Nearly 10 percent of PTF supported projects have been directed at fighting corruption in education. The projects addressed problems of governance, poor transparency and corruption in four main areas: (i) use of school resources; (ii) school construction; (iii) procurement and delivery of textbooks and other school supplies; and (iv) professional misconduct related to student admissions, examinations and teacher hiring.
In the 12 years that PTF provided small grant assistance for good governance projects, about 10 percent (about 22) were directed to the education sector. The projects addressed problems of governance, poor transparency and corruption in four main areas: (i) use of school resources; (ii) school construction; (iii) procurement and delivery of textbooks and other school supplies; and (iv) professional misconduct related to student admissions, examinations and teacher hiring. Approximately 70 percent were carried out in two regions, Africa and East Asia; 17 focused on the primary/secondary levels of education, and five on the tertiary level.
Use of School Resources
In Armenia, Cameroon and Ghana PTF has supported projects that emphasize a participatory approach in monitoring the expenditure of funds collected from parents and students to compensate for inadequate budgetary resources. The corruption risk lies in the potential for misuse of the funds due to the absence of transparent procedures for managing them.
PTF has supported projects in Cameroon and the Philippines to fight corrupt practices of public officials and building contractors in the construction of classrooms.
In theory, Cameroon’s students attend secondary school free of charge. In practice, the principals of secondary schools and the school management committees (SMC) draw up an annual budget with a list of projected operating costs and subtract the likely government contribution. To close the financial gap, parents are asked to contribute dues directly to the parent teacher association (PTA). Exasperated by the generalized misuse of PTA funds, Mrs. Lois Ebenye, principal of the Government Bilingual High School (GBHS) in the city of Limbe, contacted the Action Group for Democracy and Good Governance Cameroon (AGDGG) to help build the SMC capacity to manage PTA funds properly. In addition, she obtained support for her initiative of departmental officials of the Ministry of Secondary Education. Under the project approved by PTF AGDGG implemented three activities: a workshop on budget tracking, adoption of a Code of Ethics by all participants, and tracking of the PTA budget by SMC members. Thus SMC members found that teachers’ salaries included in the PTA budget were paid regularly, that the planned classroom construction was on schedule and good quality materials were used, and school benches included in the budget were delivered.
Several factors contributed to the success of this project. First, the GBHS principal was an outspoken advocate who had full backing of the Department of Secondary Education. Second, many parents were very supportive. Third, the on-site tracking process made the flow of money transparent and decreased the chances of corrupt practices. The same approach is now being applied at other high schools in the Limbe area, with direct support from the schools themselves. Education authorities welcomed the code of ethics, which may become a model to be applied throughout the secondary school system.
Procurement and Delivery of Textbooks and Other School Supplies
PTF-supported projects in the Philippines and Ghana have engaged citizens to monitor the entire value chain for textbooks and other school supplies, from procurement to production, quality assurance and delivery.
Government Watch (G-Watch), a social accountability program connected to the Ateneo School of Government, established a cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Civil Society Organizations nationwide to implement the “Textbook Count” project from 2003-2011. It was geared toward eliminating corruption in textbook procurement, systematizing textbook deliveries nationwide, making suppliers more responsive to clients’ needs, and mobilizing citizens for monitoring and inspection to achieve greater transparency. The underlying approach adopted by G-Watch was that the active participation of citizens in the critical process of governing results in more transparency and higher performance standards, minimizing corruption and deviations from rules and standards.
Results achieved through he project were significant. Leakages in service delivery were greatly reduced. Due to due diligence and, systemic monitoring and the safeguarding of best practices in procurement, Textbook Count has been able to reduce the prices of textbooks and reduce the time allotted for procurements. At the procedural level, and in close coordination with the Department of Education, G-Watch was able to institutionalize a system for citizens to check and monitor the delivery of services. Read more.
Professional Misconduct Related to Student Admissions, Examinations and Teacher Hiring
PTF has supported four projects in Ghana and Cameroon aimed at addressing widespread instances of teacher, staff and administration misconduct.
SAVE-Ghana targeted chronic teacher absenteeism, the practice of having “ghost teachers” on the payroll, schools collecting school fees from parents which the central government already pays, and the practice of teachers taking their students to the teacher’s farms and making the students work on the farms for the teachers. The project was carried out through engaging, organizing, educating, energizing and focusing local authorities, parent-teacher associations, school management committees on teacher absenteeism and corruption through meetings and workshops, and worked with the local officials of the Ghana Education Service. It also generated interest through radio programs to the point that stakeholders in schools not part of the project were inquiring why they were not chosen.
