“When you build a school without involving the local community, you cannot expect to receive help if a problem arises. However, if community members are involved throughout the construction process, they will provide the advice and assistance needed to deal with any issues that come up.”
This is how Paulin Junior Kouame describes the benefits of community involvement and monitoring as education policies are implemented. He is the coordinator of the Ivorian Network for the Promotion of Education for All (RIP-EPT), a network of twenty civil-society organizations. Under the RIP-EPT umbrella, they join forces to support and promote accessible, high-quality education through research and capacity building.
“Offering suggestions where needed”
The Ivorian government is currently implementing its 2016/2025 education plan, created with RIP-EPT’s input, among others. The most important aspects of the new policy are its emphasis on building new schools, the decision to provide regular training for teachers in adapting instructional methods to children’s needs, and the reduction of repetition rates. One of the most important measures is “to ensure that collèges [secondary schools for children between the ages of 12 and 16] are available within five kilometers of every large village,” says Kouame.
“Owing to a lack of involvement by civil society, in the past many objectives have not been achieved,” says Paulin Junior Kouame. “We are contributing to the plan’s success by pointing out from a bottom-up perspective what is going well and what is not, and offering suggestions where needed.”
Training, then monitoring
As a member of the Global Campaign for Education, the organization has received help from other NGOs with more experience in this kind of initiative. “We have discussed how things are working in different locations, and have become more efficient by participating in forums where we have had the chance to share knowledge and experiences,” explains Kouame.
RIP-EPT is made of eleven teams of teachers, parents and human rights activists, all of them volunteers who are working in various regions of Ivory Coast. The organization first invited two members from each local team to participate in a national training program. The aim was to explain the government’s education plan to these representatives and provide them with tools and indicators for evaluating its implementation. Local training sessions were added, increasing the number of observers to ten in each local team.
“We are contributing to the plan’s success by pointing out from a bottom-up perspective what is going well and what is not, and offering suggestions where needed.”
The first report will cover the period from May 2017 to May 2018. Once it is finalized, it will be presented during a meeting hosted by the Ministry of Education to review the education sector, which will take place in May or June 2018. “It’s an important moment when all of those active in education in Ivory Coast gather to reflect on the past year,” notes Paulin Junior Kouame.
Kouame believes that disseminating his team’s findings is the most crucial part of the process, since those insights offer an opportunity to improve the education system in Ivory Coast. To make sure those insights are incorporated into the implementation process, RIP-EPT hopes to continue its work until 2025, assuming that its partners continue to offer their support.