce: Learning Teams for a Learning Generation.

[15] Ibid and


[17] UNICEF (2017). Evaluation of UNICEF’s response to the Ebola outbreak. p.5.

[18] United Nations (2020). Policy Brief: The Impact of Covid-19 on Children.

[19] Kassa, G., Arowojolu, A. Odukogbe, A. and Alemayehu, W. (2018). Prevalence and determinants of adolescent pregnancy in Africa: a systematic review and Meta-analysis. Reproductive Health. 15.

[20] McQueston, K., Rachel Silverman,R., Glassman, A. (2012). Adolescent Fertility in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Effects and Solutions. CGD Working Paper 295. Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development.