Through citizen engagement, the project assisted the government in eliminating 7 “ghost” teachers, and that will save the government about Ghc 84,000 per annum, about 44,000 U.S. dollars. Other results are that during this academic year, at 3 schools, authorities could not account for Ghc 1,200 (about $636.00) and that those school authorities have refunded that amount to the schools. With respect to teacher absenteeism, which in one of the primary focuses of the project, SAVE-Ghana projects that for the targeted schools, teacher absenteeism has or will be reduced from 57% to about 25%. SAVE-Ghana also reports that the project has managed to reduce the incidences of teachers abusing their authority by forcing students to work on their farms.
The following three elements were present in PTF-supported education projects that achieved success. Likewise, when one or more of these elements are missing or weak, projects are likely to fail in achieving their objectives.
(1) An Engaged Citizenry
Civic engagement has taken several forms in PTF-supported education projects:
- Projects in Cameroon focused on higher education required buy-in and support from administrators, staff and students.
- The construction, materials delivery and expenditure monitoring projects in Cameroon, Armenia and Ghana have depended variously on school management committees, parent-teacher associations and local, regional and national administrators.
- Textbook monitoring projects in the Philippines involved mobilizing as many as 6,000 volunteers to monitor the centralized procurement and delivery of textbooks to the school level. The more recent efforts at monitoring decentralized construction and furniture procurement in the Philippines entailed delegation to local CSOs as well as citizens.
In all the projects, citizen involvement was a requisite input for achieving targeted outcomes. In most of the projects, PTF contributed to the build-up of civic engagement principally through advice and support to the CSO on citizen involvement and on related, training and monitoring.
(2) An Effective Civil Society Organization
In each successful project, PTF has supported an effective Civil Society Organization (CSO) that demonstrated the following characteristics:
- Well established within countries and regions. These CSOs have qualified and talented staff and successful project experience that lend them credibility. They may have offices not only in the capital cities but in more remote areas of the country where project activities occur.
- Connected to education networks, organizations and institutions ‘larger than themselves.’ CSOs that work at the national level, often with policy-makers and/or national implementing agencies, which can provide currency for improved governance and incentives to engage stakeholders.
- Experience in education. In most cases, PTF projects are not isolated events and contribute to mainstreaming technical approaches, which PTF either strengthened or helped the organization to expand in a new direction.
The overall level of CSO competence enabled success ‘on the ground’. PTF’s technical support provides value-added through strengthening CSO staff capacity in new areas.
(3) An Effective Supporter in the Public Sector
Effective government support contributes to project success.
- Ministries of Education (MOE) were, or became, supporters of the improvements in governance and reduction in corrupt practices under successful projects.
- Legislative and legal support for good governance in education also contribute to successful impact, where approved and enforced.
- A strong individual who champions the cause within the government can also play a critical role in raising political, legislative and/or citizen demand for good governance.
Based on the success of past projects, PTF is aiming to expand its education operations in a number of ways:
- Moving to scale. Each of the projects PTF has supported presents the possibility to build on for expanded or more effective coverage within the relevant country. Successful projects in Cameroon focused on higher education projects could be extended to include all higher education in the public sector. Projects in Ghana and Armenia that monitored use of decentralized or extra-budgetary funds could also be scaled up regionally or nationally. Projects in the Philippines to monitor the procurement of textbooks for schools also present a possibility as a means to strengthen local CSOs as well as civic engagement.
- Documenting and Disseminating Lessons Learned. The extraordinary experience of our volunteer Advisers, combined with a terrific portfolio of field experiences, has provided unparalleled insight into fighting corruption in difficult circumstances. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. A core objective of PTF’s operation is to share this knowledge gained. In this light, PTF is looking to assist CSOs in documenting and disseminating available knowledge and experience.
- Managing Independent Monitoring Programs. PTF believes civic engagement is at the heart of sustainable progress in the fight against corruption. PTF is available to manage the independent monitoring of project results by beneficiaries for service delivery programs sponsored by governments with or without major donor support. Click here to read about PTF’s monitoring model to provide donors and development agencies more specific and real-time information on the impact of their projects, the Citizen Action for Results, Transparency and Accountability (CARTA) program.
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