Rural India Photography - Could the poor be paid for a hitherto free service?

December 15, 2021 by Elizabeth Mathew   Comments (0)

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Recently at a conference, my colleague Bree Bacon and i were flipping through the 'Beyond Profit' magazine and came across pictures of the rural poor in every other page - the woman in a sari by the cookstove, the children playing by the river or with rubber tyres, the gleeful school-kids, the men in the farms...It struck me at that point that if photography in the corporate sector can be a commercial venture with numerous ad agencies and publishing firms making money and having to pay for 'models' to sell a product - Couldn't the same concept be translated to the rural 'poor'? Could numerous snaps of women and kids in villages which are used lavishly in development blogs, sites and magazines actually generate some revenue for those who are photographed?

This could take the form of a platform where such photographs are collated and people have to pay to use them. The proceeds would naturally go to the 'poor' who actually are the faces of the photographs. I am still thinking of a feasible business model for this concept but would welcome any thoughts/suggestions and ideas.

Is private schooling better than public schooling - choices made by the poor the real test?

August 26, 2021 by Elizabeth Mathew   Comments (0)

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When the government provides free primary education, why do the poor still choose to send their kids to private schools? Is it a false sense of security based on the notion that since the service is provided for a fee, it must be good/superior? An article by Tim Harford in the Financial Times - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/73abde1e-8c59-11de-b14f-00144feabdc0.html, explores this notion in the healthcare and education sector in developing countries. The main point of the article is that accountability is important in ensuring better service delivery.

The articles describes James Tooley's effort to profile cheap private schools across India, Africa and China - "His research team discovered more committed teachers, and better provision of facilities such as toilets, drinking water, desks, libraries and electric fans. Most importantly of all, the children were learning more. In the areas Tooley has studied, private schools are educating at least as many children as government-run schools – and sometimes up to three times as many."

Tooley's team also discovered that despite low budgets and not so well qualified teachers in private schools, the state-run schools seemed to perform worse in performance outcomes and some government schools in Nigeria had teachers sleeping during classes, despite being informed by the film crew about Tooley's visit. So, what does this mean? The article argues that fee-paying customers are in a better position to demand better services and hold the service provider accountable. Hence, is it lack of accountability that makes public service provision in education unsatisfactory?

Of course, this is not to say that all private schools everywhere deliver better results, but the point is - do they seem to be better service providers at large simply because they are held responsible, accountable and are being monitored? It would be a good exercise to explore whether introducing a system of accountability in public service delivery would produce better results.