From the Worst to Best – Jibbisiisadha Gara Dursaa

Baseline situation

Serbo high school was among the high schools black listed by the Jimma zone education office because of poor school infrastructure, which results in poor quality education service provision. For example, no one will imagine a preparatory school without a laboratory, without ICT training facility, without plasma TV, yet this was the situation in Serbo high school. The absence of toilet rooms for female students made it difficult for them to attend classes, and the campus also lacked tap water, which is essential for creating a conducive school environment. The other most shocking scenario was that students, especially females, were attending tutorial classes under a tree, which hampers the education quality at High School level. These and other problems came to light because of the interface meeting held at woreda level.  This story tells the dramatic change that happened at the school.

Results with Social Accountability

One service improvement realized in Serbo high school dates back to the input tracking session, which is part of the Community Score Card process. At that time the community asked about the availability of water for stu­dents. The school replied: No, and explained that it was because of the unwillingness of the water technician to maintain the water taps, due to some issues with bill settlements in the past. On the spot, the SAC members communicated with the technician and the tap water points were maintained. As a result, all rejoiced because of the repaired water points.

Plasma television service was not functional before SA was launched. During the interface meeting the problem was identified as a limitation of the Local Area Network and lack of a trained ICT technician. The zonal education office in cooperation with the school trained an appropriate technician and was able to make plasma TV functional for all classes that use pre-recorded Audio-visuals in MP4 format. 

The ICT learning center in Serbo high school was a dilapidated room that had not been opened for a long time, with a bunch of nonfunctional computers placed on the ground. The room was without ceilings, white board, tables and chairs, and was covered with the same dust that covered the playground outside the room. During the interface meeting, it was found to be a bottle neck in the quality of education and training provision. Thus, the zonal education office communicated with Camara limited Ethiopia, which is an international social enterprise working hard to digitalize schools for quality education provision. Camara pledged to avail 50 computers, and offered two trainings, namely ICT leadership for school mangers, and computer maintenance and application packages for ICT technicians. The woreda education office paid 1,085 birr per computer for transportation and maintenance. On top of this, the school constructed tables and chairs to accommodate the 50 computers, so that 100 students can be served at a time. Additionally, the school believed that the ICT learning centers will address issues with the laboratory, the library and ICT courses, because videos showing laboratory procedures, books and courses can be loaded on the computers, so that the students will retrieve diversified pre-uploaded books that are supper supportive to their education. 

The other critical service improvement was the toilet room construction for female students. Obviously, female students need better toilet and water facilities service than males. However, in this school, no one was confident to visit the latrines in fear of sinking into it, and disgusted by the bad smell that was coming out of the dilapidated latrines. Everyone felt sorry for the condition of the facilities. However, through the facilitation of the zone education office, Fred Hollow Foundation is now on its way to build a modern restroom for female students in a way that has never been realized in the area before.

The table below gives an overview of the situation before and after the social accountability interventions, and indicates the responsible body and the resources mobilized.

Table: service improvement at the school

The significance of the improvements for various stakeholders

All the changes that happened in Serbo High School have directly benefitted more than 1200 students, and let them have access to quality education, in laboratory and ICT for instance. Through betterment of the infrastructure, more than six hundred female students will benefit especially in having clean and comfortable toilet rooms from the latrine construction which is underway. New tutorial classrooms also benefit female students more, since most of tutorial sessions are offered to them. SA has proven to be an effective tool to sort out a variety of interest and let voices be heard accordingly. 

While speaking about the changes that happened in the school, student Yamrot said: “After the implementation of the SA project I am able to drink water in school, and hopefully will go to clean toilet confidently, and my fellow female students do the same like me after the envisaged latrine construction is over. I love the renovation of the ICT learning centers, which will begin service in the near future. My class mates are now attending tutorial classes in class rooms, which was previously offered under a tree. Also, the teachers use plasma TV whenever they need and other changes are on their way. I am glad that these changes happened in our school. It seems like waking up from a dream. Everybody is on their toes to bring changes, including us students, which is great!”

The SA process not only enhanced the provision of infrastructures in the school, and improved the teaching-learning process, it also made the school community to collaboratively work together and to be vigilant to assists the school solve any problems they may encounter in the future. 

How the service improvements happened

Ato Abaraya Abafogi: ‘I am one of the SAC members of Kersa woreda, and I am also a member of the PTA, so it was not my first time to get acquainted with the school. During my first exposure to the Social Accountability concept, it felt like nonsense. However, after having had SA training and engagement, I learned something which never crossed my mind before: our high school is plunged in multi-faceted problems and something can be done about it. I was shocked and decided to do something special. To the best interest of higher level government authorities and the education office, who have participated in SA process from the beginning to end in collaboration with us, a miracle has happened that really mobilized the community and students too.” 

The way we realized those service improvements is through active participation of concerned bodies, by having the right stakeholders on board. A range of government, NGOs, and civic societies, associations and CBOs participated in contributing their part in the results achieved. Secondly, we are able to stick to the process of SA, as well as including and mobilizing the local community in every step. Some of the stakeholders participated right from the beginning, while others join at the midst of the way, when the importance of their involvement came to light. However, two of the most crucial international NGOs involved in the intervention are solicited by the concerned government bodies to solve some of the problem identified.

Furthermore, EMRDA has been promoting SA through radio promotion, pamphlet distribution, holding stakeholder meetings, SAC meetings and the like, to reach the relevant public at large with information about social accountability. 

 

Among the very significant moments of the SA process is the input tracking. What makes the input tracking so different is that it triggered the school community to reflect about the service provision in light of standards. Secondly, the interface meeting helps the political leaders and decision makers to learn the facts about the service provision and conditions existing in the targeted schools, and agree how the service should be improved. In addition, the information dissemination schemes prepared by SAC for the whole community created vibrant social mobilization.

The overall service improvement plan was drafted on the day of the interface meeting. At that time, a total of 9 service problems were listed. Not only listing, but also the responsibilities were shared, the dates of accomplishments were set, and the resource mobilization schemes were discussed. It was on that day that a wide range of stakeholders was mobilized, strong political commitments were built, and a range of government sector offices from woreda to zonal offices shouldered their responsibility and pledged to change the situation as it has never been seen in 40 years of the Serbo school’s life.

How SA will continue

Communities are able to judge the service provision in light of service standard and are also able to demand quality services. The service providers are able to hear the community’s voice better than before. Hopefully these attitudes are the everlasting ones. The motivation and inspiration of the SAC will help them to lead the service improvements for the

future. Most of the SAC members are influential persons who are in a position to bring changes. Once they know the way, service improvements can be brought. They have pledged to replicate the same in the future. The service improvements in place are also clear motivators for the continuity of social accountability interventions.

Moreover, the woreda Education Office was enthusiastically engaged. The officials are on their toes to further disseminate learning, and keen to institutionalize this way of getting service improvements.

While explaining the benefits of the social accountability project, Ato Anawar, head of Kersa woreda Education Office said: “I have no doubt of the importance of this project to bring the service provision to the front, but I am wondering at this time how to scale up to the rest of schools, so that we can raise students with high caliber. Of course we learned a lot, how to scrutinize impediments in collaboration with the community, and how to monitor and evaluate the progress with the public, while working on the most important bottlenecks identified together. On behalf of Kersa woreda, Education Office I would like to strongly request your organization to help us in scaling up the idea of this project in the other 68 schools found in our locality.”