Children without Borders: a new way of thinking about external aid in education

16 January 2017

On 16 December last year the seminar "Children without Borders" was held at the UNESCO headquartes in Paris. This seminar, co-organized by IIEP and the UNESCO Division for Support of the Education Agenda 2030, was based on the results of an IIEP research project in nine Francophone countries in Western and Central Africa. 

The seminar was presented by Paul Coustère, Deputy Director of IIEP, and the results of the research were presented by Professor Alain Mingat, Research Director at IREDU/CNRS and Professor of the University of Burgundy. Jordan Naidoo, Director of the Division for Support and Coordination of the Education Agenda 2030 was a panelist and introduced the results before opening the discussion with the rest of the attendees. Amélie Gagnon (Project Officer IIEP, France) and Rosa Mahdjoub (INRE, Algeria) co-authors of the study, were also present. 

Alain Mingat outlined the research approach which aimed to adopt a global vision of education, and the needs of children in poverty. The objective was to focus on individuals regardless of their country of residence. "During this study we were interested in absolute poverty, not poverty as measured against each country,” explained Alain Mingat. "It is better to educate poor children than to give money to a country."

The idea is to transform the concept of 1 child equals 1 child into an analytic structure that will produce results and provide an empirical basis to showcase different perspectives, and to bring the ideas of universal and equal education back to the debate surrounding international assistance decisions.

Alain Mingat detailed the methodology used in this research, a methodology that challenges the official conversation on international aid. To give an example of the specific methodological approach of this study; the analysis of global poverty was based on the use of 30 identical criteria of living conditions for all the children and young people that took part in the study in the nine countries.

According to Alain Mingat, the distribution of international aid would be different if we focused on the children rather than the countries to which they belong.

Jordan Naidoo then took the floor and responded to the presentation. He underlined the high quality of this study and its particular interest for UNESCO, especially as it is essential to adopt innovative approaches when it comes to the use of donations. This study is also of great interest in the framework of the Sustainable Development Objective 4 (SDO for Education). Jordan Naidoo also raised several questions around the study approach, such as: what balance should be struck between this child-centered approach and the agenda for SDG 4 that raises broader development issues?

The debate between the two participants were further enriched with contributions from attendees. Questions about countries in conflict and refugee children were raised several times. Although the research study was not carried out in countries concerned by these issues, it is certain that, given the current challenges, it would be necessary to broaden this approach and take these issues into account.