A UK Foreign Aid project to the value of £11 million ($14 million) in northern Ghana not only failed to alleviate poverty in its targeted 26,500 African villagers, but also resulting in a lower “cognitive test score” in the population, an official report has revealed.
The report, titled “Impact Evaluation Of The Sada Millennium Villages Project In Northern Ghana: Endline Summary Report,” and published by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in conjunction with the Institute of Development Studies found that the £2,906 given to each African household failed to meet many key aims and targets, saying: ‘Far from breaking the poverty trap, the project does not appear to have reduced poverty or hunger at all,’ adding that it had ‘fallen short of producing a synergistic effect.”
Under the heading “Impact on learning,” the report went on to say that
And finally, our study measured effective learning in school by administering a set of tests at the households and administered to children regardless of school attendance.
All children were administered three cognitive tests: Raven’s matrices, and forward and backward digit span. The selected cognitive tests measure different dimensions of ‘intelligence’ and capture genetic as well as acquired skills.
Children who are physically and intellectually stimulated at a young age tend to perform better at these tests. Simple eight-question maths and English tests were administered to children aged 6 to 11 who ever attended primary, and advanced (much longer) maths and English tests were administered to children older than 11 who ever attended junior secondary school.
According to the tests, the project did not improve children’s cognitive skills. Oddly, it appears to have had a negative impact on the backward digit span test.
The negative effect is consistent across the midterm and the endline assessment and of similar size.
In a digit span test, the subject is requested to repeat a sequence of random numbers.
The backward digit span test is more challenging as it requires the subject to repeat the series of numbers in reverse.
The test measures the efficacy of short-term memory, which can be affected by learning practice (for example, practising music increases short-term memory) or by factors related to attention, such as a proper diet and micronutrient intake (malnourished and anaemic children tend to perform more poorly).
All negative effects on test scores are large and statistically significant at the endline assessment.
Since easy English and Maths tests were administered to children who ever attended primary school, while advanced English and Maths tests were administered to children that ever attended junior secondary, negative scores may result from an increase in school attendance in MV areas by children of poorer backgrounds and with no previous education.
Indirect evidence of this was obtained by looking at the impact of the project on a panel of children who were tested both at the baseline and the endline and whose test scores did not change or improve, though the change was never statistically significant.
The Millennium Villages in Northern Ghana Impact Evaluation(MVEval) was funded by the DFID, and undertaken between 2012 and 2017.
“Our independent and robust evaluation found that although there were some benefits to the communities such as increases in primary school attendance, the number of births attended by skilled professionals and access to improved toilet facilities, the Millennium Villages Project did not achieve significant progress overall on reducing the level of poverty or hunger.”
- The report also revealed that a third of funds went on management and overheads—and that there was “large-scale fraud involving a key local partner” (i.e., the Africans swindled the program).