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EU humanitarian aid for education: helps children in need, but should be longer-term and reach more girls (January 2021)

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Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Executive summary

I Education is a priority for millions of out-of-school children in crisis-affected areas. It not only provides them with learning opportunities, but also increases their resilience.
It also helps to protect them and enables them to develop the qualities that will benefit their future.

II The EU, through the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), provides needs-based humanitarian aid for those affected by disasters. It aims to manage humanitarian operations according to the principles of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Gender equality is another guiding principle.

III The EU recently increased aid for education to 10 % of its total humanitarian aid, equating to €160 million in 2019. This aid aims to restore and maintain access to safe and quality education during humanitarian crises. It supports many types of activities including building or rehabilitating classrooms, supplying learning materials and furniture, training teachers and helping children return to school by providing cash for families and helping children catch up through accelerated education programmes.

IV The main purpose of the audit was to assess whether EU humanitarian aid for education was effective in helping children and was delivered efficiently. The audit covered projects in Jordan and Uganda from 2017-2019. The report aims to contribute to improving the Commission’s management in an area where funding has steadily increased in recent years.

V We found that projects were relevant and well-coordinated, and the Commission addressed the problems it identified during monitoring visits. Projects achieved most of their planned results. However, they made limited use of relevant guidance from ECHO’s Enhanced Response Capacity, which provides funding for partners to develop methodologies and guidelines to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian actions.

VI We also found that projects did not target enough girls, even though they faced greater disadvantages, such as the risk of early marriage. Furthermore, several of the sampled projects did not reach the target proportion of girls.

VII Most projects in our sample were initially 10-12 months long. This was not long enough to address children’s educational needs in protracted crises and some projects were extended. The short duration also increased the administrative burden on implementing partners, making aid delivery less efficient.

VIII The Commission did not sufficiently analyse project costs to identify opportunities for increased cost-effectiveness. It did not compare the cost of activities, or the proportion of goods and services received by beneficiaries, with similar projects or with preceding phases of the same project. This was the case not only when selecting project proposals, but also when monitoring project implementation.

IX After projects ended, most of them continued to benefit children. However, ECHO did little to reduce beneficiaries’ dependence on cash assistance within the sampled cash-for-education projects. Many of these projects required repeat funding because they did not have links with longer-term aid programmes and did little to refer beneficiaries to livelihood solutions.

X On the basis of these conclusions, we recommend that the Commission:

  • make greater use of the results of Enhanced Response Capacity projects;

  • provide more support for girls;

  • provide longer-term funding for education in protracted crises;

  • improve cost analysis when selecting and monitoring education projects;

  • increase the sustainability of cash-for-education projects.