Thursday, March 10, 2011


Over the years in development constellation and taxonomy, development interventions have been concentrated and directed at improving human welfare but priority have mostly been focused on rural areas mainly because the population in the rural areas were greater the urban population, rural areas were deprived and experienced severer forms of impoverishment and deprivation than their urban counter parts and lastly that rural areas are a depository of natural resources that provides livelihood support for both rural and urban dwellers but the exploitation of these resources for human enhancement have been inadequate as a result of inadequate and sometimes lack of local capacities for planning and programming. These have been the argument for rural development.

The Rural Development Debate
The changing trends of these factors, i.e. evolving population dynamics and economic potentials, which are currently favouring urban areas warrant the question of understanding the issue of whether development priority must still be rural and not urban. According to UNFPA (2007), until 2007 the majority of the world’s population lived in rural areas articulating that In 2007 and for the first time in the history, majority of the worlds population was estimated to be living in urban areas and the global urban population was projected to grow from 3.3 billion people in 2008 to almost 5 billion by the year 2030. This urbanisation trends is explained partly by growing gaps between urban and rural areas due to rapid industrial growth, through the slow growth of agriculture and increasing returns to higher levels of schooling in developing countries (UNDP 2010).

Similarly, a new paradigm, supported by growing literature, underscores the benefits of urbanization, driven by rising productivity, fluid labour markets, and greater market access (World Bank, 2009). From further explanation, the World Bank (2009) asserts that current urban areas particularly cities are accounting for 70 percent of global GDP and that potentially, cities can make countries richer because the high concentration of people enables industry to produce goods more cheaply. Specifically, high population densities in cities reduce transaction cost, makes public spending on infrastructure cheaper, and make the generation and diffusion of knowledge easier and the ability of just one city to contribute large shares of the gross domestic product of nations is evident in countries like South Korea, Hungary and Belgium (UN-Habitat 2010).

The perspectives and assumptions that informed development priorities in favour of rural development till now draws implication for a possible paradigm change in favour of urban development as other arguments purporting that urban poverty is severer than rural poverty around the would is gaining momentum. Garland (2007) argues that urban poverty is characterised by overcrowding and environmental degradation which makes the urban poor particularly vulnerable to the spread of disease, insecurity permeates all aspects of life for slum dwellers and without land title or tenure; which makes the situation of urban poverty more critical and severer than rural poverty.

Now, even though these arguments may provide impetus for this paradigm shift in development focus, there are also arguments to substantiate the need to further concentrate development priorities on promoting rural development as an aspect of poverty reduction interventions. As much as the world has urbanised since 2007, the trends in developing countries are different. It is estimated that in developing countries the situation where majority of rural population is higher would pertain. UNESCO and FAO (2003) projects that for the next two decades, the majority of the population living in developing countries will continue to be rural. This is even more the case for the least developed countries where the people living in rural areas will still represent over 55 percent of the total population in 2030. Although this may be different on country by country cases, this provides an impetus for rural development in developing countries. Again, poverty levels are generally high in rural areas than in urban areas in most developing countries. The FAO observes that global poverty still remains a massive and predominantly rural phenomenon– with 70 percent of the developing world’s population of 1.4 billion populations living in rural areas, and key areas of concern are Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2009, Cleveringa et al. (2009) consolidated this estimation by explaining that 75 percent of the world’s poorest people, 800 million women, men and children, live in rural areas. Consequently the three basic underpinnings of rural development as a priority in development still holds and even become more critical since over 50 years of promoting this concept, rural areas continue to be impoverished and deprived. This calls fur a critical assessment of past events to inform current trends to ensure that poverty is not migrated to the urban areas in developing countries as this is becoming the present trend in the phase of rapid urbanisation.
Education, Rural Development and Poverty Reduction
Rural development as a response to poverty reduction interventions in the rural areas have targeted at improving economic livelihoods and access to social services to expand their capabilities and capacity to promote local development. The aim is to enhance the ability of rural dwellers in managing, reducing and coping with shocks and risks that reduce their ability to sustain their welfare. Strategies such as improving agriculture productivity and production, educational attainment and literacy, improve access to water and sanitation as well as adequate health care have been promoted. Currently, these strategies also underpin rural development interventions but have been consolidated with strategies relating to the potential of indigenisation, participation and community involvement; integrated and holistic development; gender mainstreaming; alternative and sustainable livelihoods; spatial and regional complementarity; and public private partnerships.

Promoting rural education seems to transcend all these strategies by enhancing the processes and sustenance of the benefits that may accrue from the implementation of these strategies. This recognition is influenced by econometric estimations that present a positive correlation between education and human development or economic growth or both. It is observed that just as education contributes to economic growth at the macro-level, its potential also pertains at the micro-level. In the 2010 Human Development Report, it was explained that “rural households and households with low education consistently have a lower HDI than their urban and higher educated counterparts do. The differences are not due simply to education being part of the HDI as the life expectancy and income indices also show a bias against households with no education” (UNDP 2010).

