School grants in Eastern and Southern African countries

1 October 2010 to 31 March 2012

School Grants Eastern an Southern Africa countries


In recent years, a major reform occurred in developing countries as regards educational management: schools now receive grants directly from central authorities. The rationale behind school grants is to reduce bureaucracy, to increase relevance to schools’ needs, to improve quality and achieve equity. While school grants have become a crucial characteristic of educational management, little is known about their use and their impact on access, quality and equity – that is why IIEP undertook this research on school grants.



IIEP and Unicef decided to coordinate an intensive research programme in Eastern and Southern Africa from 2010 to 2012. The research focused on five countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi and Uganda, and was implemented by national teams composed of representatives of Ministries of Education and research centers who undertake the field research.

IIEP’s approach is innovative as it seeks to understand the reality of the school grants policy through interviewing key local level actors. Their experience and their opinion are at the core of IIEP’s approach: it is the added value of IIEP’s research.



How far do school grants policies, as they are designed and implemented, allow for achieving their main objectives? This question guided the research which looked in particular at the criteria and mechanisms of grants distribution, the way grants are used at the school level and how monitoring and control on the use of grants are made.

The objectives and expected outcomes of the research project in Eastern and Southern Africa were to:

  • Learn from various experiences in order to enhance the design and implementation of school grants policies;
  • Gain a deeper understanding of how the design and implementation of school grants policies influence educational equity and quality to ultimately be of benefit to the child enrolled at school;
  • Strengthen the expertise and skills of national research centers;
  • Strengthen awareness of decision-makers in Ministries of Education on the research findings and the policy implications.


  • Access and equity: School grants have made it easier for children, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, to enrol and remain in school, despite the continued existence of parental contributions. However, grants were not able to overcome existing disparities within and between schools;
  • Quality: While some actors said grants contributed to improve school environments and teaching and learning processes, others suggested quality had instead deteriorated, particularly as a result of higher pupil/teacher ratios;
  • Participation: While participatory decision-making processes exist in Kenya, Malawi, and Ethiopia, decision-making remains the responsibility of head teachers and school-level actors in Lesotho and Uganda;
  • Administrative efficiency: Although directly depositing funds into school bank accounts improves administrative efficiency, delays and conditions attached to disbursement are counterproductive.
  • School autonomy: Contributions to increased school autonomy have been mixed, as several limitations continue to exist (tight budget lines, modest grant sums, and authorised areas of expenditure).

The research highlighted the following principles to improve design and implementation of school grants:

  • Consultation of school level actors in the policy formulation process;
  • Effective communication and dissemination processes to inform school-level actors and communities about the grants;
  • Capacity development for school management teams;
  • Participatory decision-making process at the school-level;
  • Regular monitoring and control mechanisms regarding grant management and use;
  • Clear definition of roles and responsibilities of school and district levels actors.

Technical guidelines

As part of the research programme on school grants, technical guidelines have been produced to help countries design and implement school grant policies. Intended for political decision-makers and educational planners, the guidelines present a variety of challenges and the different strategic solutions to consider from policy conception at the central level to implementation at the school level.

A series of eight short videos were also produced to accompany the guidelines. The series addresses practical issues related to the design and implementation of school grant policies. Through the experiences of politicians, teachers, and IIEP’s researchers and experts, these videos present concrete options for the successful implementation of these policies.

Watch all the videos related to the technical guidelines on school grant policies.