Education and technology skills, Bangladesh. Credit: DFID/Ricci Coughlan

Neighbourhood effects on children’s educational opportunities: Insights from Bangladesh, India and Tanzania

This policy brief focuses on the effect that neighbourhoods have on the educational opportunities of children living in rapidly growing cities in Bangladesh, India and Tanzania.

It analyses the following aspects of formal education: (a) availability of different types of schools (e.g., public and non-state) at different levels, (b) quality and availability of facilities and services, (c) physical accessibility of schools, and (d) financial support.

Key findings:
  • Children living in poor and low-income neighbourhoods are less likely to have good access to schools, especially beyond primary level.
  • Children living in poor and low-income neighbourhoods are less likely to attend well-resourced and well-equipped schools.
  • Neighbourhoods are not homogenous and are constantly changing, which affects access to and quality of schools.
  • Children and schools in poorer neighbourhoods receive little financial and other support.
  • Limited access to well-equipped, well-resourced and well-maintained schools drive student absenteeism and high drop-out rates.
  • There is a growing number of non-state schools within neighbourhoods, which raises issues of accessibility, sustainability and quality.

Key policy recommendations:

1. Adopt a neighbourhood lens to develop a more nuanced and targeted evidence base for policies and interventions.

2. Ensure the availability of well-resourced schools of all levels locally.

3. Ensure the availability of diverse learning opportunities in all neighbourhoods.

4. Engage with local actors in each neighbourhood to build on available resources and capacities to support children’s learning.

5. Support non-state education providers in less affluent neighbourhoods to sustain education and prevent disruption when funding ends.

A neighbourhood with the gist of every social class, Vatara, Dhaka. Credit: Tahmina Sultana.

Panel Discussion: Building resilience with equity - Perspectives from cities and neighbourhoods in the Global South

Panel Discussion: Building resilience with equity - Perspectives from cities and neighbourhoods in the Global South

  • Thursday 28 October 2021

  • 10:00-11:30 (GMT)


Most cities in the Global South have experienced rapid population and urbanization growth which have transformed urban spaces. It is projected that Africa and Asia will concentrate most of the world’s urban population in the next four decades. However, urban planning for more resilient and sustainable cities has so far failed to materialise. Urban sprawls have taken over green spaces and water bodies have been destroyed. Large proportions of cities consist of informal settlements where residents live in poor housing conditions with limited access to infrastructure, health, education and income opportunities. Urban planning and the benefits of city living are currently being enjoyed by a privileged few. Climate change will exacerbate these inequalities as poor and marginalised groups have less capacity to adapt to changes in our climate system. The panel discussion will focus on strategies that integrate environmental responses to climate change with social and economic dimensions, highlighting the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to urban sustainability.


Ya Ping Wang – Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (UK)

Gareth Morgan – Director of Resilience, City of Cape Town, Government of South Africa

Kunal Kumar – Joint Secretary and Mission Director Smart Cities Mission, Government of India

Rev. Fr. Norman Jesus – Administrator of Jaime Cardinal Sin Village Urban Housing Project (Philippines)

Shilpi Roy – Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods and Khulna University (Bangladesh)

Sheela Patel – Director of the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres (India)  


Remy Sietchiping – Chief Policy, Legislation and Governance Section at UN-Habitat (Kenya)

Register here.

Inequalities in Cities of the Global South: Learning from the Session Organised at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 2021

Written by Ramjee Bhandari, Gideon Baffoe and Sohail Ahmad.

Three researchers from the SHLC team at the University of Glasgow organised a session at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2021 on the theme of ‘inequalities in cities of the Global South’ on 31 August 2021.

Here, we record our reflection based on six papers presented in two sessions. These papers demonstrated the prevalence of inequalities at all spatial levels – international, national, regional, city, and sub-city (i.e., neighbourhoods’ level) – across several parameters from income to access to urban amenities in case studies from three continents – Asia, Africa and South America. From the presentations, it was clear that a one-size-fits-all strategy would not be appropriate in redressing inequalities in the cities of the global south. A policy or an intervention must be attuned to the socioeconomic, political and environmental realities on the ground. The seeming consensus from the discussions was that there is a need for targeted interventions, both ‘people and place’ and inclusive governance to address the challenges of inequalities in multiple forms. The sessions allowed appreciation of the endemic, dynamic and widespread nature of urban inequality in the global south. It was also an avenue for networking among the presenters who all happened to be early career researchers (ECRs).

