Poverty Barrier

Direct and indirect costs of education as a barrier to access

Cost is a pervasive barrier globally for sections of societies with low household income. Even in countries where the state or faith-based providers absorbs most of the direct cost, some costs remain and acts as a barrier for very poor households.

Why does cost act as a barrier to enrollment and participation?

Poverty is a major barrier to education. Even when primary school is officially free, additional costs for uniforms, textbooks, teacher salaries and school maintenance, create financial barriers for many families. In surveys from countries with free education, parents consistently say these out of pocket costs keep them from sending their children to school.

All families consider the cost that primary education will incur. The lower a family’s household income, the greater the effect that associated costs of education will have on a family’s ability to ensure the education of their children. For children on the street without family support, direct and indirect costs become insurmountable barriers. For those living in urban slums, the costs of education can often be a daunting challenge to accessing and completing a quality education.

Countries that have adopted policies to eliminate school fees and other costs to parents, or introduced conditional cash transfer programs for poor families to address the fees barrier, have seen dramatic surges in enrollment. In Kenya, Uganda and Timor Leste, enrollment surged by 10 to 20% following the abolition of fees.  This is evidence of how powerful costs are as a barrier to education for the poor.

How pervasive is it?

Cost is a pervasive barrier globally for sections of societies with low household income. Even in countries where the state or faith-based providers absorbs most of the direct cost, some costs remain and acts as a barrier for very poor households. In some cultures, expectations of child labor are high, and the opportunity cost for the family of foregoing this is high.

Examples of EAC partners who are addressing this barrier

The cost of schooling to households is addressed through strategies of several partners.  Here are some examples.

CARE-Somalia provides conditional cash grants to enable Somali families to meet the costs of pri mary schooling for girls. The Girl Child Network provides bursaries for girl students in Kenya. UNHCR provides school uniforms for displaced children in Chad and Rwanda, cash grants for school fees, uniforms, and learning materials for the displaced in Syria, and attendance incentives in Pakistan.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is addressing the cost barrier through facilitating families with out of school children to form village savings and loan associations. These associations enable members to save money and obtain small loans for economic activities, which, in turn, enable members to meet the direct and/or indirect costs of primary schooling for their children.

Further reading