Blog post

Building integrity for life starting in the classroom

Isabelle Kermeen

Communications Manager at Integrity Action. Previously, Isabelle worked for an anti-corruption academy in Austria and UNOCHA in Sudan, as well as a peace and development organisations in Sweden and Sri Lanka.

From Kathmandu to Kinshasa, are children receiving the education promised to them? In schools in Afghanistan, DR Congo, Kenya, Nepal and Palestine, something exciting is happening. Students are monitoring how schools are run, reporting problems, and finding solutions.

Integrity Action was established in 2003 to support sustainable development and poverty reduction by raising integrity standards in public and private institutions. More recently, the focus has shifted to supporting citizens in demanding integrity in the delivery of local services and projects through citizen monitoring. Our mission? To help build societies in which all citizens can – and do – successfully demand integrity from the institutions they rely on.

Integrity Action’s approach to building integrity in schools starts with students themselves: students monitor different aspects of school life and report “problems” using our tailor-made tech tool, DevelopmentCheck. Once the issues are reported, this data is available online in real-time, for anyone to see. This programme takes place in 700 schools across five countries. 

What is DevelopmentCheck?

  • A mobile app: Monitors use it to record how well, or badly, a local project or service is working.
  • A public website: Anyone can browse the projects/services being monitored, and look at what the monitors are reporting, on 
  • A database: All findings from monitoring are stored in a database that allows reporting and analysis.

A student in Nepal used DevelopmentCheck to report that latrines in their school were dirty, blocked, and overflowing. A simple photo and a few details were needed to create an entry.  After a few weeks of inaction by the school management, students went back to the school management committee, mobile phone in hand, and showed it to the headteacher. “Our fellow students and teachers in other countries have seen this latrine photo”, they explained. The school management realized they had to act, and as a result the school now has regularly cleaned working toilets.

This is just one example of a “fix” – a situation where students were able to identify and resolve an issue with those responsible. This is best achieved when students are not apportioning blame or making accusations but rather by working collaboratively and understanding causes and solutions.

Integrity Club monitoring borehole construction in Aqaba village, Palestine

Integrity Club monitoring borehole construction in Aqaba village, Palestine

Student monitors, aged 14-18, are trained to not only report problems but also to understand which stakeholders they should speak with in order to get the problems fixed. This is done in small groups called “Integrity Clubs”. Each Integrity Club has a focal teacher who works with them and supports them in their monitoring work. Together, they monitor aspects of school life like teacher attendance, school cleanliness, and availability of teaching materials. They learn how to engage constructively with key ‘power holders’ and duty-bearers – teachers, principal, the school management committee, or local authorities and contractors. “Fixes” are reported in the mobile app online and in real-time for all to see.

Mithilesh Mahesh is a partially sighted Integrity Club member in Kathamandu monitoring school construction

As part of this multi-year initiative, around 10,000 students are involved in Integrity Clubs and looking to find solutions for problems in their schools. But Integrity Action believes that monitoring can only meet the needs of all students if these clubs are meaningfully inclusive. A parallel project was therefore launched to understand the barriers to inclusion and boost meaningful participation of students with disabilities in Integrity Clubs. This one-year project focused on 11 of the 91 schools with Integrity Clubs in Nepal, researching barriers preventing students with disabilities from participating in Integrity Clubs and providing teacher and student training in pilot schools. As a result, the proportion of club members with a disability in these schools increased from 9% to 25%. Furthermore, accessibility issues – for instance, the need for ramps – were increasingly reported.

In the last 6 years, Integrity Action has worked with citizens to monitor some $1 billion worth of projects/services globally*, ensuring issues are identified and addressed to the satisfaction of communities.  Together with the other citizen monitoring projects run by Integrity Action, 54% of problems raised by citizen monitors have been fixed in partnership with local and international partner organizations.

Learn more about Integrity Action here.

* The monetary value of all projects and services monitored is added together.

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