Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Good aid :: Bad aid

Not all aid to poor countries is good. In fact some people say that all aid is bad. There are volumes of examples where well-meaning aid has turned out to be harmful. For example, African street markets have lots of second-hand clothes stalls that feature the clothes bagged and put into charity bins in wealthy countries. The abundance of these cheap clothes means that no local clothes manufacturers can compete, and garment industries simply don't get off the ground.

Beyond any Drought is a report on development and aid in three countries in the African Sahel – Niger, Mali, and Burkino Faso. The key recommendations in the report can be applied to development projects in Tanzania, and to the School of St Jude specifically.

Sahel area of Africa

1. Increase long-term assistance; stay the course. All interventions should be over at least 10 years.
  • The School of St Jude meets this requirement, because Gemma has family roots in Tanzania and this is her life work. Current activities are set within a long term framework that extends decades into the future.
2. Accept that the situation has changed
  • The School of St Jude has shown that it can adapt to rapid change by gearing up rapidly when world-wide support flourished. Gemma has the management skills to keep a goal in view, while adapting to changing circumstances.

3. Understand the detail
  • The School is managed right there, on the ground. The impact and effectiveness of every bag of cement is known. This deep familiarity with detail means that the School develops appropriately and effectively.

4. Plan to improve capacity
  • The School has programs and training in place to develop leadership capacity in staff, so that the leadership team grows with the school. This local expertise will underpin the long term viability of the School.

5. Build on successes
  • In her book, St Jude's, Gemma describes how she has learned from mistakes and events that didn't turn out as expected. From these experiences, she has learned what works, and she continues to apply these lessons. For example, she has learned to be rigorous in selecting capable children from poor families, and she has learned to check and check again to avoid dishonest practices.

6. Believe in flexibility
  • The School of St Jude aims to support the best elements of Tanzanian culture combined with Australian excellence. The cross-cultural approach and rapid growth of the school have meant that flexibility has been a key requirement!

I have great confidence in this project. The School of St Jude delivers quality education to 870 capable children from the poorest households. The local demand for places in the school is massive. 15,000 applicants try for the 170 places each year. There is no doubt that there is local demand for quality education, and that the School of St Jude, delivers what parents want for their children.

This is only possible with the help of people who care to share what they have with others who have less.

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