Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

First Advisor

David R. Evans

Second Advisor

Joseph Berger

Third Advisor

Joya Misra

Subject Categories



Despite the push for universal education, many disadvantaged and poor children in developing countries still do not have access to basic education. This among other reasons is due to poverty where poor families cannot afford the cost of basic education even when it is `free' of tuition (McDonald, 2007). Demand-side financing interventions such as scholarship programs are promising to be viable financing interventions of reaching out to the poor and marginalized children in order for them to access basic education. Although such financing strategies have been praised as having worked in mostly Latin American countries, very little is systematically known about how these interventions would work in poor African countries such as Malawi. This study therefore examines demand-side financing strategy through an evaluation of a scholarship program implemented in Malawi. It uses qualitative mode of inquiry through in-depth interviews of 36 key participants as a primary method of data collection. In addition it reviews program documents and conducts some cohort tracking on beneficiaries in Zomba rural district which is the site of the study. The findings show that community based targeting was used in the program and proved successful in identifying the right beneficiaries in a cost effective manner. It seems to offer a model to be adopted for such interventions in low resource countries. Findings further show that beneficiaries who received scholarships were able to persist however there was a substantial number that dropped out. There were a number of factors that caused this but it seems the internal motivation of beneficiaries to persist was very critical. This puts under the microscope an assumption that once scholarship is received, beneficiaries would persist in school. Last but not least, the findings also show that an assumption that local communities will be able to sustain such programs might be but a mere illusion as communities view themselves too poor to do this. Overall the study praises such programs as effective in targeting the poor and marginalized children however it puts a caution on assumptions about persistence & sustainability. It suggests further scrutiny on these assumptions to improve on the effectiveness of such programs and demand-side financing strategies in general.


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