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The Nickels and Dimes of Education for All: The expansion of primary education in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Education finance, ODA, completion, retention, foreign aid, economic development, Sub-Saharan Africa
With the benchmark year of 2015 just around the corner, the discussion around Education for All (EFA) goals once again turns to the issue of finance. The lack of funding — and specifically the inability of donors to come through on pledges made in the year 2000 — has been cited as one of the principal reasons the world has fallen short of accomplishing the ambitious Education for All agenda by 2015. We argue that this pessimistic view of the need for ever increasing donor flows to address education deficits is wrong. EFA can be achieved faster and with a lower donor cost with two key changes to international policy. First, a focused effort to mobilize resources in the developing countries themselves is needed, both to generate needed funds and to promote an environment of shared accountability for financing education. Second, these increased domestic resources need to be focused on the most important constraints to school completion, in light of the significant achievements of EFA, as the critical issue in most countries is no longer barriers to entry, but rather repetition and dropout. International assistance should be present to ensure that effective technical solutions are available and continuous capacity building takes place to help governments harness domestic finance and direct it towards quality improvement. In all likelihood, however, change will not depend on increased aid nor will it happen quickly — it will rely on the commitment of national governments and the strength of their local economies.
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