Civil society: A key voice in tackling corruption in education

11 July 2023

When education is free of corruption, and a strong culture of transparency and accountability prevails, doors can open for millions of children and youth worldwide. They can access their right to quality education. To accelerate, how can the education sector join forces with civil society organizations? Education Out Loud grantees from Tanzania, Cambodia, and Zimbabwe explain. 

Spotlight on Tanzania

Roselyne Mariki, the Country Manager for So They Can in Tanzania, recently completed a multi-faceted capacity development programme organized by IIEP-UNESCO as a Global Learning Partner for Education Out Loud (EOL), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE)'s fund for advocacy and social accountability. 

Through this programme, Mariki along with some 90 other participants, joined a four-week online course on tools – i.e. public expenditure tracking surveyscodes of conduct, citizen report cards, and integrity pacts – that civil society actors can help implement to improve transparency and accountability in education. 

Mariki joined the course’s Learning Champion path, which allowed her to team up with other Tanzanian civil society organizations and a government official to develop a common project and action plan on how to apply the code of conduct tool to enhance transparency and accountability. 

This was an eye-opening learning opportunity for me”.
Roselyne Mariki, Country Manager, So They Can, Tanzania

Mariki says most public schools face many challenges, such as poor infrastructure or lack of sufficient resources to deliver quality education. “However, since communities are responsible for resourcing the public primary schools, there is a need to empower them to understand how their contributions are valuable to the provision of quality education to their children. And how they can make sure that resources intended for the schools are actually used for the schools”, she explains. 

School kids at Manyara Primary School, Tanzania
So They Can

Armed with new skills and knowledge, Mariki says she is now ready to act. First, share with the team the lessons learnt from the course, and second, as part of strengthening the School Management Committees, tackle the lack of ownership around school report cards so that they are more transparent and accessible to all stakeholders including students, parents and community members. 

Together with her fellow EOL grantee team members, she is planning to work on a project focusing on codes of conduct for higher education teachers, an idea that was conceived during the training course. She says that ‘lecturers are not teachers’, and some misuse their positions for their own benefit, including sexual exploitation. There is also a disconnect regarding who is holding these teachers accountable”. 

“This is a burning issue that needs to be addressed”, Mariki says. “Through this training, we have an opportunity to really explore this jointly with other organizations and implement a new project as a starting point for Tanzania”.

Spotlight on Cambodia

Vera Ushurova is a project coordinator for the NGO Education Partnership in Cambodia, a coalition of around 128 organizations that advocates for better policy implementation. 

After joining the capacity development programme offered by the IIEP, including the course and two webinars on school report cards and open government, she’s now focusing her efforts on filling information gaps between state-level policies and how they are rolled out in remote areas.

“There is not a lot of communication about policy implementation in the remote areas between provincial and national level stakeholders. Ultimately, there are too few feedback mechanisms,” she says.

To tackle this, she relies on a series of policy implementation checklists, a variation of the more classic School Report Card, to observe, monitor, and report on specific policies and policy standards. “This is very useful, and it can be done by civil society quite effectively,” she says. 

Regarding the course, she found the self-paced module remarkably user-friendly and enjoyable. She firmly believes that the other EOL grantees who participated in this course have gained significant benefits and enhanced their capacities to address corruption in the education sector. 

The course provided us with opportunities to work both individually and in a team. Also, our group was incredibly diverse”. 
Vera Ushurova, project coordinator, NGO Education Partnership, Cambodia

Spotlight on Zimbabwe

Naison Bhunhu, the Director of ZINECDA, said he was able to learn about what other civil society actors are doing around the world – from Ghana to Pakistan – through the interactive forums. He also pursued the champion path and tuned into the webinars on school report cards and open government in education. 

He says he now has a stronger grasp on how to use various tools that are at his disposal, which allow him and his colleagues to play the role of a watchdog in Zimbabwe’s early childhood development sub-sector. 

The importance of transparency and accountability typically arises during budget analyses. “Issues of inequity are very much pronounced, and in terms of the allocation of resources,” he says. “We tend to see the better-trained teachers being allocated to urban stations and less so in rural areas, and this is not good for the mantra that no child should be left behind”. 

One of the challenges is that information is not systematic in the public arena. Or when it is, it may be outdated, and it cannot inform decision-making processes”.
Naison Bhunhu, Director, ZINECDA, Zimbabwe 

Bhunhu is determined to help foster a more conducive environment for the implementation of early learning in Zimbabwe. One idea he has now after completing the capacity development programme is to draw evidence from the annual public expenditure tracking surveys (PETS) and school report cards to boost his organization’s advocacy at the national level.

New research on how to engage civil society organizations in education sector policy design and implementation

This capacity development programme is also informing a new IIEP research study on how to involve civil society organizations in sector planning and implementation.

To achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), educational planning and management must become more inclusive and participatory. Educational planning must also be capable of adaptation, considering the evolving needs of the population, the job market, and increasing uncertainties in our world today. 

The engagement of civil society is key to ensuring that citizen voices are heard and that marginalized populations are served more effectively. Civil society can also act as a watchdog, to ensure that educational policies reflect real needs and that any identified issues are quickly addressed and resolved.