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Posts Tagged ‘Senegal’

I spent a few days in Nairobi early last week with our education and our ICT staff from Ghana, Uganda, Senegal, Mozambique, Kenya, Egypt and a few other folks, including the brilliant Mika Valitalo from our Finnish office and people from regional and headquarters levels. We were looking at goals and challenges in our education programs and thinking about where ICTs might play a role.

The process was really interesting. Starting a few months back, each country shared their education context analysis onto a wiki. In a second round they narrowed down to a specific area in education, looked at the information and communication flow and gaps, and identified areas where there might be an ICT solution. They focused mostly on mobiles, but in many cases mobiles were supported by computers, servers and laptops as well as non-digital information and communication tools and also solar technologies. Each country team met by Skype with Mika and an external consultant to discuss the concepts and get ICT advice and support. Then they updated their concepts and got additional feedback. For the third round, they added rich pictures to show what the specific ICT solutions might look like. Everyone had an opportunity to give input into everyone else’s ideas via the wiki.

At the meeting in Nairobi, we spent a day sharing the concepts with each other for clarification and focused input. Colleagues shared the broader education context in their countries and specifically in the communities where they are working. Then they illustrated the specific education issues and the ICT solutions that they were suggesting and/or the places they felt ICTs could help. Some of the ICT solutions focused on a very specific technology or device. Others showed how different types of ICTs could be integrated at different points in the process. Others required development of a totally new ‘solution’.

Some of the areas where colleagues thought ICTs could support education included: teacher training for those working in remote communities, adult literacy (especially literacy retention post literacy training), improving exam scores, livening up and improving in-class curriculum, and transparency and accountability in education. We spent 2 days then working in different small groups on the concepts, cross-pollinating ideas and deciding which of the concepts were most relevant to all 6 countries (in order to make it more possible to scale them) and which were most feasible and do-able.

The ideas were all a good fit with our global education strategy (see page 9) which focuses on service delivery (in partnership with local governments and communities); organizing and empowering rights holders; and grassroots participatory advocacy to influence education policies, financing and practice. The strategy prioritizes actions around equal access to education, quality of education, and education governance (see page 10).

Accountability and transparency in education

One of the concepts that captured the most interest from the whole group was that of using ICTs to improve accountability and transparency in education. Education is one of the areas where “Quiet Corruption” is often found. ‘Quiet corruption, which can take the form of absenteeism among teachers or doctors, the distribution of fake drugs, or the sale of diluted fertilizers to poor farmers, is having a damaging effect on people in Africa, according to the African Development Indicators report released by the World Bank….’ (March 18, 2010 article)

It's time for class.... where is the teacher to be found?

Edison, Charles and Erik, our colleagues from Uganda, did a short skit illustrating the different points in the primary education system where corruption happens. Their points correlated well with this summary of quiet corruption in education from a July 5, 2010 article in the Independent:

‘Early this year, the Transparency International (TI) Africa Education Watch Programme report: Africa Education Watch: good governance lessons for primary education showed that the government’s perception that massive enrollment is a sign of success of the UPE [universal primary education] programme must be revised to address the problem of overcrowding in classrooms, studying under trees, poor financial management, illegal fees, and lack of school inspection. The report exposes irritating embezzlement of UPE funds and abuse of authority by head-teachers who charge illegal fees, make students offer labour on teachers’ projects, sexual harassment, and systematic teacher absenteeism. The report noted that 85% of schools surveyed had either deficient accounting systems or none at all. In most cases, financial records were either unavailable or incomplete. The survey found limited financial documentation at district education offices and at schools. Most people who handle school grants had no training in basic finance management.

Another survey titled, The Efficiency of Public Education in Uganda, conducted in 2007 by the Ministry of Education to determine efficiency in provision of education services found an average rate of teacher absenteeism of 27% in Uganda, compared to other countries like Zambia (17%), and Papa New Guinea (15%). The aggregate loss caused by this absenteeism constituted 19% which translates into Shs 53 billion out of the Shs276 billion of the Education ministry’s wage bill.

In a swift headcount at the beginning of this year, the Education ministry established that the number of pupils listed in primary school registers was 25% higher than those actually studying. Similarly, the report established that the number of students in lower secondary schools had been exaggerated by 12%. For instance at Amaji Primary School last year, the school register had 816 pupils. But when the headcount was conducted the school administration could not account for 302 pupils.

