‘SCHOOL FOR THE DESTITUTE’ BECOMES BEST PERFORMER IN TOWN

Baseline situation

Kera Hora Primary School is found in Bishoftu Town, and there are about 1,569 students. The school is one of the 4 schools targeted by JeCCDO under ESAP2. The school was known for its poor quality of education, unfavorable school environment and extremely deteriorated facilities. The school was established 50 years ago inside a private residence. Hence, it shares borders with private houses, and some of these are even part of the school compound. The classrooms were old and were not disability friendly. Both girls and boys shared the same dilapidated toilets, and this was repugnant for females especially. Furthermore, the school had no adequate play-ground and sport field. Its internal services standard was even worse. The class size has reached 70 for most classes, while the standard is 50 students for grades 1 to 4, and 40 students for grades 5 to 8; an average of 4 to 5 students shared same desk while it should have been for two students only; and student text book ratio was 1 to 5 while the standard is one to one. Above all, the community had no involvement in the schools’ affairs. The local government, on its part, couldn’t go beyond appreciating the problem due to its limited capacity.

After Social Accountability interventions

The most significant change in Kera Hora Primary School is that students and their parents have voiced their entitlements, which then revitalized the quality of education. Improvements were subsequently made in the school’s class size, the student textbook ratio, the gender and disability sensitivity of school facilities, the playground, and above all the ownership and responsibility of all stakeholders in the school matters. All of the changes have contributed to a much better academic achievement of the students.

 

 

Ato Dinka Geleta, a father of 3, lives in Kebele 09 of Bishoftu Town, and two of his children attend Kera Hora Primary School. He is serving as a secretary of the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA). He deeply knows the changes the school has brought in recent years, both as a father and a PTA member. He remembers that the school and its services were by far less than the standard set by the government. “But things have now significantly improved”, he says. He shows the 2 new blocks with 8 standard classrooms, 2 separate boys’ and girls’ toilet built in collaboration with parents, the government and an NGO. “In addition”, says Ato Dinka, “lack of space in the compound prevented further construction, but through ESAP2, the neighboring households are now convinced to voluntarily leave the land for the school and the local government, which in return promised to give alternative homes or land. This enables the school to secure an extra 2,800 square meters of land, which is adequate for the most sought after sport field as well.”

Simegn Wondosen, student of Kera Hora Primary School remembers that she and her fellow students had been taught in a suffocating and dusty classroom with up to 5 students in a desk. “We had been using toilets in queue, and were very much ashamed that boys used to see us through holes. But now”, she adds “thanks to ESAP2 we are being taught in a new classroom with only two students in a desk; I use one text book alone; and we got separate toilets for us girls.

Besides, ramps were constructed for the classrooms and toilets, and toilet seats are fitted to the new toilets. This has made disabled students to access the classrooms and the toilets comfortably.”

 

Ato Gonfa Deressa, Head of Bishoftu Town Education Office, has much to tell about the changes in the school. According to him, the most significant contribution of ESAP2 is its scientific method of collecting and analyzing the voices of the school community. He reiterates that Kera Hora Primary School was one of least comfortable schools in the town. “But this has become history in that the school and its services are now up to the standard, and the quality of education given to the students has significantly improved.” He adds that the ESAP2 practice in the school triggered the Education Office to improve its services in other schools. Accord-ingly, the office allocated 8 million Birr to construct new classrooms and also purchased a vehicle to properly monitor the improved services. 

 

Student Simegn, second from the left, explains the changes in her school. “We were using toilets in queue, and were very much ashamed that boys would see us through holes.”

 

 

 

 

The significance of the improvements for various stakeholders

Given the impoverished baseline situation, the target school was labeled as the ‘school for the destitute’, but now this image has changed. W/o Tiruwork, a representative from People Living with HIV/AIDS says: “Our children now get better education in the new facilities and are enjoying standard services.” Ato Gonfa points out that last year the average mark of grade 8 student in the school was among the top in town: “The school is now a benchmark for government – community partnership on education, and is of first choice by families and children. ” Besides, teachers are now happy that their students are scoring better. This is evidenced by the fact that only one regular and 3 night shift students failed to pass the grade 8 national exams last year, according to Ato Gonfa.

From the intervention in Kera Hora Primary School, a total of 1,569 students have benefited directly, including girls and children with disabilities. Girls especially are relieved from the embarrassment of sharing toilets with boys. Disabled students have also benefited from the ramps constructed with the new classrooms and toilets, and toilet seats. Simegn is pleased with the changes, and testifies:

“We are now getting quality education and enjoying learning more than our counterparts in other schools.

 

Above all, 15,000 residents of the Kebele and the families of the students have indirectly benefited from ESAP2. “No one will hesitate to send his/her children to the school any more”, says Ato Dinka. On the other hand, the local government is benefitting because the school has become the center of excellence in sharing SA practices for other schools. According to Ato Gonfa, the real benefit for the government is that joint planning and budgeting has now become the norm, and this has enabled the government to address prioritized community needs efficiently and transparently.

How the service improvements happened

The change started with community mobilization by JeCCDO and the SAC. A total of 800 people from all segments of the town community were selected and oriented on SA. This was followed by a series of community dialogues whereby the community identified, rated and prioritized their challenges with education, and water and sanitation in line with government standards through Community Score Card (CSC) and Participatory Planning and Budgeting (PPB) tools.

Then JeCCDO arranged an interface meeting wherein the community and the service providers, including the Mayor of the town, and heads of Sector Offices came together. This was the first of its kind after the pilot project (ESAP I) for both sides to get face to face, and reach consensus to address the identified community problems jointly. The interface meeting has paved the way for a Joint Action Plan where the town’s Education Office recruited 23 new teachers (for the 4 target schools), supplied more text books, and allocated one million birr for the construction of 2 new blocks in Kera Hora Primary School. The community, on their side, mobilized 105,000 Birr and received 69,000 birr from one NGO to renovate the old classrooms and to construct separate toilets for girls and boys, according to Ato Dawit chairperson of the SAC.

In order to facilitate the above processes, JeCCDO has organized successive trainings on SA for SAC members, provided them with SA tools like CSC, PPB and facilitated the application of the tools. Besides, community dialogues have been facilitated 3 times a year in each school. In recognition to the community contribution, an award ceremony has also been regularly held in partnership with the PTA at the end of every year.

How SA will continue

The real essence of the ‘most significant change’ is its lasting impact and sustainability, and all interviewees agree that this is clearly shown by the level of community ownership and the academic records of the students. For Ato Dinka, the main reason behind the success is the change in attitude and social accountability practice of the community. In his own words: “the community is voicing its needs and entitlements and at the same time is contributing its part in terms of money, labor and time.”

Ato Gonfa, adds that the increment in student’s academic achievement and the fact that this ensures a broader career choice for them is another lasting impact of the changes that were realized. According to him, in the ratings of his Woreda Education Office the school is now one of the best in town. His office has therefore replicated the SA practice to 8 more schools in town through joint planning and working through the PTA. Thus far, two G+2 blocks, and one ground block have been constructed in non ESAP target schools. “We will continue to scale it up further”, he confirms.

The view of Major Tesfa Degu on sustainability is equally positive. For him, community participation and ownership is the key pillar of the government’s agenda, and social accountability is all about operationalizing this agenda. “I can say Kera Hora primary School is now in the safe hands of the community, so what else could guarantee the sustainability of the change?”