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IDS Seminar on Shocks to School Attendance

Screenshot of the presentation

IDS Seminar on Shocks to School Attendance

IDS held its first seminar of the year on 25th January 2024. The Speaker was Dr. Moses Muriithi, a Researcher at the Institute of Development Studies as well as a lecturer of Economics at the Department of Economics and Development Studies, University of Nairobi. His area of research includes applied fields of health economics, poverty and inequality, development economics, fiscal space estimations, National Transfer accounts, Social determinants of health, Strategic Plan Development, Resource tracking and costings for investment case scenarios in different sectors. He is an affiliate of the African Economics Research Consortium (AERC) where he has participated in numerous activities including fellowships, research, and as a visiting lecturer for Masters and PhD health Economics courses at the Joint Facility for Electives (JFE).

Discussant 1: Prof. Akanni Olayinka Lawanson of the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan holds a PhD (Economics) degree, with a specialty in “Health Economics’. He graduated with First Class Honours for his first degree in B.Ed. in Educational Management/Economics, and second degree: M.Sc. in Economics from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Lawanson is currently a lecturer in the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, and the Programme Coordinator, Health Policy Research and Training Programme (HPRTP), Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, Ibadan. He anchors lectures mainly at the postgraduate level in the Department, including Microeconomic, Quantitative Analysis, Managerial Economics, and Health Economics at the Masters level. On the international front, Lawanson anchored “Health Economics” at the PhD level, at the Joint Facility for Electives (JFE) of the African Economics Research Consortium, Kenya between 2010 and 2016.

Discussant 2: Mr. Corti Paul Lakuma is a Senior Research Fellow and head of the macroeconomics department at the Economic Policy Research Centre. Mr. Lakuma is an established forecaster, economic model builder and adviser with more than a decade of service to government and international organizations. He has advised the Finance Ministry in Uganda on macroeconomic and fiscal policy, fiscal institutions and revenue administration. He has worked on the Domestic Resource Mobilization Strategy for the medium term for Uganda, where he authored numerous diagnostic papers to inform the reform process. Most recently, Mr. Lakuma has been involved in the conduct of several firm-level surveys to establish the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the productivity of Uganda’s employees, firms and industry. He holds an MSc in Economics with distinction from the University of Essex, United Kingdom and a BA in Social Science from Makerere University Kampala (MUK) Uganda.

The session was moderated by Prof. Winnie Mitullah. Department of Economics and Development Studies, University of Nairobi.

Dr. Muriithi kicked off the discussion by presenting the issues of the study which included the causes of shocks, the objectives of the paper, Covid-19 as a shock, the key findings and policy recommendations in relation to the study. His preamble read as below:

“Shocks threaten household welfare and the ability to send children to school. Shocks ordinarily manifest themselves in many forms and affect households differently depending on the nature and the status of the household. Shocks are categorized as either idiosyncratic-affecting a specific household in isolation or covariate - affecting all households simultaneously. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the way children experience education and, by extension, their learning capability. It is evidenced that the longer they stayed out of school, the greater the risk of the poorest among them dropping out completely.”

The first discussant Prof. Lawanson highlighted the critical importance of the topic, particularly in light of recent global events spanning the past two to three years. He emphasized the significance of policy measures implemented by nations during this period to address challenges in school attendance.

He responded to among others, the variable indicating whether school meals affected the probability of attendance. He argued that when considering the context of COVID-19, the perceived benefits of attending school to access meals must be weighed against the safety concerns posed by the pandemic. The trade-off between nutrition and health becomes particularly salient in this discussion.

He also addressed the finding that maternal employment increases school attendance. He reasoned that parents engaged in economic activities may have less time to provide home care, thereby incentivizing regular school attendance for their children. This observation underscores the complex interplay between socioeconomic factors and educational outcomes.

Mr. Lakuma, as the second discussant, raised a pertinent question regarding the distinction between the incidence of COVID-19 and county incidence of COVID-19, noting the potential for a high correlation between the two. He suggests that understanding this difference is crucial, as it could clarify whether COVID-19 incidence is exogenous or endogenous to the study's context.

He also highlighted the importance of explicitly stating insignificant results in the paper, such as those of the gender of the child, household head status, household income, age of household head, maternal and paternal employment, school meals, and pre-primary education level.

Lakuma recommended introducing a non-linear transformation, such as age squared, to better capture the relationship and its implications. Additionally, he suggested specifying the base variable in the explanation for clarity.

The speaker and discussants were engaged by more than 70 participants, who raised the following questions and comments:

Dr. Mugo suggested that the issue of inequality can be addressed as further research.

Dr. Gachuki mentioned that technology comes up in policy recommendations and was not one of the variables. He asked that an explanation be provided as to why technology was not used as a variable in the analysis, in the form of online learning for some students and not for others. Dr. Muriithi responded that technology was not measured directly, but was rather used as a dependent variable to proxy for learning or schooling.

Paul Kariuki asked that more information be provided on how the education sector is recovering from the COVID-19 shocks. Dr. Muriithi responded that that was not done, and could be considered as an area for further study.

Prof. Paul Kamau provided the context of the paper. The paper was a study on school attendance during COVID-19 by looking at access to learning without physically going to school. The data used was collected by the World Bank concerning household factors. Learning was measured by the access that the student had to technological gadgets such as TV, radio, computers, mobile phones, etc. The findings may not be applicable in the normal learning situation. The age of the parents was an important factor as younger parents were more open to learning using technology, compared to older parents. He said that the project is still ongoing. He added that it was also important to consider variations from county to county.

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