Evidence from Africa shows cash transfers increase school enrollment
20 Feb 2015
Children attend French class at a school in Ghana.
An estimated 63 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 are currently out of school, according to a recent report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and UNICEF. This is a staggering number, and the barriers to school enrolment--poverty, conflict, gender discrimination, and child labour--are not easy to overcome. However, researchers are helping to identify what works in social protection to increase secondary school enrolment in Africa, particularly among the poorest, rural households – groups that were highlighted as having the greatest need in the new report. One tool in a national government’s arsenal of social protection strategies is cash transfer programmes, where households receive cash benefits on a monthly basis. Cash transfer programmes have increased secondary enrolment rates, between 5 to 12 percentage points in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia. Most cash transfer programmes in Africa are unconditional. Further, evidence shows that these programmes have the ability to encourage out-of-school students to return. There are several ways that cash transfers might increase school enrolment for children.
- First, increased income in the short term through cash transfers might allow households to pay for school fees, uniforms, other supplies, and transportation.
- Second, they might alleviate the need for children to work, therefore allowing them to attend school.
- Finally, they might alter household members’ outlook on the future and decisions to invest in their children’s schooling.