Post-MDG 2: Bringing the “last mile” children into our schools


Millennium Development Goals: 2015 Progress Chart
Published articles to date: Introduction | MDG 1 | MDG 2 | MDG 3 | MDG 4

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The United Nations recently issued The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015, the latest assessment of progress towards the eight MDGs. In short, they have had mixed results. This article is part of a blog series reflecting on the MDGs and the U.N. report. These are produced in partnership with our colleagues at RESULTS (our parent organization).

MDG 2 is focused on primary school enrollment for children everywhere, including the poorest of the poor. The children of tens of millions microfinance clients may be some of the “last milers” still left behind, still excluded from primary school, and many MFIs are actively working to solve the access gap in their own corner of the world. For example, ESAF Microfinance (India) has just launched a Commitment to reach at least 2,000 children with educational programs for academic growth and value education. Fafidess (Guatemala) committed to offer education loans to their clients.

>>Authored by William C. Smith, Right to Education Index Senior Associate, RESULTS Educational Fund

Millennium Development Goal Achievements

Target 2.A: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

MDG 2 - Global out-of-school children of primary school age & Primary school net enrollment rate in sub-Saharan Africa

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

During the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period, the world saw a huge surge in the number of students enrolled in primary school. In 2015, an estimated 91 percent of all primary age students are enrolled in primary school with the largest increases in enrollment over the 15-year period found in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Worldwide, this impressive expansion in access has cut the number of out-of-school children by approximately half, from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015. This is especially impressive when seen in light of the rapidly expanding growth rate of the primary-school-age population in many regions.

Although the world fell short of the MDG 2 target, the growth in enrollment over the 15-year MDG period outpaced the decade before 2000, ensuring that a greater number of children have access to the education essential to their well-being and that of the wider community. These results clearly indicate that when attention and resources are strategically directed they can make a difference.

Equity Concerns

As impressive and important as the rapid expansion from the MDG period was, there are several concerns as the world moves beyond the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also referred to as the “Global Goals”). While MDG 2 focused on universal enrollment in primary education the education, SDG (#4) attempts to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The general shift from access to quality makes one wonder, who will be left behind? As the SDGs move forward, emphasis on the goals last two words “for all” is essential. Unfortunately, bringing the final 9 percent of students, the last milers, into school is challenging and expensive. Recent trends suggest that as the world moves forward to address the differences in student achievement and education quality, those left behind by our inability to completely close the access gap are further disadvantaged.

The challenge of reaching the last milers is illustrated by the stagnating global enrollment rate. Between 2000 and 2007 the global primary net enrollment rate quickly increased from 83 percent to 90 percent. Over the last seven years, however, the rate moved slightly from 90 percent to 91 percent. The missing 9 percent represent 57 million primary age children out of school.

Based on estimates made in 2012, 43 percent of these 57 million children are expected to never go to school. Identifying who these children are and including them in the education system is paramount to reaching the SDGs.

The Last Milers

The last milers represent students that have yet to be included in the rapid expansion of education from the MDGs. The number of last milers are difficult to calculate as they are at times invisible to society and living in extreme poverty.

Number of out-of-school children of primary school age, selected regions, 1990-2015 (millions)

From The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015

Surveys suggest that these remaining out-of-school children are more likely to be female, live in a rural setting, or have a disability. Students in the poorest quintile are less likely to enroll in school or complete school if they do.

For example, while 9 percent of primary age children overall are not enrolled in primary school, 22 percent of children in the poorest quintile remain out of school. And, of those who do enter primary school, nearly 35 percent of children in the poorest quintile do not complete primary school. For the poorest 20 percent of children worldwide, this means that for every child in school, his or her sibling will not complete primary school while nearly 90 percent of children in the wealthiest 20 percent move onto secondary school.

Accessing education may be increasingly challenging for children in poor families in some areas. Countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana have seen a sharp increase in private schools that price these families out of education. When national governments abdicate responsibility and see private education as a substitution for public education, the well-researched equity concerns with private education are likely to leave the last milers on the outside looking in.