Soweto, South West Township, Johannesburg, South Africa. Shutterstock, Cedric Weber

Inequalities exist everywhere: Identifying nature and severity are crucial for interventions  

Based on findings from recently published work along with colleagues from Glasgow, Sohail Ahmad highlights the dearth of comparative urban and neighbourhood studies in the Global South. Using measures such as Gini Index, his results set a background of prevailing inequalities in selected case study cities of SHLC (presentation). Among the case study cities, Johannesburg was the most unequal and Datong was the most equal city. The income inequality was positively correlated with the unemployment level.  He further suggested numerous forms of inequalities such as built environment and economy sectors.

This was followed by findings from Wa, Ghana, presented by Samuel Amoah and a colleague. Samuel stated how the neighbourhoods are segregated by the differentials in the provision and access to water and sanitary facilities. They argue that the primary underlying cause of the identified disparities are differences in the socio-economic characteristics of households and conclude that provision of equitable access to amenities by authorities and strict enforcement of building regulations would be critical in bridging the disparities in Wa.

Street market in Dar es Salaam. Credit: Shutterstock, Jon Naustdalslid

Gideon Baffoe’s talk was based on a recently published peer-reviewed journal article about rethinking sustainable urban development in Kigali. The talk explored the development trajectory and citizen aspirations concerning Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He identified inclusive governance as a key strategy to achieve SDGs in Kigali and Rwanda as a whole.

Ibrahim Msuya from Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania, shared his exploration and attempts to understand the socio-spatial stratification in Dar es Salaam’s neighbourhoods. His study found an emergence of ethnic-based neighbourhoods in the peri-urban areas of Dar es Salaam but with high cohesiveness on similar ethnical backgrounds. He suggested a need to understand ethnic-based neighbourhoods and their role in shaping built environment qualities in the city.

Carolina Mayen Huerta from the University of Melbourne presented her work on the (in)equitable distribution of green spaces in Mexico City, with special reference to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She undertook a spatial analysis of the distribution of urban green space (UGS) in Mexico City that reveal access to UGS is not independent of the level of poverty concentration in neighbourhoods at any functional level (children parks to district parks). She shows 72% of neighbourhoods do not have access to urban green space within 300 metres in the city, a critical distance to access comfortably. A clear socioeconomic difference was noted between neighbourhoods with or without access to UGS. In addition, her results highlighted which neighbourhoods in Mexico City should be prioritized in terms of UGS access, which is critical for future urban planning in the city.

Street scene with labourers waiting to start work. Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Shutterstock, Jennifer Sophie

Finally, Faisal Munir from the University of Gujrat, Pakistan shared findings from his research that aimed to explore the nature of housing inequalities and their determinants in urban areas of Pakistan focusing on ethnolinguistic groups using the Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement Survey 2014-15. The main message from his talk was that intersectionality between ethnicity, income and education play a crucial role in determining this level of inequality. Based on the findings, Faisal advocated for targeted housing policies to limit housing inequalities in the country.

Methodologically, the majority of the papers used econometric frameworks in spatial context employing large datasets from nationally representative household survey data or city-specific census data. So, the session used mixed research methods to address inequalities across the regions.

These studies reveal inequalities exist everywhere and public policy interventions are crucial to bridge them by identifying the nature of inequality such as sectors and severity and targeting them through public policy interventions focusing on people and place.


About the Conference and Session: The Royal Geographical Society with IBG organised Annual International Conference between 31st August to 3rd of September 2021. Because of the ongoing pandemic, this year’s conference was in the blended/online format. The conference was a great learning opportunity for geographers and those from related fields. The conference which was chaired by Professor Uma Kothari of the University of Manchester was under the theme “Borders, borderlands and bordering”. SHLC made a representation during the week-long event by hosting/chairing two sessions and making use of the forum to share some research findings. On the 31st of August, the two sessions were put together to explore and highlight the inequalities in the cities of the Global South. During the two sessions, there were presentations from the SHLC and other researchers. The first session was chaired by Ramjee Bhandari, and the second session was chaired by Sohail Ahmad and Gideon Baffoe.

23rd ASEF Summer University: Liveable Cities for a Sustainable Future - Open Call for Participation Launched

We were pleased to announce the launch the Open Call for Participants in the 23rd ASEF Summer University, Liveable Cities for a Sustainable Future.

We are pleased that SHLC is amongst the sponsors of this event, and that our colleagues in India and Bangladesh will be amongst those providing background papers.

