Over at Let’s Talk Development, I write about an experiment that showed an inspirational movie to Ugandan high school students and led many of them to pass their math exams:
Rwanda is an exciting country with a tragic history. Before a recent work trip there, I asked the Twitterverse for book recommendations about the land of a thousand hills. Here is what I heard back, along with a few of my own. (Asterisks are on the ones I’ve actually read.)
On Rwanda today
- A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It*, by Stephen Kinzer (my review) – A short history of Rwanda, with a major focus on post-genocide. Kinzer is very sympathetic to the current government. It’s easy to read and a good introduction to modern Rwanda. The author – Kinzer – wrote a defense of Paul Kagame in the Boston Globe a few weeks ago.
- Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship, by Anjan Sundaram – Documents limitations to free speech in Rwanda today.
- Business, Politics, and the State in Africa: Challenging the Orthodoxies on Growth and Transformation, by Tim Kelsall — Uses Rwanda as one (of three) case studies on modern African economic growth.
- Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World, by Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond – Super-sympathetic analysis of government support for business in Rwanda. I started it but didn’t finish it. (On Twitter, I received one recommendation for this but also one critique.)
- The Orderly Entrepreneur: Youth, Education, and Governance in Rwanda, by Catherine A. Honeyman – “investigates the impact and reception of the Rwandan government’s multiyear entrepreneurship curriculum, first implemented in 2007 as required learning in all secondary schools” (from Amazon blurb)
- Rwandan Women Rising, by Swanee Hunt – “While news of the Rwandan genocide reached all corners of the globe, the nation’s recovery and the key role of women are less well known. In Rwandan Women Rising, Swanee Hunt shares the stories of some seventy women—heralded activists and unsung heroes alike—who overcame unfathomable brutality, unrecoverable loss, and unending challenges to rebuild Rwandan society. … Rwandan women did not seek the limelight or set out to build a movement; rather, they organized around common problems such as health care, housing, and poverty to serve the greater good.” (from the Duke University Press blurb)
- Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence, edited by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf – “Remaking Rwanda is the first book to examine Rwanda’s remarkable post-genocide recovery in a comprehensive and critical fashion. By paying close attention to memory politics, human rights, justice, foreign relations, land use, education, and other key social institutions and practices, this volume raises serious concerns about the depth and durability of the country’s reconstruction.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe, by Gérard Prunier – “follows the 1996–2002 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo through many bewildering twists and turns.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Women and Power in Postconflict Africa, by Aili Mari Tripp — “gender disruptions that occur during war” (some on Rwanda in here). Review by Alice Evans.
On the genocide
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda*, by Philip Gourevitch – I found this well-written and powerful. It was the first book I read about Rwanda, and it was perfect for a novice, giving an intro to the history and then the genocide itself.
- Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak*, by Jean Hatzfeld (my review) – Hatzfeld interviewed a series of genocidaires while they were in prison. Insightful work.
- The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda, by Scott Straus – Social science approach.
- Genocide Lives in Us: Women, Memory, and Silence in Rwanda, by Jennie E. Burnet — “This clear and engaging ethnography of survival tackles three interrelated phenomena—memory, silence, and justice—and probes the contradictory roles women played in postgenocide reconciliation.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by Roméo Dallaire — “For the first time in the United States comes the tragic and profoundly important story of the legendary Canadian general who ‘watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect.'” (from Amazon blurb)
- And a couple of novels:
- A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, by Gil Courtemanche — “A moving, passionate love story set amid the turmoil and terror of Rwanda’s genocide.” (from Amazon blurb)
- Running the Rift, by Naomi Benaron — “Running the Rift follows the progress of Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life.” (from Amazon blurb)
Many thanks to Adolfo Avalos-Lozano, Sarah Baird, Danielle Beswick, Erika Edwards Decaster, Alice Evans, Andrew Gerard, Seva Gunitsky, Mike Holmes, Robert Marten, Jonathan Mazumdar, Gaby Saade, for Elisabeth Turner for suggestions.
[Updated 8/23/2017 at 2:30pm]
- “Josephine, who cooked every day for the Taylor soldiers who raped her,” and
- “a terrified Mary Warner [who] strapped her four-year-old son on her back and ran from place to place, finally pressed up against a gate outside the United Nations compound, desperately seeking shelter,” and
- Louise Yarsiah, who was leading a group of women in prayers for peace when Charles Taylor’s security chief showed up. Yeaten’s soldiers drew their guns, and Yarsiah’s women kept praying. Ultimately, the soldiers stood down.
Ben Piper reports on insightful work that he and co-authors have done comparing various education technology intervention in Kenya in terms of both effectiveness (do they improve reading ability?) and the cost-effectiveness (what’s the cost per reading gain?).