In addition to the groups mentioned above, children in conflict areas and children of refugees are especially struggling to enjoy the benefits of education. For example, the conflict in Syria not only reduced the enrollment rates of children in the country, but refugees that fled Syria found education in refugee camps sparse. Estimates from refugee camps in Lebanon from 2013 place the enrollment rate of children at approximately 12 percent, a sharp contrast from the 91 percent global number.

Collective Will

Ensuring that the last milers have access to education is a challenge to our collective will. The remaining 9 percent represent those with the highest per capita cost to access. A large financing gap remains in education globally with resources moving away from improving access and away from primary education. This trend suggests that in the coming years, reaching these last milers will be challenging, at best.

The transition of funding beyond primary education is evident in the decrease in official development assistance (ODA) from European Union institutions. ODA targeting basic education has fallen from 50 percent in 2002-2004 to 43 percent in 2009-2011. Furthermore, the focus on quality over access is illustrated by two developments. New projects funded by the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) prioritize student achievement as the primary measure for education system quality, and the World Bank has recently shift education resources to results-based financing that focuses on student literacy and numeracy.

While quality is important, the stagnating enrollment rates from the past seven years and the shift in attention and resources away from access and toward quality, makes one question whether the last milers will be left behind in the SDG era.

About the author

William C Smith

William C. Smith is a Senior Associate with RESULTS Educational Fund where he is developing the Right to Education Index (RTEI). The index will eventually provide a globally comparative alternative measure to national education quality while identifying specific target areas for countries to address. Prior to this position he completed a dual title Ph.D. in Educational Theory and Policy and Comparative International Education at The Pennsylvania State University and was a Thomas J. Alexander Fellow at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). His research addressing education’s role in international development and educator based testing for accountability has resulted in over 15 academic and policy publications. William is the editor a forthcoming book (Spring 2016) in the Oxford Studies in Comparative Education Series titled “The Global Testing Culture: Shaping Education Policy, Perspectives, and Practice.”

#tbt: The Faces Behind the Statistics


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We are pleased to bring you this #ThursdayThrowback blog post, which was originally published in The State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report 2005. Microfinance client Janèt Dèval attended literacy courses offered by Fonkoze and shares how her business has been improved. Indeed, it has cemented her determination to continue improving herself and her loyalty to her microfinance institution.

Microfinance stands as one of the most promising and cost-effective tools in the fight against global poverty.

Jonathan Morduch, Chair
United Nations Expert Group on Poverty Statistics

Janèt Dèval, a client of Fonkoze, a microcredit institution in Haiti, is one of the 66.6 million poorest clients reached. Janèt has been a credit client for more than two years and comes regularly to all meetings. She has also been a part of every literacy program available and is about to start the newest module on developing business skills. Not only could she not read or write when she started, but she has had an extra challenge: Janèt has only a fraction of her hearing due to an injury when she was 20 years old.

My husband didn’t want me to send my five children to school because his parents didn’t send him to school. From the beginning, he said he would not pay and he has never given even one goud, but I always knew it was important. For a long time I have gone to Port-au-Prince to buy goods to sell in Hinche, and I put all my money into paying for school for my children.

When I found out that Fonkoze gave literacy classes for market women, I was so happy. I never went to school even one day. I didn’t know anything about school. I started right away with basic literacy and I have tried to never miss a class.

I couldn’t write my name and I didn’t understand anything, but I kept going even when my husband got angry. My kids pushed me and encouraged me and they helped me practice my letters. The monitor, Christa, told me to keep writing every day even when I didn’t understand.

I can write my name now, and I write it everywhere. Imagine, I used to go to Port-au-Prince to buy and I couldn’t read the bags and I felt lost. I couldn’t keep track of what I bought. The drivers sometimes would take my boxes off the truck and give them to someone else, but I didn’t know until I got all the way home. Now, I can’t lose anything. Now I write my name on every box and I know what I buy.

I finished Alfa Baz and Alfa Pos and then I went to the Health Program, too. I still don’t know many things, so I want to keep going. I take my notebook to my school and I write in it because one day I hope to read and understand everything. I bought two books in the market and my kids help me read them.

