|Facilitating Improved School Management|
In a decentralized basic education system, the responsibility of improving the quality and management of education extends beyond the school to the community. However, engaging the external community into the education process poses a challenge. School committees, parents, and community members are often unaware of the opportunities for contributing to school development. Through the Student Health Improvement Project (SHIP), IRD has successfully shifted education planning and fiscal management to school committees and key community stakeholders.
Reviving School Committees Meetings
Based on IRD’s long-term experience, school committee members are essential to improving school-community relations, fiscal management, and fundraising given their unique leadership positions as local entrepreneurs, religious leaders, and parents within the community. Yet many school committee members are inactive and uninformed about their roles and responsibilities. Principals, teachers, and school committee members face similar challenges yet are unable to solve them independently. In 50 target schools, IRD established a forum for school committee members, principals, teachers, and parents to voice their challenges, and trained a community facilitator to organize meetings on a monthly basis to promote joint problem-solving. To further facilitate understanding of each stakeholder’s contributions to planning, execution, and decision-making, IRD trained 600 teachers, 50 principals, and 150 school committee members in financial management, leadership, and school development planning. IRD’s proven approach of working through existing teacher and principal forums to deliver school-based management training has created impact in every school within the five target districts.
Prior to IRD school-based management workshops, school principals were burdened with all administrative and budgetary tasks leaving them limited time for monitoring classes and addressing challenges teachers and students faced in the classroom. However, after training workshops, school committee members were able to assume many of the principals’ time-consuming tasks such as budget development. This not only resulted in increased transparency of fiscal management, but also an increase in school responsiveness to educational needs of both students and teachers.
Parents had been likewise uninvolved in the academic performance of their children and blamed teachers for their children’s academic shortcomings. But once they were informed during IRD training workshops about their role in supporting the education of their children, they began to observe classes and become aware of the challenges teachers faced making them more empathetic and supportive. For instance, parents began lobbying during joint forums resulting in a significant increase in community contributions to schools.
In the past, the bulk of school quality improvements emphasized facility upgrades and school reconstruction, which consumed a large portion of the budget and left very little for teacher-training, supplies, and extracurricular activities. However, subsequent to training and ongoing facilitation, IRD witnessed a dramatic shift in priorities and improvements in all target districts. IRD-trained schools visibly displayed the school budget in the main office. Budget discussions previously held between the school principal and committee chairperson became open to the public. The increased awareness of actual financial resources and accurate assessment of needs resulted in more effective use of funds and greater community contributions. For example, schools began to include classroom materials and more activities in school budgets. Community members contributed more funds for school resources, and became more knowledgeable of their educational rights and obligations, taking responsibility for overseeing education quality and setting budget priorities.