This Open Call is open for Young Professionals and Students aged 18-30 from all 51 ASEM countries.

Find out more information:

We encourage all who read this to circulate this information widely

The application form is found here. The deadline is Wednesday, 29 September 2021, UTC 23:59

SHLC enters into co-operation with UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning

SHLC is very pleased to announce an agreement with UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) to co-operate during 2021 within their programme: Local challenges, global imperatives: Cities at the forefront to achieve Education 2030.

This programme explores the key role of cities in educational planning and management. SHLC has brought its partners and their cities in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Rwanda into the programme so that these issues can be explored in the global south. IIEP and SHLC will be collectively analysing data gathered by partners in these countries, adding a further dimension to IIEP’s excellent work, and to SHLC’s capacity strengthening activity.

Students participate in class while listing to class teacher at the Sujat Nagar urban slum school in Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 11, 2016. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

The co-operation at SHLC will be managed by Yulia Nesterova and Mike Osborne, working in collaboration with the programme leads at IIEP, Candy Lugaz and Chloé Chimier. SHLC colleagues Shilpi Roy, Khulna University, Mario Delos Reyes and Mark Gamboa, Centre for Neighbourhood Studies, and Vincent Manirakiza, University of Rwanda will be leading in-country research.

From Challenge To Opportunity: Shifting Community-Based Research Online

This article was written by S. Ram Aravind and originally published by PRIA. The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not attributable to SHLC.

As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across India, researchers have faced difficulties in doing research with communities. The disruption to life and livelihoods as a consequence of lockdowns and restrictions on movement has cast a cloud over our communities.

The initial tendency can be to postpone, and even resist, making connections and maintaining relationships digitally. But researchers can, and should, move out of their comfort zones of physical interactions, that have so far been the cornerstone of community-based research, and develop skills in digital (online) interactions. This comes with a new set of challenges, especially with the societal inequalities inherent in diverse cultures, but is also an opportunity to learn new skills, as Ram Aravind writes in this blog.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

The ‘unexpected’ imposition of lockdown in Delhi-NCR, following a record surge in COVID-19 related infections and deaths in India, has pushed time back on any hopes of reviving face-to-face interaction with the community, as PRIA has always done while conducting research with them. The situation was, however, different two months ago. Leading a team of community researchers and university students to explore adolescent health in informal settlements in Gurugram, I was overwhelmed and thrilled at the prospect of returning to the field after a gap of more than 12 months, since March 2020. Even as we made elaborate plans to join hands with the community to address the deficiency in health-seeking behaviour of youth in under-resourced settings, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic situation forced us to seek other ways of staying connected with communities.

The world over, the research community is confronted by calls to align their research methodology to conform to the pandemic landscape and restrictions imposed on travel and funds. As participatory, community-based researchers, our decision to transition to the world of ‘Zooms’ and ‘Teams’ seemed logical and practical, a way to restore our connections with the community and sustain our relationship with our co-researchers. If we could not be together, at least we would get to see one another.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

We decided to conduct two Focus-Group Discussions (FGDs) online, the first with mothers of those aged 10 to 19 to understand the care-giver perspective in adolescent health, and the second with adolescents to understand their perception of safety in their community. Living in the capital city (Delhi) and trying to digitally connect in an IT-enabled satellite city (Gurugram), we didn’t anticipate fully the enormity of the digital divide in India. With nearly 700 million people in India excluded from access to the World Wide Web, maintaining sustainable contact online with people living in low-income communities remains a barrier to effective community engagement. The rates of exclusion among women are even higher. Only 29% of India’s internet users are women, which stands amplified when it comes to communities like the ones we wanted to stay connected with. Most of the women who were going to participate in our FGDs are employed as domestic workers and have never owned a smartphone in their life.

“We don’t have a smartphone; how will we do this?”

“My husband has the phone; how long should we expect the sessions to continue? I can’t take the phone away from him for long.”

