It is Saturday – a holiday – but Devi Secondary School in rural Doti District is still open. Students, teachers and the School Management Committee members are present in the school. While the teachers and School Management Committee members are talking to each other, the students are utilizing the free time to play volleyball. Meanwhile, the parents are also gradually coming to the school.
This is certainly not an ordinary school day.
Gradually, all the people gather in the assembly area and the volunteers divide them in groups and start to have separate group discussions with them in separate classrooms and also in the playground.
In each group discussion, participants are evaluating the facilities provided in the school including students' attendance, teachers' attendance, scholarship, separate toilets, safe classrooms, child friendly building, and availability of teaching materials and so on. They are evaluating these facilities by putting tick marks under the relevant smiley symbols in the flip charts. Soon after the group discussions, all the participating parents, students, teachers and School Management Committee members come to gather in the assembly area and start a collective discussion on ways to improve the facilities at the school.
"We had a fruitful discussion. I hope this will contribute to improving the school facilities," says a parent.
Social accountability is challenging in Nepal. In most cases, there is a gap between service delivery and government policy standards. Service providers are mandated to provide quality services but the quality of services such as education and health are not found as mandated in the government policies. The situation is even worse in remote areas like this Khatiwada Village Development Committee where community people do not have access to basic facilities such as a hospital, college, market or decent public transportation.
Basically, people are not in a position to raise questions for the quality of services that they are receiving through service providing government agencies.
In order to strengthen social accountability, World Vision International Nepal introduced a local level advocacy and social accountability approach called Citizen Voice and Action. Under this approach, community people and children are first educated about their rights to get better services. This enables them to participate in community gatherings where they have constructive dialogues with service providing government authorities to improve the quality of services.
This is what is exactly happening today at Devi Secondary School. Students, parents, teachers and School Management Committee members are analyzing the quality of services in the school. They are scoring on the service inputs so that they can measure the quality of service delivery. After a three-hour discussion the participants have prepared an action plan with five action points to improve the services at the school.
Rabindra Gautam, Advocacy Manager at World Vision International Nepal says, "Through the adoption of Citizen Voice and Action approach in the selected schools, World Vision wants to make sure that the schools are equipped with basic facilities required to provide a good learning environment for the students. This approach will also contribute in making the concerned government bodies accountable in ensuring the availability of these basic facilities at school."
In order to gather similar momentum of bringing students, teachers, parents and School Management Committee members together at a single place to have constructive dialogue for improving services, World Vision International Nepal has introduced Citizen Voice and Action approach in 30 schools in Doti District.
Written by Sunil Hakaju Shrestha, Advocacy Specialist