It is reported that many districts’ chief administrative officers have failed to show proper accountability for the UPE and USE funds.’

The Uganda team also explained that:

  • Parental interest in education is very low because since Universal Primary Education launched, parents feel it’s the government’s responsibility. Some youth we were working with in Kenya last year made a short film about poor performance in primary schools covering the same issue  (see below).
  • Teachers’ salaries are paid directly to their bank accounts, and there is no way to punish them if they don’t show up.
  • There are mechanisms to ensure that donor funds go from the national level to the district level and then on to the school, but no accountability mechanisms to ensure that they get from the school to the classroom and are translated into quality education for children.
  • District level government authority and accountability ends when they transfer funds to the schools; school directors can report to them that they have received funding and that everything is going fine when it’s really not.
  • Local school committees are often made up of people who are not neutral and who do not have the best interest of the children in mind. In some cases, school committee positions are used for personal gain and to launch individual political careers and political campaigns.
  • Lack of parental and community involvement in the education process and in school governance means that no one is demanding accountability from teachers and schools.
  • Sexual and physical violence in schools is very common and underreported. When it is reported, often nothing is done about it.
(Start playing the video, then click the small ‘cc’ button to turn on captions in English)

Colleagues from the other countries face the same challenges in their work and in their own children’s education.

Can ICTs play a role?

What is the solution then? Colleagues suggest that motivating parents and the community to get more involved in school governance and demanding transparency and accountability can begin to change the situation. This obviously requires a lot more than ICTs. So several different actions would be taken to engage and motivate parents and the community to take a bigger role in their children’s education. Then ICTs can be integrated into and support the process for sharing education information with parents, such as student absenteeism, grades, parent-school meetings, exam dates and scores, etc. Parents and students would also be able to report when teachers do not show up or suspected corruption. Students could also report abusive teachers, absent teachers, and other issues they are not happy with at the school. A neutral party would manage and hold the information that flows in and out to protect students from reprisal and to protect teachers from any abuse of the system in case fraudulent or incorrect information is reported. Commitment from those responsible for overseeing education to respond to the issues raised and take serious action is also needed, and this may be the biggest challenge overall. Plan can play a role there, leveraging existing relationships with local and national governments and Ministries.

The idea needs quite a bit of further work, a closer look at feasibility, and more research and input from local communities and parents. As mentioned, the ICTs are actually a small, but potentially very important, part of a much larger initiative to get parents and communities involved in school governance to demand transparent, accountable and quality education and budget spending.

Challenges in the process

Some of the challenges that we had to manage well during this initial piece of the longer process included:

