My hopes and aspirations as a PAL Network Research Fellow 2018

by Natasha Kafle, ASER Nepal

In alignment with the mission of PAL Network, the purpose of the 2018 Research Fellowship Program is to provide research fellows from within the network the opportunity to expand their familiarity and understanding of citizen-led assessment (CLA) data, by conducting analysis to produce new insights through an independent research project. For the duration of the research project, the fellows are placed at the network Secretariat office in Nairobi, Kenya for four months.

During my time here, I am looking forward to collaborating with the current PAL Network fellows to learn more about the citizen-led assessments (CLA) conducted in their countries, learning more about the work of the Secretariat and the entire network through a series of different workshops and training sessions. During my tenure at the Secretariat, I intend to look into ways of improving and influencing educational policies and practices in disaster affected regions in the network.

Exploring the effect of natural disasters on children’s learning

My research aims to explore the effect of natural disasters on the learning levels of children between the age of 5 and 16 years using citizen-led assessment datasets from ASER Centre in India and ASER Pakistan. The strength of the research lies in its analysis of CLA data, collected through household surveys. These surveys are unique in that they include all children- enrolled in schools (private and public), out-of-school (never enrolled and drop-outs). The research, backed by transparent data will be critical in contributing to existing research on the effects of natural disasters on children’s learning levels, with the intention of suggesting appropriate policy responses as well as practical action.

What are the effects of natural disasters in India and Pakistan?

Natural disasters can have deleterious effects on children’s education. For a child living in a disaster affected region, they may experience or witness violence, separation from their parents and caregivers, loss of livelihood of their families, homelessness and poverty. Natural disasters can have traumatic effects on children, affecting their full developmental potential. In disaster affected regions, children are more likely to be out of school, with uncertainty over when they may return. As whole communities experience the debilitating effects of a disaster, years of learning could be lost for the children of those communities as the focus turns to recovery. This disruption can lead to dysfunctional education systems, with the need to re-establish education and return to normalcy sometimes overlooked.

Globally, India and Pakistan are two countries in the South Asian region that experience higher incidences of natural disasters. In 2015, they were among the top five along with China, the Philippines and Indonesia to be the worst hit. In 2016, nearly 150 million children were affected by drought and heatwaves in India. Studies have revealed that when disaster strikes in rural India, parents from poor households substitute their children’s schooling with labor functions as a self-insurance.

Over the last ten years, Pakistan has experienced earthquakes, cyclones, floods and droughts. During the 2010 floods in Pakistan, 20 million people were affected, of which 10 million were children. About 8000 schools were estimated to be affected, posing a grave concern about the return of children to schools.

While children continue to be at risk, it becomes all the more important to assess their learning situations, to understand how they can best be helped to catch up. Education is a human right and it unlocks individual potential and benefits society as a whole, thereby, empowering people to live healthier and sustainable lives and break the cycle of poverty.

What does the next four months have in store?

I am looking forward to good times together, learning about the culture of Kenya, about the hopes and aspirations of the people here and take away a lifetime of learning and friendship. I am looking forward to the trainings and workshops and meeting with people from the network member countries, various sessions at the office and wrapping up my research all satisfied and happy.

I am certain I will be able to utilize my fellowship experience to learn more about citizen-led assessments (CLAs), their implications in the member countries and meaningfully contribute to the development and expansion of the citizen-led assessment model in Nepal upon my return.

While there is much to learn, there is just so much more to reciprocate. Therefore, in these four months, I wish to observe and absorb as much as I can to be equipped to have contributed to the large pool of literature on education as a whole.


1- 16th Community Based Disaster Risk Management Course, Child Focused Disaster Risk Reduction, Participants Workbook, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, 2007
2- The human cost of the hottest year on record, UNISDR, 2016
3- DFID Education Policy Get Children Learning, DFID, February 2018
4- Three months on: Save the Children’s Flood Relief and Recovery for Children in Pakistan, Save the Children Pakistan, October 2010
5- Disaster Risk Reduction, International Network for Education in Emergencies, 2017
6- Do Natural Disasters Affect Human Capital? An Assessment Based on Existing Empirical Evidence, Javier Baez, World Bank, IZA Alejandro de la Fuente, World Bank, Indhira Santos Bruegel, March 2009