Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

UKaid: building more empty classrooms...

DFID recently published it's new white paper on development "Building a Common Future". Apparently development helps us all. Especially if we can put a UK label on the bits that we do. I wonder how much money was spent on making the nice new "UKaid" logo and for that matter on sending little leaflets out to DFID stakeholders? Anyway...

The plan is, amongst other things, to get millions more kids into school and millions more bed nets. What it's kind of light on is quite how it's going to do that.
I don't doubt DFIDs ability to create school places and ship bed nets to foreign lands. What I doubt is its ability to keep those kids in school for more than 5 minutes and to ensure that those bed nets get, free of charge, into the homes that need them.

The same week that the strategy was published, this was put out by the BBC: seems they may be questioning the same thing.
Pa Koroma makes a poor case for himself by appearing to say that yes, funds do go astray, but perhaps if you gave us more, then a few might get to the right place.
And the DFID representative suggests that there is a point in time where the young people of Salone will reach crisis point, but when pressed, he doesn't really know how long and then suggests 5-10 years. I'd be inclined to suggest this might have happened 19 years ago and they're not out of it yet.

The sad problem is, that DFID don't really know enough about the countries that they work in to be able to deliver money effectively. Receiving governments can't confidently take money from them because they know that it isn't going to go where they say it will. And BBC journalists make reports about places and can't even pronounce the name of the place correctly, or in fact give the president his proper name - just how much do they really learn about the place when they can't get this right!

We need some new solutions. Because DFID may well be funding thousands of new classrooms and new teachers but it clearly has no idea how that is impacting on how many children end up in long term schooling. Which surely is the point?


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