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Supporting the school participation of displaced children
Last registered on March 29, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Supporting the school participation of displaced children
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003834
Initial registration date
February 09, 2019
Last updated
March 29, 2019 1:31 PM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
UNICEF
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
UNICEF
PI Affiliation
Tufts University
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2018-09-03
End date
2020-01-28
Secondary IDs
Abstract
As described in a recent report commissioned by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee - Humanitarian Financing Task Team (2016), funding for humanitarian interventions is volatile. This volatility leads to “a short-term programming focus” and “start-stop operations with sub-optimal execution”. As a result, humanitarian interventions may not be optimally aligned with the crisis they are designed to address. Humanitarian programmes may, for instance, have to be scaled down drastically while a crisis is still at its peak. We know little about the implications of such volatility for beneficiaries.

This study focuses on the scale down of a humanitarian intervention. The program, known as Hajati, was initiated by UNICEF Jordan at the height of the Syrian displacement crisis. Hajati provides monthly cash transfers to vulnerable households with at least one child in a subset of public Jordanian primary schools. Most of these were displaced Syrian households. The cash transfers are unconditional but labelled as an education intervention. The program started operating in the 2017/18 schoolyear and was originally conceived as a program that would provide sustained support. However, it had to be scaled down in the 2018/19 schoolyear due to funding shortages, when program coverage was reduced from about 56,000 to roughly 7,000 children. During the 2018/19 schoolyear, the Hajati team started experimenting with an additional intervention layered on to the cash transfers. The intervention consisted of SMS text messages encouraging beneficiary households to send their children back to school after the winter break, a precarious time of the schoolyear with particularly high dropout rates.

Relying on a cluster-randomized trial, this study compares children who receive Hajati benefits in the 2018/19 schoolyear to those who do not. The trial consists of four treatment arms: one in which households receive both Hajati cash transfers and the newly introduced encouragement messages, one in which they receive only the encouragement messages, one in which they receive only the cash transfers, and a fourth group that does not receive either intervention. Baseline data consist of administrative targeting data collected at the start of the program just before the 2017/18 schoolyear. Endline data will be collected in February and March of 2019, shortly after the winter break.

The primary aim of the study is to establish the impact of (dis)continuing the cash benefits on three outcome domains: (i) children’s material wellbeing, (ii) children’s school enrolment and participation after the winter break and (iii) children’s psychosocial wellbeing. The study will also establish whether the encouragement messages helped to maintain children’s school participation and whether this effect is stronger among households who received the cash benefits (i.e. whether there is a synergy between the cash transfers and the encouragement messages). The latter is important, because cash transfers are often seen as an entry point for behavioural change interventions.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Aker, Jenny, Jacobus de Hoop and Luisa Natali. 2019. "Supporting the school participation of displaced children." AEA RCT Registry. March 29. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3834-4.0
Former Citation
Aker, Jenny, Jacobus de Hoop and Luisa Natali. 2019. "Supporting the school participation of displaced children." AEA RCT Registry. March 29. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3834/history/44335
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
* Cash transfers to (primarily displaced Syrian) households with children in public primary schools
* Text messages to encourage households to send their children back to school after the winter break
Intervention Start Date
2018-09-03
Intervention End Date
2019-06-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Here we describe our hypotheses for the primary outcome domains and the associated outcome variables. As cash transfer programs may affect many areas of children’s lives, we cover a fairly wide range of outcome variables. For each subdomain, the last bullet point (in Italics) lists what we consider to be our main indicator.

Domain 1: Children’s material well-being.
Hypothesis 1: Hajati cash transfers are labelled as an education intervention. Hence, we expect these transfers to increase household expenditure on children’s nutrition, material items, and education.

1a. Food security:
* Child reported: ate three meals yesterday, did not skip a meal yesterday, ate breakfast yesterday, did not go to bed hungry yesterday
* Number of positive responses on the child reported outcomes (0/4, scaled to range from 0 to 1)

1b. Access to basic items:
* Child reported ownership of: pair of summer shoes, pair of winter shoes, warm clothes for the winter, warm blanket for the winter.
* Number of basic items owned (0/4, scaled to range from 0 to 1)

Domain 2: Children’s schooling
Hypothesis 2a: Increased expenditures on children due to Hajati result in positive effects on school participation
Hypothesis 2b: Encouraging households to send their children back to school after the winter break lowers school dropout during the school year
Hypothesis 2c: The effects of encouraging households to send their children back to school after the winter break are stronger in households receiving Hajati cash (i.e. β_1>β_2+β_3, see equation 2 below)

2a. School attendance:
* Child reported: currently in school (only for the cash arm); attended school last day school was in session
* Household reported: currently in school, missed fewer than 5 days of school during the current schoolyear
* Teacher reported (if feasible): currently in school; attended school during the last three days school was in session; regular attendance since the winter break; learning well and keeping up with the class curriculum
* Enumerator observed (if feasible): In school during spot/check
* Child reports he/she currently attends school (specification 1). Child reports he/she attended school last day school was in session (specification 2).

