Many of my research projects grow out of observations that I made on the ground or in interactions with NGOs or staff from international organizations. In many cases they involve impact evaluations, that is a scientific assessment of whether specific policies or projects are effective. Over the years, I have acquired extensive experience in collecting data in an African context. During my doctoral studies I was involved in the Kagera Health and Development Survey
(KHDS). The children who were orphaned between the different rounds of the KHDS formed the basis of my dissertation fieldwork on orphan children and family networks in Tanzania in 2004-05.
Since then, I have conducted a number field projects, some of which I describe here. For some of the research projects the research outputs are ready and there is more information on the research page
Ongoing fieldwork projects
Ghana Youth Transition Survey
|Together with Kim Lehrer (University of Sherbrooke) and William Seitz (University of Oxford) I have been collecting data on a random sample of 6 cohorts of Ghanaian senior high school students, as they transition from senior high school into the labor markets. We first conducted an in-school survey and have now also conducted a labor market survey of students who have left high school and are in the labor market.
Using three rounds of data in schools, we will investigate the determinants of learning in senior high school, in particular how this is linked to management practices. We also evaluate the impacts of a change in the duration of high school on learning. Lastly, we have implemented activities to study the impact of learning in groups on learning.
Using the two transition surveys, we are studying the inefficiencies in the school-to-work transition, due for example to administrative constraints. We also investigate how students make choices in applying to university.
Quite a number of high school leavers
retake the high school leaving exam
called WASSCE remedial.
Ads can be found all over Accra.
(Thanks to William Seitz for the photo.)
An evaluation of the Tara Akshar literacy program
|The Tara Akshar literacy program, a computer-based literacy program, was designed by Readingwise UK and is implemented by the Indian NGO Development Alternatives among illiterate rural Indian populations. I am collaborating with Ashwini Deshpande at the University of Delhi, Alain Desrochers, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Ottawa, Annemie Maertens at the University of Pittsburgh, and Abu Shonchoy at the University of Tokyo on understanding the impacts of Tara Akshar on literacy outcomes as well as wider socio-economic outcomes. This research project has started in September 2013 and the endline is being conducted in November 2013.
Completed fieldwork projects
Cell-Ed delivers literacy teaching entirely via mobile phones. Together with Jenny Aker (Tufts) Danielle Miller and Karla Perez, (both at UCLA), I am investigating whether Cell-Ed is effective at increasing literacy skills among Hispanic illiterates in the Los Angeles community. We are also interested in understanding whether this increases learners sense of empowerment. Our fieldwork took place in 2012 - 2013.
To get a better idea of how Cell-Ed works,
check out this Spanish language YouTube video.
Project ABC in Niger
Project ABC started with the simple idea that using mobile phones in literacy classes could improve learning, as this enables students to practice outside of classes, and motivates them more because they can immediately use their skills. We implemented this idea together with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Niger, by providing mobile phones to a subset of the literacy classes that CRS had put in place. We conducted fieldwork in Niger between 2009 and 2011, and this fieldwork has been by far the hardest episode of fieldwork I have been through, losing close to 8kg in weight on one trip - certainly a good diet trip.
We have received funding to go back to Niger to implement an improved version of the program, that we hope can be scaled up to the whole country.
In some villages in Niger, a stairway to heaven
is the only place to get mobile phone reception.
Village Savings Groups Evaluation in Malawi 2008-11
Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) are community led and managed savings groups that follow a fairly standardized protocol. The exciting novelty is that VSLAs really create a financial market in the village which is reliable (through a locked safe-box) but does not rely on outside finance and organization. VSLAs were first developed by CARE in Niger, and have since spread to much of Africa. This research is joint work with Helene Lilleor, Rockwool Foundation of Denmark, Jonas Helth Lønborg, and Ole Dahl Rasmussen, University of Southern Denmark.
One of the reasons VSLAs work is that the money
of the savings group is kept in a locked cash box
at the house of one member, but locked with three
locks to which other members have the locks.
(Thanks to Ole for the photo.)
Orphans and Family Networks in Tanzania
My doctoral dissertation involved spending a year in Tanzania, where I first worked (for free!) for the Kagera Health and Development Survey (KHDS). This is one of the very first long-term panel studies in a developing country, quite a visionary project actually, conducted to study the impact of HIV/AIDS on households. This was the early 1990s! In 2004, Stefan Dercon, Joachim DeWeerdt and Kathleen Beegle organized KHDS II, to study the long-term impacts of adult mortality. My own study followed orphan children more closely.
This photo speaks for itself!