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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quality education needs partnership

Chinua Achebe, one of the greatest contemporary African writers, once said that ‘what was the right emphasis yesterday may not be quite right today, so we must be agile and flexible and imaginative’ (Ezenwa-Ohaeto).

Similarly, Rwanda has made significant strides towards achieving one of the pillars of MDGs-Education for all. In fact statistics from World Bank published in 2012 indicate that Rwanda’s primary school enrollment was at 98.75 per cent in 2010.

As such Rwanda must be among the countries with highest level of enrollment in Sub-Saharan Africa, if not the first.  So, in terms of quality, we can confidently say that every Rwandan child of School going age is in school.

Now the focus should be on how to achieve quality and this call for the different stakeholders to take keen interest in education. The Dakar platform for Action, education for all (April, 2000), which was adopted by the World Education Forum “calls for a broadening of policy dialogue between governments, civil society and other Education for All partners, especially at national level.

It specifically recommends to “ensure the engagement and participation of civil society in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of strategies for educational development”.

This was followed by Bamako Education conference organised by UNESCO and World Bank in November, 2000 and the major objectives were; to evaluate and valorize the contributions of NGOs/CSOs to achieve the EFA goals, to strengthen the collaboration between NGOs, CSOs and other EFA partners including the private sector, to consolidate and strengthen civil society/government collaboration on EFA issues at country level and finally, to reinforce technical, professional and institutional capacities.

In addition to the above points, the UNESCO’s message asserts: “the Education for All goals can only be achieved with the active participation of civil society organisations”, (Dakar, Education Forum Framework, 2000).

Here the emphasis should be put on building capacities of Local Civil society Organizations (LCSOs), because of sustainability and ownership effects.

Going by the recommendations of these two educational conferences it can be analysed that the civil society organisations, play a major role in improving the quality of education through supplementing government programmes. More often the civil society organisations, particularly the local ones act as inter alia; service providers, innovators, advocacy, advisors to the government.

International connections partnership, especially where state provision is insufficient or they come in to compliment the state programmes, sustainability and continuity, this is because civil society organisations are often more flexible than the state and closer to the grassroots.

In case of education, these organisations are closer to schools, besides such associations more often are composed of teachers, librarians and other Education professionals who are first hand stakeholders in education and as such there is usually high degree of ownership.

More so, in almost all cases, local NGOs are in a better position to work directly with communities because they speak the same language, are located closer to the communities, and are organised to conduct intensive and direct support to their respective communities.

For example, if the government provides infrastructure, school text books and other educational hardware, the LCSOs should come in to ensure the utilization and effective use of such materials.

To elaborate my case, it would be practically hard for the Ministry of Education to organise district inter school debating competition in Western Province or in Rusizi District for that matter. But such competition can easily be organised by local associations of teachers, writers associations, librarians, readers associations among others if such associations were existent.

Again, if we were having such professional associations, we would reap other professional benefits by linking up with similar regional and international associations like International Reading Association (IRA), Pen International (PI), International Federation of Library Associations and Institution (IFLA), Book Aid International and other many international professional bodies.

By lacking such important connections we somehow isolate ourselves and we limit our fronts towards achieving quality education.

It is also important to note that such associations are particularly effective in areas such as community participation, empowerment, literacy, community schools, setting up community resource centres, reproductive health education and

early childhood education to but a few.

Civil society organisations as innovators and sources of new thinking and practices, more often NGOs can offer the opportunity to explore and test new educational innovations on a limited basis that can then be generalised or adopted.

Such innovations could include new curriculum and new teaching approaches, in short these NGOs could help fill the “new ideas gap” which is important if the EFA and quality education concept is to evolve and respond to new dynamics and changes of modern Rwanda.

Source: The New Times

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