This is part of a series where I write about my stay in Rwanda and Uganda and what I learned that might be helpful from an EA perspective.
You can see the full list of articles here, which I will add to as they come out.
One of the questions I asked people throughout Rwanda was, “If a charity came to your village and they could send either ten children to primary school or one person to university, what would you want them to do?”. Depending on their answer, I would change the ratio. For example, if they said that they’d choose to send the person to university, I’d ask them, “What if it was one hundred children to primary school? What about one thousand?”
By and large, most people would far prefer to send one person to university compared to tens to hundreds of people to primary school. Of the people I spoke to, 85% said that they would prefer to send one person to university over one hundred to primary school. More than half kept the same answer when it was one thousand to primary school.
When I asked why, the answers were almost always that primary school was not useful. They didn’t just mean that it wasn’t a good quality education. They also thought that the person would just continue to farm with a primary education. No change in their outcomes. Meanwhile, if somebody goes to university, they can not only get out of farming and make real money, but also come back to the village and pass along anything they’ve learned.
Those who said they’d prefer primary said that it was because they didn’t want to leave people out, and they couldn’t prioritize one person over ten.
Of course, I must add the usual qualifiers that this was a small sample size (twenty people), there are many ways that if you changed the wording you’d get different answers, and so forth. You can read more about what I learned about methodology limitations here.
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I'm an effective altruist who co-founded Charity Science Health and Charity Entrepreneurship.