  • We needed to ensure that we were starting with the context and the need for better information and communications, not starting with the technology and devices and building initiatives around them. Yet we also had to avoid getting lost in the overall context and missing the opportunity to pinpoint potential ICT solutions at specific places within the context. Role play and flip chart illustrations of the  ‘problem’ and the ‘solutions’ were very useful for getting more concrete (“So, Kofi is here in his community and he wants to …. So he uses xxx to do this, and then this happens and then….).
  • Though we wanted to specifically look at places that mobiles and other ICTs could support, it was important to list out all the factors that needed to be in place in order for the ICTs to work and to think clearly about the constraints we might face during implementation. One good question to help with that was, after seeing an idea or ICT solution presented, to ask “What needs to be in place in order for that to happen?” Then you start to remember critical things like community motivation, government interest to actually resolve a problem, electricity, someone to set up and manage a server, a strong enough network to download multimedia content, mobile versions of websites, educational content re-design for mobiles, teacher training on how to integrate ICTs in the classroom, limitations of SMS for doing something other than rote learning, higher versions of a mobile operating system, a smart phone, etc.
  • We had input from a potential corporate partner during the process. We learned that corporations are thinking several years ahead to what will be coming down the line; however non-profit are normally working within existing constraints and trying to find solutions that work here and now in the resource poor places where we work or ways to get around those constraints. Multi-level solutions seemed to be a good possibility; eg., ideas that can rely on SMS today, but have potential to expand as networks expand and data enabled mobiles become more available.
  • A corporation tends to think in terms of vendors, results, timelines, launch dates, price points, return on investment whereas a non-profit (at least ours) tends to think in terms of community members, organizations, process, participation, local context. Our facilitator even told us that a corporation normally does a presentation by starting with the solution, and then spending the rest of the presentation showing why that is the right solution. A non-profit usually starts a presentation by sharing all the context and background, and showing the process that led to eventually reaching the potential solution, including every step along the way, how ownership was achieved in the process, why different decisions were made and who participated in them. So keeping corporate vs non-profit cultures and languages in mind is also important when working on joint initiatives.
  • We need to remember to establish measurable indicators of success so that we can tell if this new type of intervention has a different/ better/ greater / lesser impact than carrying out a similar process without ICTs or with a different set of ICTs. This is something we will address once the full idea is developed. Impact measurement is very important to both corporate partners and development organizations.
  • This was the first time many were involved a process of this kind, so keeping the balance between technology and development goals was a constant challenge. We sometimes veered too far towards focusing on all the details of the context and then back to focusing too much on that piece of the context where a potential technology solution was seen. I think we were moving toward a pretty healthy mix of both. The process is nowhere near complete, and as we continue to work on the ideas and look at feasibility and actual implementation, we should find the sweet spot.
The work above was guided by Plan Finland’s recent publication ICT Enabled Development – Using ICT strategically to support Plan’s work.  On the whole, it was a great learning process for everyone involved, and we came up with some good ideas that we will flesh out in the coming months. Having the opportunity to patiently and carefully think through areas and ways that ICTs can support program goals around education and discussing the ideas at length with colleagues was a capacity strengthening exercise for all involved and will mean that we will be more prone in general to thinking about incorporating ICTs in our work going forward.

Resources

ICT-Enabled Development

Plan’s Education Strategy 2010-2013

African Development Indicators Report by the World Bank

Africa Education Watch: Good Governance Lessons for Primary Education by Transparency International

The Efficiency of Public Education in Uganda by the World Bank

Learn without Fear Report on School Violence by Plan. Summary and Full Report (also available in French and Spanish).

Painful lessons: the politics of preventing sexual violence and bullying at school by the Overseas Development Institute

Expel violence! A systematic review of interventions to prevent corporal punishment, sexual violence and bullying in schools by the International Observatory on Violence in Schools

School violence in OECD countries by Karen Moore, Nicola Jones and Emma Broadbent

Update: Owen Barder published an interesting post called Development 3.0 – is social accountability the answer, which refers to social accountability in education in Uganda and links to 2 other quite interesting papers: Fighting corruption to improve schooling: evidence from a newspaper campaign in Uganda; and a 2007 paper by the Center for Global Development challenging the findings of that paper: Putting the Power of Transparency in Context: Information’s Role in Reducing Corruption in Uganda’s Education Sector

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One of the main programs I support is a youth arts, technology and media program called ‘YETAM‘.  The program supports youth to identify and raise issues that they consider important, and then helps them engage their communities to resolve the issues they’ve raised. The youth have talked a lot about water in most of the places where I’ve been working in the past couple years, probably because children and youth tend to be the ones responsible for carrying water.

As part of the project in Okola District in Cameroon last year, youth mapped their community and prioritized their issues. One of their top issues was water. They made this film together about the water problem and shared it with the community adults and local authorities.

Probleme d’eau Potable – The Potable Water Problem (for subtitles, click on the arrow on the bottom right hand side of the video player and then click on the red ‘cc’ button)

Spurred on by the project and the organized youth, a few months later the community got to work fixing one of their water sources. They put in some resources and so did our local office.

La quete d’eau potable – Lack of Potable Water part 2.

Here are a couple other videos about water filmed by youth….

The Community Water Tank from El Salvador about what happens when water sources are not kept up (click on link as it’s not available on YouTube yet)

Djiko: l’eau potable a song youth wrote to remind communities about water scarcity in Mali

Water – Amazi where youth interview a rural family about water scarcity in Rwanda

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Today was our last day in Senegal and we’d planned to do something with Aissatou, one of the girls who had come to the US youth conference in 2004. We took a cab downtown and walked around with her for awhile and then we went to the Dakar museum which was cool. They have lots of statues, masks and carvings related to different ritual ceremonies from the peoples of W. Africa. Most of the ceremonies and carvings are related to female initiation (excision), male initiation (circumcision) and fertility. Aissatou told me that female circumcision is now illegal but that many people in the South of Senegal still practice it and it’s quite dangerous. They consider that men and women are unmarriageable if they are not circumcised or they don’t go through the initiation ceremonies. I knew this from work where we do work around awareness raising to mobilize communities and help support the women who don’t circumcise their daughters. It’s hard to change this kind of thing though.