I work hard in the market so that I can repay my loans, keep going to school and so that my kids have that chance, too. If my parents would have sent me to school, I would have thrown a party for them to say thank you.[1]

The Microcredit Summit was launched to multiply stories like this 100 million times, but a number of barriers continue to impede the Campaign’s success.

Read the 2005 Report.


[1] From the Fonkoze website

Measuring what’s important: client transformation

Research Results ESAF India

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Published on the Center for Financial Inclusion’s blog April 15th.

Measuring Transformation

>> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Freedom from Hunger

While recent research indicates that access to and use of microcredit alone is not transformative for the average client served (see “Where Credit Is Due“), there has been very little discussion about the types of indicators being used to measure “transformation” in the ongoing debates. In fact, it seems that we all have accepted the general findings that microcredit has only had modest impacts on, along with other indicators of poverty and well-being, education, health, and social capital because the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have said so. There needs to be greater thought and debate about the choices of indicators used to support these conclusions.

Freedom from Hunger over the past 20-plus years has integrated health with microfinance and helped build a body of knowledge indicating that microfinance plus health services can enhance health outcomes. In an ongoing partnership with the Microcredit Summit Campaign, supported by Johnson & Johnson, we have pilot-tested a series of health indicators that financial service providers (FSPs) can use to track client health outcomes. This pilot test was built on years of experience of evaluating health outcomes with our FSP partners, as well as on similar experiences of developing common tracking indicators in the health sector. We created a list of criteria to assess the types of indicators we felt would be meaningful to track—for individuals with and without health services – which included dimensions of feasibility, usability, and reliability. Initial results have been shared in several webinars with SEEP and the Social Performance Task Force.

It’s important to note that this pilot test effort was not about “proving” impact, but rather developing common techniques for monitoring client outcomes that FSPs could use over time. However, this experience has shown how difficult it is to identify indicators that best measure certain health outcomes. What initially might appear as an intuitive indicator to use — for example, how often a person reports being ill or seeking medical treatment — is found to be more difficult than expected. Morbidity — or reports of illness — is not an easy measure for health sector actors or those who directly work to improve health outcomes because it is influenced by the seasons, by specific efforts, and other factors, so care has to be taken when interpreting results. Reports of seeking medical treatment are complicated by whether people are satisfied with the services they can seek and may not always reflect financial capability but preferences or lack of available health services.

Read the rest of the article

Relevant resources

New Partnerships against Poverty: Health and Financial Services


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When hundreds of millions of women like Alpana can enjoy health, savings, good work, and a sense of achievement and security for their families, we will know that our job is done EspañolFrançais Continue reading

When Helping is Seen as a Luxury by Marisse Galera

One day, while walking through the streets of Manila, I encountered two people who triggered lingering thoughts with me: the child selling turon on the overpass and the seemingly mentally handicapped man selling sampaguita in front of a high class dormitory across one of the Philippines’ top universities.

Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t have noticed them had it not been for my friend, who was walking with me at the time. He said, “Didn’t you see how teary-eyed the man was?” and later on, he asked, “Why do these people have to undergo these things? That kid should’ve been studying instead.”

Truthfully speaking, I never even bothered to look. I had been conditioned to draw my eyes away from the poverty that surrounded me, to cringe at the touch of a dirty hand reaching out, and to generally be disgusted with the people who need my help the most. I had been conditioned to question whether these people really need help, and, for years, I had been convinced that the sentiment “it will only encourage them” was true and not encouraging this behavior greatly outweighs the prospect of helping another person in need.

For the longest time, the prospect of helping has been to hone myself to the fullest and to help these people when, and only when, I have already achieved my best state. My idea of helping used to be grandiose: I wanted to change the system from the inside and start helping only when I have obtained enough power to do so. Most of the people I know also subscribe to this kind of thinking. But we never bother to ask: if you ever do achieve that state, what happens in the period between that state and yesterday: what happens in the now? More importantly, what happens if you never reach that state at all?