2b. School items:
* Child reported (for children in school): receives an allowance to purchase lunch or snacks during schooldays, has a schoolbag, has all the stationery needed for school.
* Number of positive responses on the child reported outcomes (0/3, scaled to range from 0 to 1) (0 if the child is not in school)

Domain 3: Children’s psychosocial well-being:
Hypothesis 3a: Increased expenditures on children and increased school participation lead to improvements perceived social support. Children in school have more opportunities for socializing with their friends. Moreover, a child-focused program may increase adult household members care for children.
Hypothesis 3b: As a result of increased school participation (and possibly social support) children’s mental wellbeing, self-esteem, aspirations, and outlook on life improve.

3a. Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support
* Individual items; total score (0/48);
* Additional questions developed by research team. My family and household members care about (i) my progress in school, (ii) my future, (iii) my health, and (iv) my feelings
* Indicator for total perceived social support score above average (0/1)

3b1. Happiness, World Values Survey
* Indicator for responses to the following question take the value Quite happy or Very happy (0/1). Taking all things together, would you say you are…?

3b2. Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children (CES-DC)
* Individual items; total score (0/60); score indicative of depression I[Total>15];
* Items re-coded to make all positive
* Indicator for depression (0/1)

3b3. Rosenberg’s Self-esteem scale:
* Individual items; Total score (0/30); score indicative of low self-esteem I[Total>15];
* Items recoded to make all positive
* Indicator for low self-esteem (0/1)

3b4. Aspirations based on Middle Years Development Instrument
* Plans to graduate from primary school, secondary school, and college or university
* Plans to graduate from secondary school (0/1)

3b5. Outlook on life based on Holistic Student Assessment:
* Optimism: individual items; total score (0/12);
* Trust: individual items; total score (0/9);
* Assertiveness: individual items; total score (0/12);
* Indicator for total optimism score above average (0/1)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
In principle, all outcome variables will be constructed on the full sample of children participating in the child questionnaire. For example, in the construction of the variable “attended school the last day school was in session”, we will assign the value zero both to children who are not in school and to children who are in school but did not attend on the last day.

All variables will be (re-)coded such that higher values mean more positive outcome. Items with limited variation will be excluded from the analysis. As a general rule of thumb, we will exclude variables for which 95% of observations or more have the same value. However, such items will not be excluded from standardized scales, such as the CES-DC.

Given the nature of the outcome variables, corrections for extreme values are not considered necessary. The only exception is school expenditures, and we will check robustness by top-coding at the 95th percentile.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Domain 1a_S. Food security:
• Household reported: WFP food consumption scale and score above average

Domain 2a_S. School expenditures:
• For each child in school, household’s will be asked to report expenditures on: (i) after school programs and tutoring, (ii) school books and stationery, (iii) school uniforms and clothing, (iv) contributions to school building or maintenance, and other related fees, (v) transport to school, (vi) other. If households cannot answer by category, they will be asked to estimate total school-related expenditures. Outcome variables will be twofold: any expenditure on the child’s education, and total expenditure on the child’s education (in JD)

Domain 4: Child work
Hypothesis 4: Increased school participation and income related to children reduces child engagement in economic activities and household chores

4. Child work (child reported):
• Economic activities
• Household chores
• Hazardous economic activities
• Excessive hours of economic activities or household chores

Domain 5: Children’s exposure to violence
Hypothesis 5: Changes in children’s daily activities will change their exposure to violence

5. Exposure to non-physical and physical violence
• Any
• In school
• In the workplace
• At home

Domain 6: Migration
Hypothesis 6: Program induced changes in household income and future opportunities for children affect propensity to migrate

6. Household and/or child plan to migrate:
• Child reported
• Household reported

Domain 7: Marriage and fertility
Hypothesis 7: Program induced changes in household income and future opportunities for children affect early marriage and pregnancy

7. Marriage and fertility (child reported):
• Married since the start of the new schoolyear
• Girls only: currently pregnant and got pregnant since start of the new schoolyear

Domain 8: Household ability to pay
Hypothesis 8: Program induced changes in household income increase household ability to pay for essentials and lower household propensity to incur debt

8. Household payment ability (household reported):
• During the past three months, was the household able to pay in full for: drinking water, water other than drinking, electricity, school transportation, other education related expenditures.
• During the past three months, did the household incur new debt?
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Relying on a cluster-randomized trial with multiple treatment arms, the study explores and decomposes the impacts of (dis)continuing the Hajati cash transfers and the encouragement messages.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Stratification by governate, and conducted by the researchers using a random number generator
Randomization Unit
Clusters of double shifted schools (see also experimental design)
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
160 clusters of double shifted schools
Sample size: planned number of observations
Target: 25 weighted households per cluster, for a total of a little over 4,000 households. See experimental design.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
39 DSS clusters in T1; 41 in T2; 40 in T3; and 40 in T4. See experimental design.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Power calculations for school enrollment and attendance are available on request.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Tufts University IRB
IRB Approval Date
2019-02-22
IRB Approval Number
In progress
IRB Name
King Hussein Cancer Center
IRB Approval Date
2019-02-22
IRB Approval Number
In progress
Analysis Plan

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