By Luis Esquivel
The Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) supports collaboration between social accountability initiatives and government agencies to solve specific governance challenges. To date, it supports a total 23 projects in 17 countries. Nine of these projects tackle governance challenges in education, making this sector the most prominent among GPSA grantees. These nine education grants — from Ghana, Malawi (2 grants), Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Philippines (funded by Open Society Foundations), Tunisia and Uganda — focus on increasing quality and access, improving transparency and procurement processes, and reducing absenteeism. After reflecting on the importance of supporting and improving education, this blog highlights potential challenges that GPSA grantees have identified as they start implementing their projects.
Quality education as the basis for human development
Education is important for several reasons highlighted by GPSA grantees: a) it is the “basis for human development in a country” (Naranjargal Khashkhuu, Globe International Center, Mongolia); b) it “has the potential to break the cycle of poverty” (Nissrine Bouhamidi, CARE Morocco; and c) it promotes “progress in all other sectors” (Victoria Vasilescu, Expert-Grup, Moldova).
However, according to grantees, for education to meet its goals, two additional factors need to be considered:
– Shift from ensuring access to education to promoting quality education. Progress regarding universal access, particularly in the context of the MDGs — goal 2: achieving universal primary education — has been significant, yet experts have begun to underscore how equally important is to promote quality education. As Georege Osei from SEND-Ghana put it, “in order to build the capacity of human resources the question is how to achieve quality education, not just universal access”.
– High amount of resources allocated to the education sector and the need to ensure that such resources are used effectively. “Education is one of the largest sectors” said Dalitso Kubalasa from the Malawi Economic Justice Network. As per the latest data, in countries with a GPSA grant on education, spending in this sector as percentage of government total expenditure ranges from 12% to 33%. Education is indeed receiving, rightly so, a significant amount of public resources. Thus it becomes critical that those resources are used in the most effective way to improve education outcomes. In this regard, Yvonne Mmangisa from CARE Malawi mentioned that “education takes up a considerable amount of resources in the national budget, thus it is important to monitor how these funds are used”.
Challenges in implementing social accountability projects in education
While acknowledging the importance of education, GPSA grantees also identified potential challenges during implementation of grants. While there are some challenges specific to each project depending on the context, the following emerged as a common trend.
1) Fostering trust among the various stakeholders: While most grantees or their partners have experience working in the education sector, they acknowledged that working with a diverse group of stakeholders ranging from parents, and teachers to government officials at the ministry of education will require trust building in order to ensure that collaboration under the different GPSA projects has the intended impact. This is particularly relevant at the school level.
2) Government response to feedback: the grants focus on generating information through social accountability mechanisms in order for the relevant government agency to act upon such information, yet as Gilbert Sendugwa from the Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Uganda put it “there needs to be space for channeling findings and recommendations for corrective action, based on recommendations”. The challenge for GPSA grantees will lie, then, in opening or finding those spaces, if the government is not proactive about them.
3) Political transitions: The prospects of political change in various branches of government could affect engagement with authorities. This poses a risk as projects advance, given that uncertainty emerges when new government officials arrive.
4) Limited access to information: in order for stakeholders to provide accurate feedback that can be then used by government agencies, they must first know what the government did or was supposed to do. If this information is not available, monitoring exercises of budget allocations or procurement operations is limited.
One of the key features of the GPSA is its support to its grantees during the implementation process. A collaborative approach is followed in which the GPSA channels expertise, knowledge and technical assistance (through global partners, WB experts, etc.) to support grantees before and when these challenges arise. For example through peer exchanges for grantees to learn more, as mentioned by Jazem Halioui from Tunisia’s Union Generale Tunisienne du Travail , as well as others “we are interested in learning others’ experiences, innovations and good practices in the education sector”.
GPSA has a capacity building component to bridge specific capacity gaps in order to strengthen implementation of the projects. In addition, the GPSA’s knowledge component—and this knowledge platform—facilitates grantees access to knowledge and experiences available all over the world. This platform also provides a space to exchange ideas on how to address emerging challenges. Now that these challenges have been identified, it is necessary to find solutions or innovative ways to tackle them. One way to find these solutions is to start discussions and exchanges among various actors, such as grantees, global partners, practitioners, academics, etc., on issues related to trust between stakeholders, strategies to encourage collaboration with government, and even go beyond these initial challenges and respond other emerging issues as well.
This note was prepared with inputs from GPSA grantees:
Dalitso Kubalasa, Malawi Economic Justice Network, Malawi
George Osei, SEND-Ghana
Gilbert Sendugwa, Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Uganda
Jazem Halioui, Union Generale Tunisienne du Travail, Tunisia
Naranjargal Khashkhuu, Globe International Center, Mongolia
Nissrine Bouhamidi, CARE Morocco
Victoria Vasilescu, Expert-Grup, Moldova
Yvonne Mmangisa, CARE Malawi
The coming expert forum called “Is the government listening to you? Challenges in ensuring governmental response to feedback in the education sector” is an opportunity to start this discussion. We invite you to join the forum here!
Operations officer, World Bank Governance Global Practice
Luis Esquivel is operations officer at the World Bank Governance Global Practice where he supports WB engagement around open government issues, including coordination with the Open Government Partnership as well as access to information issues. Prior to that, he worked at the World Bank Institute (WBI)’s Access to Information Program from 2007 to 2014. During this time he focused on supporting the adoption and implementation of transparency and access to information legislation in developing countries through facilitating knowledge exchanges and the sharing of lessons learned in Africa, Latin America, Middle East and South East Asia. In addition, he worked at the Trust for the Americas- NGO affiliated to the Organization of American States- assisting in the coordination of the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information. Luis holds a M.A. in Latin American Studies with concentration in Government from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.