Sadly, in that in-between, most people are happy to wallow in a state of limbo and apathy. What we don’t realize is that we’re merely looking for excuses to refuse in helping others because it’s troublesome. While there might be the possibility of feeling helpless and feeling like whatever you do won’t really make a difference, with introspection, perhaps you’ll realize that you simply don’t want to give more than what is convenient. At least I did. I realized that I can give no more than loose change. I can’t give to these people unless it’s something I don’t want or it’s an excess. I realized that the only thing I was really willing to give were rejects and rejection. This holds true even with the notion of wanting to change things only when I have enough power: it holds a lack of urgency and doing it only when I’ve reached a state of lavishness.

Another problem with this kind of thinking is that it creates a disconnection between the self and the other: we end up alienating the people who need our help. With this kind of view, the drive to help is a lot less compelling, and we start viewing the act of helping more as a luxury than a need. For most of us, this is enough justification to refuse to act for the betterment of others.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying that you’re a bad person because you refused to give anything to that beggar on the corner of the street or because you don’t spend your weekends teaching children with learning disabilities. What I’m trying to point out is this: Unless you are severely marginalized, ostracized, and vulnerable, you will be taught that those who do belong to that category brought it upon themselves, and that it will never be your responsibility to help them. You are only expected to act towards alleviating their marginalization when you have the luxury to do so.

Helping others usually ends up in the bottom of a list of priorities. To make matters worse, the way we blame the victims by saying that they are poor because they are lazy and they are worthless, without considering that these people have no money to invest and little skills to employ. This does nothing but further exclude them from society. This prevents them and their children from changing their situation of destitution. The systems that are employed by society today are driven by those priorities, this callousness, and the social exclusion brought by these.

While the fastest growing economies are in Asia and the Pacific, two-thirds of the world’s poor also live here. The growth of the economy benefits only those at the top of the pyramid and those at the bottom remain there. The gap between the rich and the poor grows: the rich grow ever richer and the poor, poorer.

This is why, as pointed out by the BSP Governor Amando Tetangco and the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, systematic changes must be made–we cannot simply wait for wealth to trickle down to the grassroots; we cannot delay attempts to lift the poor out of extreme poverty.

As people who have faced constant rejection, what the poor need the most is empowerment, and this can be done through offering social protection and inclusion. As Gov. Tetangco said, we have given them access to microcredit from formal financial service providers, and the challenge is how to reach out to the millions of people who live in extreme poverty.

I cannot agree more with the World Bank President Kim Yong Jim when he said, “When a poor family has access to something as simple as mobile phone payments or a savings account, it could open the door to services such as water, electricity, and education.” Simple services, when made more accessible and less discriminating, can allow the most marginalized to gain more capabilities to allow them to take more steps in living their lives to the fullest.

Alleviating millions of people from extreme poverty is possible, but it requires a change of perspective, and more importantly, a change in the system.

News Round-up for Friday, July 5


This week’s round-up includes the wrap-up of Chris Dunford’s Evidence Project blog. A must read!
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News Round-up for Friday, June 28


World Bank President issues challenge to private sector, financial education at SEWA, and microfinance in Myanmar.Español Français Continue reading

News Round-up


A special UN report on post-2015 agenda, measures from the World Bank to accelerate progress on malnutrition, and research on how VSLAs affect the well-being of children.Español Français Continue reading

Institutional Action Plan Raffle Winner: Community Development Society Nagpur


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Congratulations to this week’s winner of the Raffle for Institutional Action Plan Submitters, Community Development Society, Nagpur of India!EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Last Week’s News


Read our round up of last week’s microfinance news: A Financially Capable Consumer Could Be Your Best Customer, The Future of Provider Ecosystems for Financial Inclusion, How to Build Successful BOP Business Models, and more! Continue reading

Last Week’s News


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A round up of last week’s microfinance news: tests for credit bubbles, a challenge to the “old way” of thinking about microfinance, promising BoP business models in Latin America, and another paper about mbanking. Continue reading