Executing Agency: Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN)
Grant Amount: $705,000
Closing Date: March 2019
Frame and Challenge
Despite significant investments in education, Malawi has struggled to improve human and social development outcomes. The education sector is characterized by low levels of student achievement and high dropout rates in primary schools. There are large disparities in education outcomes as well as shortages and uneven supply of trained teachers, disproportionately affecting rural and poor regions.
Weak institutional capacity and inefficiencies in the education procurement systems result in mismanagement of public resources, a lack of adequate school infrastructure, and significant delays in the provision of teaching and learning materials (TLMs). A large proportion of teachers in Malawi experience low motivation and high absenteeism rates due to challenging working conditions, irregular and low pay, overcrowded classrooms, budget shortages, and little institutional support. Students graduating from public schools are not adequately prepared and equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively participate in the labor force, imposing a constraint in the growth of the economy. In response to these issues, citizens have struggled to exercise their agency in local and national governance and to work with responsible and accountable authorities to advocate changes in education service delivery.
The Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), a coalition of organizations with extensive experience in governance issues, has been awarded a GPSA grant to strengthen the institutional capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to: 1) monitor, lobby, and advocate for transparency and accountability in the public procurement processes and systems of the education sector in Malawi; 2) strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to apply social accountability tools to monitor textbook distribution; and 3) enhance capacity to document and disseminate lessons learned on education process monitoring. Communities will be empowered to implement social accountability tools to demand greater accountability through procurement monitoring training of School and District monitoring teams, textbook distribution monitoring, and supporting district CSOs to establish periodic supervision. Information generated through the project will be shared with key local and national authorities in the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Director of Public Procurement to tackle education sector inefficiencies.
Expected Results and Outcomes
The project has already made strides in increasing transparency and efficiency in delivery of goods and services, including that:
1. Schools that hadn’t been listed on the national school directory for years due to oversight, now receive textbooks.
2. Looting and subsequent illegal sale of textbooks by private sellers has been reduced by 80%.
3. 40 monitoring committees were trained and are now active in monitoring school supplies. This in turn has improved headmasters’ and teachers’ accountability, as well as other public procurements.
4. Data gathered by the committees about school enrollment vs. textbook availability has allowed for more accurate procurement by the Education Ministry, reducing considerable budget waste.
5. Increased awareness on social accountability issues developed through newspaper columns, radio time, posters and signage.
The MEJN and GPSA teams continue to glean lessons from this project, including but not limited to:
Social accountability, project managers must seek out both state and non-state actors whose actions determine the success of the Project. Continued engagement with these partners throughout the Project can help solidify its success and institutional memory.
Consistent training and close mentoring of school monitoring teams is key for the continued success of the Project. Refresher trainings, in which monitors are trained alongside the duty bearers, will be key in maintaining long-term results.
Activity expansion beyond the 6 districts of operation would contribute to improved pupil-textbook ratio and lower relative expenses on textbook procurement, and may result in a larger drive across all school monitoring committees to maintain transparency on educational delivery issues.
Click on the following links to learn more about this project:
Story: Textbook Delivery in Malawi
Project: CARE Malawi