Even as the remarks made by women pointed to the high level of exclusion, it was also an opportunity to enable them to exercise their agency over the major global disruptor that is the internet. Most women had never contemplated owning a smartphone to maintain long-distance contact with their family back home; many did not even possess a basic mobile handset, often depending on the male members of their families, if the need arose. With adequate instructions from community facilitators and assistance from their children, the women were able to download and log in to Zoom, overcoming apprehensions of “talking to a screen”. Communities that are underserved have always shown a high ability to adapt to changing circumstances, in spite of a lack of opportunity and structural exclusion. Once online, the women seemed eager to share their experiences of how they ensure nutrition for their children.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

Over the past year, my colleagues and I have become used to facilitating Zoom interactions. Aware that online discussions are different from face-to-face workshops with the community, conducting FGDs online required us to be agile and adapt to the ‘unique’ challenges of each participant group – several participants (often up to five mothers) logging in from a single smartphone device; frequent disruptions and ‘call drops’ caused by poor internet connectivity, both in the informal settlement and in our posh, middle class colonies; background noise from bustling households and demands from younger children for their mother’s attention – all of which threatened to break the flow of discussion and prolonged the process. The virtual space is a platform of great convenience, but it is equally important to create a space of trust and privacy. Breaking the ice to get the conversation flowing, encouraging adolescents to open up while their parents hover close by, and allowing time for the more shy mothers to feel comfortable enough to speak – as facilitators we had to pay close attention to these as well, just like we would have in face-to-face community interactions.

Credit: S. Ram Aravind

After conducting several online interactions, I am still not sure if online FGDs are effective, especially with under-resourced groups. Many universities in India have started replacing community visits with ‘online field work’, a term representing the post-pandemic world. By coining this term, has the academic world called it a day on traditional ethnographic field work and will the virtual space take over as the new ‘meeting’ ground?

Using digital, online means of data collection demonstrates adaptability, but trust and intimacy stands eroded if such methodological changes are routinised and normalised. Conducting community research needs to go beyond conversations over screens on smartphones.

At the end of one of our FGDs, the mothers told us they were eager to meet us in person; they wanted to learn what else they can do to meet the nutrition needs of their families within the resources they have, limited and constrained by the pandemic, and by accessing government schemes.

“Come and see us. We have more things to talk about,” one mother said, as she tapped the Zoom ‘leave meeting’ button to return to her physical world.

The project was led by Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA).

This research project ‘Healthy Cities for Adolescents: Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India’ was funded by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund. SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

Aerial view of informal settlements of the

Why South Africa is the most unequal country in the world

This video was originally published by Le Monde on YouTube. The views expressed in this video are of the creator and not attributable to SHLC.

Cape Town, its sunny beaches, its elegant mountains… and its glaring inequalities. The second most populated city in South Africa is the focus of the difficulties faced by Nelson Mandela’s country.

Thirty years after the end of apartheid, which had instituted segregation between the black and white populations, statistics point to inequalities that are still almost unique in the world.

One striking element allows us to visualize them: the place of residence. While the majority of whites live near the center of the city, or in well-to-do residential suburbs, close to economic activity, blacks and “coloureds” live on the fringe. This is the crux of the inequalities that have persisted in the country for nearly 30 years.

Urban Expansion and Land Use Changes in Asia and Africa


Wang YP, Kintrea K. Urban Expansion and Land Use Changes in Asia and Africa. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321999081

Key points

Trends in urbanization and land cover changes

  • Unplanned urban sprawl was once associated mainly with the boom years of development in land-rich developed countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia, but it is now occurring in cities all over the developing world.
  • In Africa and Asia, urban population growth has consumed large areas of land around major cities.

Urban expansion and informal development

  • Fast urban expansion and sprawl indeed often results in more inequality, informality, insecurity and unsustainable forms of urban community.
  • As the SHLC case cities show, alongside of new industrial developments, various types of neighbourhoods are emerging in peripheral areas of large cities, including commercially constructed housing estates of various standards, gated or semi-gated communities for the rich, tenement and high-rise apartments for the middle class and civil servants and state-supported low-income settlements.
  • However, informal settlements such as urban villages, townships, relocation settlements as well as various slum settlements are growing at a much larger scale than the various types of planned or semi-planned residential areas.

Challenges for urban planning

  • To realize the full potential of the urban transformative power and address the social and economic problems caused by urban sprawl and expansion, the international community has adopted several agreements to guide urban development, with the assumption that well-planned cities and urban extensions can curb excessive land consumption.
  • These global policies and targets are very ambitious and maybe not very realistic.

Urban slum, Delhi, India. Credit: Sistak, Flickr

Spatio-temporal Assessment of Landscape Ecological Risk and Associated Drivers: A Case Study of Delhi


Mondal B, Sharma P, Kundu D, Bansal S. Spatio-temporal Assessment of Landscape Ecological Risk and Associated Drivers: A Case Study of Delhi. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. 2021;12(1_suppl):S85-S106. doi:10.1177/09754253211007830


Urbanization is considered as the key driver for land use and land cover (LULC) changes across the globe and Delhi is no exception to this phenomenon. The population of Delhi has almost doubled from 8.4 million in 1991 to 16.3 million in 2011. Correspondingly, the built-up area has also increased from 336.82 to 598.22 km2 during 1999–2018. This urban expansion has led to emergence of serious ecological risk and fragmentation of the landscape. In this context, it is imperative to analyse the level of risks induced by such urban expansion and its underlying associations with other factors.

