Empowering civil society to fight against corruption in education

Children are about to enter morning class at a primary school in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. | Ⓒ World Bank / Vincent Tremeau licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Improving transparency and accountability are crucial measures in the fight against corruption. For the education sector, this is no exception as corruption can impede access and undermine equity and quality. However, several tools exist to help education stakeholders, including civil society actors, take steps to hold service providers accountable and improve education service oversight and delivery.

Hérvé Niandu, a researcher and member of the National Coalition of Education for All (CONEPT) of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is aware of the problems that a lack of transparency and accountability can bring. To combat these issues in his own country he says he must adopt new approaches and tools.

I've made transparency my battle horse, ensuring that students at the university where I work have access to all the information they need to defend their rights and meet their obligations. This means systematic access to their evaluations, said Hérvé.

Hérvé was one of the 25 participants who took part in the second edition of the online course Tools to Promote Transparency and Accountability in Education, tailored for francophone Education Out Loud(EOL) grantees and conducted by IIEP. The course, which ran from 6 November to 8 December 2023, guided participants through an exploration of the risks and impacts of corruption in the education sector. They also learned in-depth about four key tools that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can use to help diagnose and compact corruption. 

Practical tools to improve transparency

The four major tools that participants were able to discover over the four weeks included:

  1. Public expenditure tracking surveys (PETS),
  2. School report cards,
  3. Codes of ethics, and
  4. Integrity pacts.

The participants can now use these tools to improve access, quality, equity, and efficiency in education in their respective countries.

The course gathered participants from 11 additional countries, i.e. Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Tunisia. Based on their availability and level of interest, participants chose between two learning journeys: Integrity Advocates or Integrity Champions. The Advocate pathway provided more flexibility with self-paced learning activities, while the Champions pathway offered opportunities to receive guidance on developing an action plan to design and implement a project using one of the tools presented during the course, which they pitched during the last live session.

A tool to locate the leakage of funds

Every school requires various resources to operate – buildings, desks, textbooks, and teachers. Typically, these resources are provided by the government, passing through the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Education before reaching their destination. However, in some systems, leakages may happen, leading to a loss of funding along the way. In these cases, a Public Expenditure Tracking Survey(PETS), can help identify specific points in the process where financial losses occur.

Charly Patshi, the programme manager of the National Coalition of Education for All (CONEPT) of the Democratic Republic of Congo, explained how this tool will be beneficial.

This course has made an important contribution to our work in civil society and citizen control, particularly regarding education funding  … We are now going to examine the issue of contract awards to determine if there is any misappropriation of funds within the scope of the services we aim to provide for education, he said.

Promoting transparency in education in Haiti

Marie Madeleine Pierre, a course participant from Haiti who specializes in accessibility, disability, and inclusion, shared parts of her action plan devised with her national team to accelerate progress. This multi-faceted plan includes a training programme for 10 members of her association on tools, a survey on public education spending, and an awareness campaign to sensitize additional civil society organizations.

This course has made me aware of certain types of corruption in education, of which I was unaware. It has also better equipped me to develop advocacy and awareness-raising actions, said Pierre.

An eye-opening experience

A common thread running through the post-course evaluation was the revealing aspect of the course, as it shed light on aspects of corruption not previously perceived by the participants and well as providing insights into practical ways that these aspects could be addressed.

Taking part in this course has opened my eyes to the whole range of tools dealing with transparency in the education sector. I've learned a lot, and I think that the experiences I've shared are also useful to other participants,” said one participant.

Another participant shared that “the application of these tools will help to shed light on these practices and raise awareness among the educational community of the need for integrity.”

Learn more about these tools.