Civil society’s role in educational planning: Insights from Zimbabwe

25 June 2024


©Education Coalition of Zimbabwe

Evelyn Wadzanayi Chitiga from the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe is a firm believer in the importance of civil society’s involvement in educational planning and management. This inclusion ensures transparency, ownership, sustainability, and accountability.

Having recently completed the IIEP online course on the Basics of Educational Planning as a grantee of Education Out Loud (EOL), she shares her insight on why civil society participation is crucial for the future of Zimbabwe’s education system.

Why is important for civil society actors in Zimbabwe to be part of educational planning and management?

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a critical role in protecting human rights, including the right to education guaranteed by the Zimbabwean Constitution. CSOs ensure that policies are in place for schools to be safe learning environments and that the right to quality, inclusive education is achieved. Additionally, they enhance accountability and transparency by acting as watchdogs over education policies.

Involving CSOs fosters greater stakeholder engagement, providing a comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing education and facilitating holistic solutions. For example, with the 2024 drought, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has involved various stakeholders and ministries to ensure learners continue attending school and receive meals despite the current conditions.

CSOs also bring specialized knowledge and expertise to the table when it comes to educational planning and management, and policy-makers can benefit from their insights and recommendations, leading to more informed policy choices that are grounded in evidence-based practices.

How does your organization participate in planning education in Zimbabwe?

ECOZI collaborates with the Government to influence decision-making, monitor budget allocations, and oversee fund disbursement and use. This close relationship enhances feedback and effective and transparent use of resources to improve educational quality.

Civil society actors, such as those in ECOZI, represent diverse voices within the community, including marginalized groups such as women, children, and people with disabilities. By being part of planning and management, we can advocate for inclusive policies that address their specific needs, ensuring that education is accessible to all individuals regardless of their background.

What is at risk if civil society is not part of the planning process for young people today?

Civil society plays a critical role in the development and growth of young people. If CSOs are not involved in the education planning and management processes, risks may include a missed generation if CSOs cannot help defining a relevant curriculum for the 21st century; discrimination and exclusion because of people living with disabilities, gender stereotypes, or because of religion or culture; and also corruption. Additionally, programmes may not align with the real needs of youth today because of misplaced priorities. 

How did IIEP’s course help you engage better to help shape the future of education through educational planning?

IIEP’s Basics of Educational Planning course has enhanced my ability to engage with Government using every possible opportunity. The course helped by leveraging data-driven acumens, promoting continuous improvement, nurturing collaboration, and enabling ECOZI members to collectively address emerging trends and challenges in the educational space.

ECOZI has five thematic committees: Gender and Inclusion, Quality and Transformative and Lifelong Education, Foundational Literacy, Education in Emergencies and Education Financing. These committees advocate for a specific focus area within the Education Sector Strategic Plan to ensure that the right to education is attained. I have embraced the concepts in several modules to ensure that no marginalized community is left behind.

For example, the module on formulating strategies to support civil society priorities, was an eye-opener on how to use local and innovative strategies to ensure that the CSO strategies are heard. In the Zimbabwean context, media plays a critical role in advocacy, hence it is instrumental to be innovative in pushing the agenda on the right to education.

In the module on formulating key arguments to advocate for thematic areas in the planning process, the key takeaway I have embraced is to ensure that the voice of thematic committees is heard.

As the thematic committees meet and interact in their WhatsApp group, we have initiated the need for each organization to share their work and where they need collaborative efforts, other players join in. For example, the Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) is advocating for the Right to Education, focusing on the girl child. As ECOZI, we then rope in other organizations to also learn from the theater-for-development model they use called Tuseme, which means “Let Us Speak Out” in Swahili.

Have you applied information from the course to your professional work with the Education Coalition? If so, how, and what was the result?

I have been progressively implementing what we learned during the course. For example, we prioritize consulting with our members to understand their priorities and ensuring that our partners' work aligns with the Government's mandate.

At ECOZI, we have gone a step further by inviting the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to share their current issues and plans with our members. This allows us to ensure that the programmes of CSOs add value to the Ministry's targets. It also helps CSOs understand what they can monitor in their areas of operation, thereby increasing accountability regarding the right to education.