Examining Nigeria's Learning Crisis: Can Communities be Mobilized to take Action?

Policy design and interventions in basic education were, until recently, unduly focused on increasing school enrollment in developing countries, with little attention on improving the quality of learning. Using two states in Nigeria – Lagos and Kano, this paper analyzed the extent to which School Based Management Committees (SBMCs) mobilized actions (collective and private) to improve school-level accountability, and how this affected school performance and learning outcomes. The study finds that increasing citizen clients’ participation and voice via SBMCs can improve educational outcomes by strengthening accountability. When functional, their activities remarkably raise intermediate outcomes (i.e. school resources and enrolment), however, there is no evidence to suggest that they improve children's learning outcomes. SBMCs vary widely in functionality, with variations largely reflecting differences in contextual factors such as local politics and the extent of poverty. Successful and unsuccessful SBMCs seem to differ mostly on strength of leadership. These findings highlight the need for complementary demand-side informational campaigns that explicitly aim to raise parent's expectations and aspirations for their children. Future research should focus on how effective committees influence local politics, but also how local communities affect the effectiveness of School Committees.