Understanding the School Improvement Grant

What is School Improvement Grant (SIG)?

The School Improvement Grant (SIG) is a programme aimed at providing financially constrained schools with resources to address their most basic needs and meet a set of school functionality standards. The programme prioritizes funding to the schools serving the poorest communities and with the poorest levels of resource.


What is the purpose of SIG?

The immediate purpose is to provide adequate and well targeted levels of funding to financially constrained schools to cover non-personnel and non-capital resource demands in the school which will enable it to meet a minimum set of school functionality standards.


How are schools selected?

The Education Development Fund (EDF) Steering Committee (SC) agree on a criterion for selection of schools and the allocation of amounts. Criterion for selection is also based on the budget available for SIG for that year. Upon agreement of criterion, Education Management Information System (EMIS) data is used to select the schools and the lists are shared with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Provincial and Districts offices for final confirmation and informing the schools to submit their requests and other requisite documents.


How are the funds send to schools?

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Head Office captures the schools targeted for SIG and prepares a pay sheet. Upon verification checks, the pay sheet is encrypted and only to be decrypted by UNICEF Finance Department. The pay sheet is then processed after further checks and money is sent directly into school accounts.


How is SIG Implemented by schools?

An up to date School Development Plan together with SIG utilization/ selection criteria are used to guide implementation of SIG. Expenditure should be in line with the eligible items listed in the utilization criteria. For any activity of the School Development Plan (SDP) to be funded by SIG, it must be part of the eligible item, which is shared by MoPSE. Failure to abide to this eligibility criteria will lead to nonpayment of future grants to the school. SIG Operations manual which stipulates all the processes including the roles of each Ministry level together with the Financial Management Manual are distributed to schools and these should be used for day to day running of SIG programme.


What is the utilization/selection criterion?

It is a document which outlines the eligible and ineligible items for the SIG funds. Each year, MoPSE together with UNICEF and donors review the utilization criteria considering findings from SIG monitoring and verification exercises as well as the prevailing economic situation, and available resources, and make the selection of schools based on these criteria. Any activity outside of the agreed SDP can still be included within the confines of the utilization criterion but will have to be approved by the District School Inspectorate (DSI) and should be documented. Each school receiving SIG should have a copy of the utilization criteria.


What is performance reward which was introduced in 2019?

The performance reward is an incentive to encourage schools to perform better and increase their retention rate. An additional amount to the tune of USD $500 is given to schools with:

  • Retention rate up to Grade 7 above 75% for primary schools; and
  • Retention rate up to Form 4 above 75% for secondary satellite schools

This information is gathered from the Education Management Information System (EMIS).  Funds allocated based on performance criteria will have to be reported together with the other regular SIG allocation and used as per the utilization criteria.


Why are schools not allowed to use cash for spending the SIG funds?

The SIG programme has a stringent policy of NO CASH transaction, this is a control measure. Schools are required to procure goods and services by means of bank transfer (RTGS- Real Time Gross Settlement). Payment is to be made after delivery of goods or services.


Why should schools need to maintain cashbooks even if they no longer receive SIG fund?

All beneficiary SIG schools are mandated to maintain cash books with proper recording of payments, description of payments and cash balances so that they can be produced for audit purpose and counter checking during verification and accounting.


Why do special schools receive much more that the ordinary schools?

Special schools cater for children with special needs and they have more demands than the other children in the mainstream schools. In addition, their provisions such as braille machines, software, wheel chairs among others are more expensive compared to the provisions of the other children.


Is the SDC part of School Improvement Grants Programme?

Yes. The SDC chairperson is required to countersign the UNICEF Funding Authorization and Certificate of Expenditure (FACE) form requesting and reporting SIG activities to show that they are involved since SIG is part of the funds at school level.


Why did the SIG eligibility criteria for 2019 remove construction and rehabilitation of school buildings for the satellite schools and registered P3 schools?

Due to the economic situation in the country, the EDF SC decided to temporarily remove construction and rehabilitation of school buildings for satellite and registered P3 schools in 2019 because it is a high-risk area and likely not to give value for money. However minor repair such as fixing broken items like windows, ceilings, ramps, paths, rails and other structures to support the mainstreaming of special needs pupils in schools can be done.


Why is the school head not allowed to furnish her/his office using SIG, especially in the disadvantaged schools?

SIG funds are disbursed to financially constrained schools to help them reach a set of minimum functionality standards. Allowing school heads to use the grant and furnish their office rooms will not benefit the learners.


Why are there specific timelines for schools to utilize their SIG grant?

SIG follows UNICEF’s Harmonized Approach to Cash Assistance (HACT) guidelines, which requires set timelines to spend and report on funds disbursed, hence the need for schools to expend the money within 3 months and report on usage. This will also allow the learners to start benefitting from the SIG funds right away.


Why are labour costs and payment of technical support excluded?

Payment of labour charges and technical support have been excluded from the eligible item list as it is difficult to account for it, and the cost varies. Schools are encouraged to contribute to the construction projects through paying for labour and encouraging their communities to provide locally available resources.


Why is it important for districts to communicate to the schools within a week of receiving the SIG money?

District offices are to communicate with the respective schools on receiving the SIG grant in the bank account so that the schools can plan on the utilization of the grant as soon as possible.