The NGO ICS-Africa operates a Child Sponsorship Program (CSP) in Western Kenya, in which children sponsored by donors in the Netherlands and elsewhere receive school fees and school uniforms. Some portion of the sponsorship fee paid by the donors is used to give general assistance to the school: grants for construction, health care programs, and agricultural programs. In 2002 ICS-Africa planned to phase CSP into several new schools and agreed to randomize the aspects of the program directed at individual children. ICS used a lottery to distribute some of the child sponsorships within each of twelve primary schools in western Kenya.
The Kenyan school year runs from January to December. In mid-January 2002, ICS organized a census of children in standards one through four (the first four years of primary school) of the twelve selected schools. Based on that census, ICS selected all children who had experienced one or both parent deaths (orphans) to receive sponsorships. It then used a lottery to randomly select the remaining beneficiaries, and studied the effects on this population.
Schools immediately received some basic benefits from being sponsored. A pair of ICS nurses visited each school several times a year and provided basic first aid to any child or local adult who requested it. An agricultural representative organized student clubs to grow crops on the school grounds. In fall 2002, each school received a sizeable grant for classroom construction, for desks, and for books. The only individual benefit that sponsored children received was a school uniform; in June 2002, uniforms were distributed to all sponsored children who were still in school.
An attendance dataset recorded pupil attendance at each of the twelve schools from 2002 through the end of 2004. Attendance was gathered as field officers made unannounced visits to each school multiple times each year and recorded whether each child was present. From these multiple visits, an annual child attendance average is collected.