We went to the market after the museum and got just a couple of things, and then met Laye and took a car rapide to N’gor, where we caught a water taxi out to the N’gor island. The beach out there was really nice. We sat on some mats, listened to people’s reggae music and relaxed till about 4 when we headed back to pack and get ready to go to the airport.

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We had a field trip today to the Notto community in the Thies district where Plan Senegal is going to be implementing the project. I took Clare so she would get to see some of Senegal outside of Dakar.

Photo: Community notables with Papesidy (center) explaining the project.

We stopped at the Thies Program Unit (PU) Office first. (Click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liX3VniQ11c for a video of the PU Office.)

Papesidy is the manager of the Theis PU. Within the Plan structure, most countries have a Country Office (CO) and then a few PUs which are district offices closer out to where the communities that we’re working with are. Each PU has staff (100% local people) that manage programs, sponsorship, grants, finance, etc., and that report into the CO. There are ‘community animators’ who have close relationships with the communities where we’re working on projects and who spend most of their time out in the communities helping facilitate the projects, supporting them to plan what they want to do and manage their projects, etc. They also spend quite a lot of their time managing communications between sponsors in the 17 Plan offices in the ‘north’ and the sponsored children in the communities in the ‘south’.

The meeting in Notto (the community in the Thies district that will participate in the YETAM project) was really long. When we got out of the car, we were surrounded by kids just staring at us for awhile and then we moved over underneath a tree and sat on some mats. The head imam from the village along with a few other ‘notables’ as they called them sat in chairs and addressed everyone in Wolof (one of the main local languages in Senegal) to start the meeting. We had translation in French and I realized I’m understanding pretty well actually! They gave thanks to God and prayed, saying that the prayers would be to the Muslim, Christian or Jewish Gods and we all pray to the same one God. Then we were welcomed to the community, and the children and youth were encouraged to put their total trust into the people from Plan who would come work with them on the project. We were told that we should to think of the community as our family – that we had mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles in the community and that they also had the same in us. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JkquUlusuk for some scenes from the meeting.

There was a really really long discussion then about the project. The community had been seeing it as an internet training project but after several exchanges and lots of interventions, it became clearer what the project is about. That through different arts and media the youth would learn how to better express themselves and the community would have the opportunity to take its place, to occupy its own space on the internet, and that it would be they themselves who would portray their community there, not people from the outside. There were lots of questions related to how they could access and use the internet if they didn’t attend school or read/write in French and if their community didn’t have an internet connection. But then the wife of the imam said that she hadn’t gone to school and she could do lots of things with her cellphone, so it was the same thing. After the community meeting everyone came up to us to say bye and Clare had lots of boys asking what her name is, how old she is, etc. She turned pretty pink. Photos: Community youth commenting on the project.

Photo: Papesidy filming a testimonial for the Nokia report.

On the way home we drove the back way through a whole bunch of urban communities right near the beach to avoid traffic. At one point we just plowed through this big sand field with all these guys playing soccer, making our own road as we went along. There was so much going on – people selling mangos, baobab fruits, fish, kids, goats, cars, busses, men and women sitting outside their houses chatting all along small winding streets next to big expanses of sandy beach leading to the shore. Along the beach the entire way was pure movement of people — playing soccer, doing sit ups, running in groups of 2-3 or in larger groups the size of a soccer team. (I’ve never been in a country where so many people jog – at all hours of the day in all types of gear and non-gear – from running shoes to flip flops to even small groups of women with headscarves). I kept thinking of Laye’s term “social living” and thinking this is really it. If I ever moved to Senegal I’d want to live in an area like this where people ‘live socially’ rather than the more exclusive neighborhoods where people tend to stay indoors more and the only people you really see outside are the men sitting in chairs in near the front door keeping an eye on things.

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