Education Problems Solved in Rib Gebriel Kebele

Baseline situation

Rib Gebriel primary school in Rib Gebriel kebele of Fogera woreda, Amhara region, is one of the service providing institutions that ADA has been focusing on in implementing its social accountability project. Before project implementation, there were two primary schools and a satellite school which were providing education services in a dire situation. Some of the students were learning under trees, others in a farmers’ training center; there were no toilets for students and teachers; and teachers were walking for more than 3 to 4 hours to and from the nearest town to the school, while students could walk more than an hour to reach the school. Due to these factors, education was not properly provided on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons.

The schools were very uncomfortable and nothing from the schools is according to the primary school standard. In addition, nobody was concerned about the problems. The communities as well as the service providers were accepting the situation as normal.

Results after Social Accountability

The most significant service improvement as a result of SA intervention in this kebele is improvement in the quality of education. The details of the main changes are as follows:

  • Teachers have now settled in the kebele, because 12 rooms were built for them. They can make necessary preparations   from their new home before getting into the class.
  • All students are now learning in classrooms and 1 temporary tent.
  • Separate toilets are prepared for female and male students, and also for female and male teachers.
  • One temporary shade and eight additional classrooms are built in the kebele.
  • One satellite school was changed to Rib Gebriel Primary School, and one additional satellite school (Rib Gebriel Satellite School) has been opened. Students have access to the school with a short walking distance of less than 30 minutes on average. 

Next to the improvements in facilities, the conduct of teachers’ and students’ has also improved. Through continuous discussions held between them, the problems of students missing classes and teachers delaying the start of classes have now been solved.

The sense of ownership improved on the side of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). As a result PTA is now actively working for improvement of education services through ensuring that inputs are provided for quality education services, and by solving issues raised by students, parents, teachers and SACs for improving the school as per the standard.

These changes have created a better condition for learning. Students get better education, because teachers have time to prepare for classes, and there is a lower number of students in a class. The also appreciate the more comfortable school environment, which has separate toilets for girls and boys. In addition, students from grade 5-8 now have a primary school nearby, and students from grade 1-4 can go to school without having to cross the main road.

How the service improvements happened

With SA project implementation, citizens and education service providers have become more aware of the service standards and have realized that there were service gaps. Community members also obtained information on the government budget for education services. Based on this awareness, the community, service providers, local administrations and council members have worked together to bring the education service to the standard step by step.

After the establishment of Social Accountability Committee, the first step of SA implementation was to create awareness with community representatives and kebele council members about SA and the education service standards. Thirty development group members were trained by each community facilitator and SAC member. The awareness on education service standards has led community representatives to wonder why the actual services are so different from the standards. It is after this awareness creation that three Focus Group Discussants (FGDs) were established and the SA tool application started.

Secondly FGDs and a service providers’ group identified and prioritized service issues separately. In order to be able to understand what the community and service providers perceive about the services, both have separately scored the service provision with an agreed set of service indicators. Both have also proposed solutions before conducting the interface meeting. The difference in implementation of this step, compared with the ESAP2 guidance, is that FGDs have invited other people and kebele council members to see and comment on the service issues and priorities they identified. One of the meaningful differences that resulted from the SA process, compared to other ways of community participation and consultation, is the consensus created among the community on major issues and priorities prior to engaging with the government.

The third activity was to conduct kebele and woreda level interface meetings. Service providers and users reached an agreement on service issues, and prepared Joint Action Plans (JAPs) to solve the issues identified, including the division of work among service providers and the community. Finally, they agreed on how to follow-up on JAP implementation. With the facilitation of Woreda SAC and technical support of ADA’s SA project staff, interface meetings have been conducted among community representatives and service providers for three times at woreda level, and three times at each kebele during the two year project period.

Regional sector offices, regional council speaker office, and the Financial Transparency and Accountability (FTA) focal point, and the NGO coordination office under BoFED also participated during the woreda interface meetings and supported the JAP preparation, so that it was according to the service standards. From side of the woreda administration, the JAPs were signed and distributed to service providers to be incorporated into their annual plans, to allot budget for these activities, and to support the implementation.

The Woreda SAC discussed with woreda budget committee about budget allocation for the JAP activities. Representatives of kebele community have presented their issues and budget requests to woreda council meetings during budget approval. With these efforts of Woreda SAC, Kebele SAC, and community representatives, budget was allocated for more than 60% of the activities of the JAP. Information regarding the budget allocated for JAP was provided to community representatives during the first JAP implementation monitoring meeting. Soon after budget allocation, JAP monitoring meetings were conducted among citizens and service providers (both at kebele and woreda level) on a quarterly basis.

The SAC of Rib Gebriel Kebele planned to link the JAP monitoring meeting to the monthly Kebele council meetings, which they feel is more sustainable. They discussed with council members to consider the monitoring of JAP implementation as one important activities of the council, and this bore fruit in September 2015. The Kebele council has taken service improvements and the way in which community issues are addressed as one of its activities. FGD members are now invited to these monthly meetings. The council reviews JAP implementation on a monthly basis, provides direction for the coming month, and agrees on how to get support from woreda level bodies.

Heads of woreda sector offices, woreda administration office, and speakers of woreda councils attend the Kebele JAP implementation monitoring meeting on a quarterly basis. They present reports on woreda level implementation of JAPs, including budget allocation, inclusion of JAP activities in annual plans of the government, and follow-up on institution level JAP implementation. During this discussion community members request for information, present complaints on service provision, and reach agreement with providers on future directions. The joint ownership of the community, council, government administrations and service providers to follow-up on service improvements is the other different and meaningful process which has assisted implementation of agreed upon changes, by using government budget and local resources.

How Social Accountability will continue

Before SA application, most of service providers believed that they are expected to provide services according to their plans and their convenience. But after SA implementation, they have recognized that their services should be based on service standards, service users’ demand and convenience.

After implementation of SA, the community members have also recognized that they are responsible for demanding and requesting better services as per the standards and they have also actualized this through practice.

In addition, through SA training and repetitive practical implementation of SA, community representatives and service providers developed the skills for SA application. Both, especially community representatives, have seen that the best alternative is not to keep silent but to request for standard services in an organized manner. After interface meetings, it has become common for community groups and citizens to focusing on and requesting implementation of priorities of the community in different meetings and programs.

Woreda and kebele SACs have seen that the SA process has benefited their community, and they have planned sus-tainability plans which cover up to three years after end of the project.

SA clubs are established in schools with the aim of creating awareness among students and implementing SA in a sustainable manner in schools. All students have become member of the club, and they have chosen 25 female, 25 male, in total 50 students (2 FGDs) to represent them and to identify issues, to discuss problems and ask for solutions from the school director and teachers. The SA club will also follow up whether the problems are solved.

A Kebele SAC member summarizes the SA project experience as follows: “This project is benefiting us in many ways. For the past few years, the woreda administration was been overlooking us for its donor funded projects. But after we presented our prioritized problems at woreda council meetings, they awarded three donor projects to us and the surrounding kebeles. Social accountability has enabled us to have a common agenda in our locality. Now we are able to ask our local administrators to address the service gaps based on our interests rather than theirs. We buried our past habit of asking haphazard questions to our leaders. Now we can ask them based on our plans. The SA project has become our voice.”