For community development to occur, community members must be knowledgeable about their role. In line with this, World Vision, through its advocacy tool called Citizens Voice and Action (CVA), has empowered community members in Zambia to advocate for the Government's provision of public services. Through a facilitated and collaborative group process designed to improve the quality of services at the local level, the approach brings together citizens, service providers, local government, and partners.
One of the CVA working groups in Madzimawe Chiefdom in Kasenengwa District - Eastern Province trained in 2018, advocated for more teachers and reading textbooks for pupils at Kamuna Primary School.
"After the training, we reported back to the Chief, and we reported on how the training was and how beneficial it would be to the chiefdom. The Chief is our Matron; with his blessings, we first targeted schools. We approached Kamuna Primary school, and it only had a headteacher –with his wife also a trained teacher– against 404 pupils. It also lacked textbooks," narrates Dennis Nkhuwa, the CVA group's secretary. "We monitored the school facilities, and compared to the prescribed standards, we noticed a huge gap. So we did a scorecard where people voted for what problems needed quick attention."
Mr. Nkhuwa further says that the CVA committee, through the Matron, wrote to the District Education Board Secretary (DEBS), the District Commissioner, and Council Chairperson: "After our assessment, we called for a meeting and invited the key stakeholders, including DEBS, Council Chairperson, and District Commissioner. The invitations were shared through the help of His Royal Highness Chief Madzimawe, who is also the Matron for the group. The meeting was held right at Kamuna Primary School so that the people invited could appreciate the challenges the schools face. We made the Action Plan, and the DEBs recognised that the school had more houses than teachers."
He adds: "Right now, we can cheerfully say the school received three more teachers and some textbooks, so pupils are currently learning without having to share a textbook. We also brought old vehicle tires to make a play park for pupils and the installation of steel goalposts for school football and netball activities. We are still working on other blocks for the pupils."
The secretary also explains that the CVA group continued with monitoring at Kadama Rural Health Post: "After we resolved some challenges at Kamuna Primary School, we went further and assessed the situation at Kadama Health Post in January 2020. We found that the Health Post only had one staff member and lacked some equipment and a maternity wing. So a meeting was convened, where we had the District Health Officer, District Commissioner and Council Chairperson in attendance.As a result of the meetings, the Health Post received a clinical officer. We are currently negotiating with the relevant stakeholders to build an annexe so that we can have a maternity wing for expectant mothers."
The CVA group's Matron Chief, Gogo Madzimawe, described the CVA training as an eye-opener empowering community members to seek an audience with the duty-bearers for quality public service delivery: "We are very grateful to World Vision for opening our eyes and giving us the knowledge to advocate on our own for services lacking in our schools, hospitals, or roads. I am a happy person because my work is now easy; community members understand the power of teamwork and dialogue in seeking community development. We are making progress, and we will ensure that all schools and health centres conform to the prescribed standards so that our children can learn in a safe and clean environment and receive quality healthcare from our health centres."
Kamuna Primary School new Headteacher Mrs. Esnala Banda described that the community members are instrumental in the attainment of quality education: "I was deployed hereafter the CVA notified the DEBS of a lack of teachers at this school, so I will continue working with the community members and CVA committee to ensure that they continue speaking on our behalf as a school. Community members are influential, and their involvement provides an enabling environment for pupils to learn and teachers to teach."
CVA mobilises and equips citizens to monitor government services, and facilitates an advocacy methodology that results in the improvement of inadequate government-provided services. CVA is often used as a component of other projects to improve relevant government services for children's well-being.