When compared to traditional literacy programs, the more intensive ICT interventions did not produce large enough gains in learning outcomes to justify the cost. This is not to say that each of the ICT interventions did not produce improvements in students’ reading ability…. [But] the cost-effectiveness of all of these programs might still be significantly lower than a clear investment in high quality literacy programs…. In additional to monetary cost, an opportunity cost existed…. Many of the teachers, tutors, and students lacked exposure to technology and the time and energy spent on learning how to use the technology reduced the amount of time for instructional improvement activities.
When costs are considered, there are non-ICT interventions that could have larger impacts on learning outcomes with reduced costs; one such option could include assigning the best teachers to the first grade when children are learning how to read, rather than to the end of primary school as many schools do.
Economists will disagree with the standard errors if I understand the specification right: Randomization is at the district level and I don’t believe the authors cluster the standard errors.
But I don’t think that will change the fundamental message here: Even if there are some gains from education technology, we have to ask when they will be most likely to be worth the cost.
A new paper by Paul Christian and Brian Dillon poses this question: “Does a consistently seasonal diet during childhood have long-run effects on human capital formation?” They use Tanzania’s Kagera Health and Development Survey — a 19-year panel survey — to answer the question. As you can see from the figure below, Tanzania has dramatic seasonality: Children have very different access to food in some parts of the year than in others.
Christian and Dillon develop a structural model — which you can read all about in the paper — and use the household data to estimate it.
Here is a taste of the results:
We find a robust, negative relationship between consumption seasonality and human capital formation. Across specifications, the negative relationship between seasonality and human capital is 30-60% of the magnitude of the positive relationship between average consumption and human capital (in the same units). … The effects of seasonality on height is greatest for children in utero and during infancy, during the critical first 1,000 days of life. Effects on education are most pronounced for older children, suggesting that behavioral channels such as dropping out of school to help on the farm are more important in this sample than early life impacts on cognitive performance. When we further allow for heterogeneity by both age and gender, we see that the height effects during infancy are concentrated among girls, while the education effects during adolescence are largely driven by boys.
A new study was just published in the Review of Educational Research: Identifying Effective Education Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Meta-Analysis of Impact Evaluations, by Katharine Conn from Columbia University. Here is a subset of findings (emphasis added):
I identify educational interventions with an impact on student learning in Sub-Saharan Africa. After a systematic literature search, I conducted a meta-analysis synthesizing 56 articles containing 66 separate experiments and quasi-experiments and 83 treatment arms…. A key finding is that programs that alter teacher pedagogy or classroom instructional techniques had an effect size approximately 0.30 standard deviations greater than all other types of programs combined. Limited evidence further suggests that pedagogical programs that employed adaptive instruction or teacher coaching were particularly effective.
In case you don’t have access, the earlier, open-access dissertation version has the same sample and the same findings reported in the abstract.
That version was one of six reviews that Anna Popova and I synthesized in our paper What Really Works to Improve Learning in Developing Countries? An Analysis of Divergent Findings in Systematic Reviews (open-access version).
“A researcher [mtafiti] is an important person because he indeed is the one who discovers everything [anayegundua kila kitu].” – Mzee Thomas Inyassi
Melissa Graboyes describes how research participants in Tanzania see the medical researchers who come to them for samples and information. On the one hand, “East Africans noted the similarity between researchers and doctors: they both gave out medicine and helped the sick recover.” On the other hand…
As healers and witches are understood to rely on the same skills, once researchers were compared with healers, it was not such a stretch to compare them to witches. … Witch doctors often work at night and want blood. … Researchers also worked at night, collecting blood samples by going door to door or collecting night-biting mosquitos by walking around in the bush. For both witches and researchers, blood was valued above all other substances and its use was shrouded in secrecy.
This, from Graboyes’ intriguing book The Experiment Must Continue: Medical Research and Ethics in East Africa, 1940-2014.
Lest you think this is limited only to medical research, consider the following passage from Kremer, Miguel, and Thornton’s randomized evaluation of a girls’ scholarship program in western Kenya:
There is also a tradition of suspicion of outsiders in Teso, and this has at times led to misunderstandings with NGOs there. A government report noted that indigenous religious beliefs, traditional taboos, and witchcraft practices remain stronger in Teso than in Busia (Were, 1986).
Events that occurred during the study period appear to have interacted in an adverse way with these preexisting factors in Teso district. In June 2001 lightning struck and severely damaged a Teso primary school, killing 7 students and injuring 27 others. Although that school was not in the scholarship program, the NGO had been involved with another assistance program there. Some community members associated the lightning strike with the NGO, and this appears to have led some schools to pull out of the girls’ scholarship program. Of 58 Teso sample schools, 5 pulled out immediately following the lightning strike, as did a school located in Busia with a substantial ethnic Teso population. (Moreover, one girl in Teso who won the ICS scholarship in 2001 later refused the scholarship award, reportedly because of negative views toward the NGO.)
Witches or healers?
One take away from this is that researchers need to do more to make sure participants understand what they are participating in.