Fund management


The Department for International Development(DFID) invested £125m of UK aid to support the state-led reforms through an initial commitment of £92m (2008-2014) and, following successful scale up of the school improvement programme, an additional £33m for an extension phase (2014-2017). This investment catalysed further leveraged funding from state and federal governments, as detailed below. Over one third of the funds (37%) were allocated to programme support activities (PSA.PSA refers to expenditure that makes a direct difference in the learning opportunities of children At least 75% of PSA funds was spent at the real centres of impact, the school and the community. The cost drivers were:

  1. Schools trained and supported to undertake school development planning
  2. Head teacher training in academic leadership and school management
  3. Teacher training, school-based professional development and provision of literacy and numeracy lesson plans to teachers
  4. Provision of clean water to learners
  5. Provision of toilets to learners
  6. Other school improvements such as classroom renovation and classroom block construction
  7. Training of communities to set up SBMCs that function, including capacity development of Civil Society Organisations and local government partners
  8. Training of communities to be inclusive of women and children

In addition to UK aid, a total of £21.2m in direct state government funding of the school improvement model was leveraged between July 2012 and September 2016 from the six partner states and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). This is equivalent to 17% of DFID’s lifetime spending and far exceeded the Business Case target of 70% if government recurrent costs were factored in. Over the eight and a half years period, ESSPIN supported the education of 6.5 million Nigerian children in 16,400 schools in the six partners states.

Challenge Funds—A total of £1.2m was allocated to the Challenge Fund (CF) from the PSA budget in Years 3 and 4 of the ESSPIN programme. Management of the CF was fully devolved to State programmes. Each State had a maximum of £100,000 per year to spend on CF activities, and was free to decide whether to focus on access and equity issues, quality issues, or both. A total of 183 schools participated in the CF in all the six ESSPIN partner states. A total of 14,828 children benefited from the CF with Kano reaching the highest number of 5,869. The main impact of the CF was in improving access and equity to basic education for marginalised children in the six states. Read details in Impact Assessment of Challenge Fund in Six States

ESSPIN’s grant-based support from 2014 to 2016 (termed the ‘consolidation programme’) focused on enabling CSOs to work with existing SBMC communities to conduct more advanced research for advocacy and interventions to improve inclusiveness of schools. The grants scheme was intended to help CSOs strengthen fundraising and documentation skills so that they could seek a greater range of funding after ESSPIN closed. This was a way to minimise dependence on government funding, to avoid compromising CSOs’ ability to advocate independently for the concerns of communities.

ESSPIN acted as a grant-managing hub to support qualifying CSOs. ESSPIN commissioned an independent due diligence process to establish which CSOs were eligible for inclusion in each state’s research and advocacy group. This exercise was based on DFID pillars of financial, technical and management professionalism, and was conducted by an external law practice to assure impartiality. Those CSOs that passed the due diligence process were encouraged to advertise this to government and other partners as a ‘stamp of approval’, qualifying them to provide services and partnership under sustainable direct contract to SUBEBs. CSOs were also required to submit detailed proposals to take part in the consolidation work. All these different assessments and performance reviews and reporting requirements were themselves designed to add capacity to the CSOs. Through a series of training events, CSOs worked in state groups to select issues which had been raised with them by schools and communities. CSOs were supported to choose one or two issues for each state, and plan a research and advocacy initiative for each issue. Selection of issues was based on:

  • The severity and scale of the issue in relation to inclusive, quality education goals
  • Capacity and political will to address the issue at state level
  • CSOs’ positioning and capacity to find and present evidence about the issue.

During this training, the CSO groups were supported to produce a draft grant proposal for their research and advocacy initiative. The proposal laid out the rationale for focusing on the chosen issue; the expected advocacy objectives to be achieved; and the data collection and analysis process planned to generate supporting evidence. This was followed up by training on fundraising and donor development for private and public sector donors. CSO groups in each state revised and submitted their proposals to ESSPIN, which provided technical advice on strengthening them. After revisions, each state group submitted proposals, and were awarded funding totalling approximately £800,000 GBP – or £13,000 per CSO on average. Individual grant contracts with CSOs were agreed based on their share of the planned work. CSOs conducted data collection in roughly equal numbers of communities, and allocated analysis and report writing among the group.

Due diligence

Before the CSOs nominated by the states could participate in the consolidation activities, they were required to pass through a due diligence process to ascertain their reliability and capacity to provide support to school-based management committees (SBMCs). The objective of the due diligence exercise carried out by an independent consultant, a law firm, was to assess and report on the capacity of the CSOs which were to receive funds from ESSPIN to support SBMCs. The assessment focussed on five key areas:

  1. Technical competence
  2. Governance structure
  3. Monitoring and evaluation learning systems
  4. Financial management
  5. External relations

Based on the due diligence report 58 CSOs across the six ESSPIN states were awarded grants worth £988,361 for SBMC consolidation activities. The due diligence exercise was conducted twice, at an interval of more than a year, as a formative development process to scaffold continual improvement of compliance within the CSOs. This was explicitly intended to help the CSOs reach a robust organisational status, to improve the sustainability of their development services after ESSPIN had ended. It also served as a filter to remove under-performing or high risk CSOs from the grant-recipient pool.

Related Materials

  1. Civil Society - Government Partnership and Advocacy in Six States: Report of evidence-based advocacy efforts by CSOs supported by ESSPIN
  2. Civil Society Organisation Consolidation Fund Grant Manual