This is in accordance with the Human Capital Theory. The theory regards education as an investment “like any other”, and as a generator of externalities. For example, individuals make individual choices concerning their education, but this choice has a strong economic impact through the resulting increase in total factor productivity (UNESCO and FAO 2003). The theory postulates with evidence that education enhances productivity of labour, increase efficiency in the allocation of resources and facilitates the adoption of new techniques. The implication for rural development is immense especially for farming which is the dominant economic activity in rural areas. Thus if farmers become productive as a result of education, there would be improvements in farming skills, enhances their knowledge in allocating resources effectively to the factors of production and with their literacy they would be able to read, comprehend, appreciate and adopt new technologies and techniques for farming; the effects would be increase in production which is a key determinants of output and income levels. Even in governance and empowerment, it has been observed that trends conducive to empowerment include the vast increases in literacy and educational attainment in many parts of the world that have strengthened people’s ability to make informed choices and hold governments accountable (UNDP 2010) underscoring the role of education in development.

The Paradigm
Although the realisation of the role of education is in-depth in development thinking and practice yet the effects and impacts are bleak and the high incidence of poverty in rural areas provides proxy evidence to this effect. Specifically, statistics on education in the rural areas are also at variances with the level of awareness of the role of education in reducing poverty thereby promoting rural development. For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of undernourishment and illiteracy (UNESCO and FAO 2006). In 2000, it was observed by the participants reviewing the Effective Schooling in Africa Programme that the challenges which confront Africa are acute. For many children, quality is poor and relevance limited. Low student enrolment and high drop-out are endemic and a range of school-related factors (such as the costs and location of schools), as well as external factors (such as poverty, attitudes about gender, conflict and ill-health) combine to reduce access to learning. The spread of HIV/AIDS is having a profound impact on education, depleting an already limited teaching force and generating social upheaval (World Bank and Human Development Network 2000).

Currently, there have been progress in education and this has been substantial and widespread, reflecting not only improvements in the quantity of schooling but also in the equity of access to education for girls and boys. To a large extent this progress reflects greater state involvement, which is often characterized more by getting children into school than by imparting a high-quality education according to the UNDP (2010). Notwithstanding, there are huge challenges in the educational sector of most developing countries and rural areas as almost all of Sub-Saharan African countries are not likely to achieve any of the MDG targets by 2015 including achieving the universal basic education for all less to talk of improving the quality of education which is not adequately captured by these international framework for development. The issues attributed to these are a whole lot from inadequate financing, poor implementation of sector policies, programmes and projects as well as changing trends of the world economy. The new challenges of promoting rural education such as decentralisation and capacity development, globalisation and the effects of the economic crises and promotion of community based data based systems in education further provide critical implication for planning rural education in developing countries. For that matter, decision-makers need to know what has worked, what has not and why. This is because just as the proof of a good cake is in its cooking, so the quality of planning for education is dependent on the implementation, innovation and assessment processes as well as drawing lessons from international experiences to inform local actions on education (Kitaev and Martin 2008).

These challenges and emerging issues of promoting rural education and advancing rural development interventions to reduce poverty levels draws critical implications for understanding how development interventionism can respond to enhancing the quality of education for national development. This situation is even exacerbated especially in this time of economic crises where “rapid educational expansion and increased access to schooling have not systematically resulted in economic growth and poverty reduction as is evident in both Sub-Saharan Africa and in OECD countries where the problem of youth unemployment, even among the well educated, remains a headache to policy makers (Grauwe 2008). This diverging observation from the human capital theory and the continual emphasis on promoting education as a means for poverty reduction should therefore inform critical and conscientious efforts for assessing, understanding and promoting rural education and education in general as an approach to rural development.

Anton de Grauwe (2008): Direction for Educational Planning -- Education, Poverty and Development; IIEP Newsletter, Vil. XXVI. No. 3. September – December 2008

Kitaev, Igor and Michaela Martin (2008): Direction for Educational Planning – Planning Reviewing the Concept; IIEP Newsletter, Vil. XXVI. No. 3. September – December 2008

Cleveringa, Rudolph, Melvyn Kay, and Alasdair Cohen, eds. InnoWat: Water, Innovations, Learning and Rural Livelihoods. Rome: IFAD, 2009.

Garland Allison M., Mejgan Massoumi and Blair A. Ruble (2007): Introduction; Global Urban Poverty: Setting the Agenda; Edited by Allison M. Garland, Mejgan Massoumi and Blair A. Ruble; Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington

UNESCO and FAO (2006): Education for Rural People in Africa. International Institute for Educational Planning, Paris

UNESCO and FAO (2003): Rural Education and Rural Development. International Institute for Educational Planning, Paris.

UN-Habitat (2010): Urban World – A New Chapter in Urban Development. Volume 2, Issue 2, April 2010. UN-Habitat, Nairobi

UNFPA (2007): State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth. New York: United Nations Population Fund.

UNDP (2010): Human Development Report 2010, 20th Anniversary Edition. The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development. Palgrave Macmillan, New York

World Bank (2009): Systems of Cities; harnessing urbanization for growth and poverty alleviation, The World Bank Urban and Local Government Strategy. Accessed on 28th November 2009

World Bank and Human Development Network (2000): Effective Schooling in Rural Africa. Project Report 1 -- Review of Phase I of the Program: March-August 2000: Effective Schools and Teachers, Basic Education Cluster In partnership with the Africa Region. World Bank

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