This article quantifies the LULC changes in Delhi during 1999–2018 using Landsat 5 (TM) and Landsat 8 (OLI) data. A spatio-temporal sprawl induced risk assessment index has been developed by combining landscape fragmentation score and land use land cover vulnerability score. The landscape fragmentation score was based on four landscape metrics, whereas the vulnerability score was computed from LULC data. The article also assesses the association between risk areas and economic activities, environmental and infrastructural amenities that are considered key drivers of urban expansion in Delhi. To estimate spatio-temporal variability between risk areas and key drivers, ordinary least square regression and geographical weighted regression (GWR) were used.

The GWR results reveal that sprawl-induced ecological risk in Delhi is strongly associated with economic activity, infrastructural accessibility and environmental amenities. This spatial empirical assessment also shows that urban growth incentives or services such as roads, metro rail, schools and hospitals can also create pressure on the landscape if local authorities arbitrarily provide these services across space without considering the associated risks.

Indian schoolgirls choose souvenirs on the street, New Delhi, India.

Educational Opportunities and Disadvantages Across Neighbourhoods in Dar es Salaam, Delhi, and Dhaka

In this blog, Yulia Nesterova and Michele Schweisfurth showcase research findings exploring educational opportunities in urban neighbourhoods presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society.

We often look at cities as places of hope. They offer a promise of increased opportunities and better access to services, as well as of innovation and productivity that accelerate economic growth and eradicate poverty.

In formal education, for example, the difference between urban and rural schooling is stark: urban children’s attendance and completion rates are much higher while drop-out rates are much lower than of children in rural areas. That is one of many factors that can motivate people to migrate to urban centres to improve their life chances.

But cities are not homogenous places where everyone has similar prospects or faces similar disadvantages. They consist of diverse neighbourhoods that, as our research shows, have different resources, infrastructure, opportunities, benefits, and networks. It is these different neighbourhoods that shape what opportunities and life chances are accessible to us.

This year, our team spoke about educational opportunities across the neighbourhoods of different income of Dar es Salaam, Delhi, and Dhaka at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society.


Indian schoolgirls choose souvenirs on the street, New Delhi, India.
Indian schoolgirls choose souvenirs on the street, New Delhi, India.

Our key objective was to showcase to the conference delegates the importance of studying local structures and opportunities to understand how spatial inequalities play out in accessing formal education services. For each neighbourhood – ranging from ultra-poor to high income, we presented data on:

  • availability and coverage of schools – how many schools of each level and by different provider (public, private, NGO-run, or faith-based) each neighbourhood has
  • quality and availability of resources and support – such as infrastructure, equipment, teachers, and extracurricular activities
  • physical accessibility of schools – how close they are and how each it is to get from home to school (for example – the availability of transport and the quality of paths and roads)

Despite having some of the best and most renowned schools in their respective countries, these cities are extremely unequal. Our data show that as a result of this inequality, availability, accessibility, and quality of schools vary significantly across neighbourhoods. And existing infrastructure, the built environment, and local interventions in each neighbourhood sustain spatial segregation.

Ultra-poor, low, and low-income neighbourhoods struggle the most in terms of accessing all levels of state-funded education. They often depend on free of charge schools run by NGOs and religious institutions that tend to be under-resourced and have unsustainable funding. It is thus children from these neighbourhoods who miss on the benefits formal education can offer – a situation that contributes to trapping many residents in the cycle of poverty and low socio-economic conditions.

However, neighbourhoods from middle income to high income face a range of challenges, too. While children in such neighbourhoods may generally have access to better-resourced and higher achieving state schools, some of such areas have poor availability of schools, old and unsafe classrooms and buildings, and other issues. They also increasingly rely on private schools inside and outside their neighbourhoods that people living in poorer clusters cannot afford.

The presentation slides (download via link above) show some very good examples of educational inequalities in the three cities.

By focusing on such localised and nuanced data, we believe we can move away from working with very general education policies to policies that are customised to local realities and priorities to be able to achieve support Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education.