“Every time I am back in the school, I feel nostalgic about my years at the Lyceum, not because I miss those years but because, today, I could do more for my school than a decade ago”, explains the principal of ‘Petru Rares’ Lyceum, Dionisie Mitrofan
Petru Rares’ Lyceum in Soroca, Moldova, is an example of what can be achieved when citizens engage with local and national authorities in budget processes and policy-making through collaborative social accountability. In 2014, the high school was among the first 20 educational institutions from the country that wanted to be part of the ‘My School’ project, which was funded by a grant from the World Bank-led Global Partnership for Social Accountability. (GPSA).
Mitrofan, the principal, recalls that he applied for the project because he wanted to “be able to explain to parents how a budget is created, where the money comes from, how much and where it goes”.
Today, things seem easier, but back then they were a big challenge. Schools had to learn to manage their own budget and decide where each “lei” (the money they receive per child) would go. For Mitrofan, these are decisions that go beyond legal considerations. Moral rules also need to be respected. “How can the parents not be involved? This is not the principal’s money. This money belongs to the students,” he explains.
Cristina Prisacari-Ilies, deputy director and teacher of Romanian language, also shares her reactions to the project’s outcomes. “My School project helped to clarify things, embrace new opportunities, answer questions. That is why we, the teachers, parents and students, accepted the project. It seemed to be beautifully designed,” she says.
More parental involvement
Since 2014, the reform of the educational system in Soroca is defined with the students’ and parents’ involvement in the educational process. The reform process has helped establish a Students’ Council, which informs the pupils about the processes implemented and decisions taken in the school.
Nowadays, the Lyceum has over 830 students. Its budget is over MDL 9 million (around US $495,000). Each “lei” is being debated at the Board’s meetings with the approval and support of the parents, but also with the participation of the students.
Mihaela Taulean is the only student who is part of the Administration Board. She participated in six meetings this year and affirms: “The Board is a platform for parents, students and teachers. It is where all the parties discuss and make decisions. Of course, we have misunderstandings, but we always try to find the best solution.”
What used to be a challenge four years ago -finding consensus amongst the various stakeholders- today represents a new skill that has been developed and adopted by the entire school community. The collaboration between parents, students, teachers and school administration in the decision-making processes also increased the desire to do more. The partnership created new and greater opportunities.
In 2017, for example, the institution was accepted to be the beneficiary of the ‘Moldova Education Reform Project’. The school received US $700,000 for buildings’ renovation.
Natalia Zadeanciuc, chairperson of the Administration Board, says that there were endless discussions around what should be repaired first. “The debates took place first among the teachers. Focus groups were created to identify the immediate needs at the school. Then, there was a discussion at the parents’ general meeting, where the remodeling project was presented. The parents contributed with their ideas and to their greatest joy they saw the approval to have heating installed in all classes.”
At the end of all public consultations, there also was agreement on repairs that needed to be undertaken, including: repair of the roof; thermal insulating of the walls; new windows for the school, new heating system for an entire building; repair of the restrooms; and building access routes for students with special needs.
The principal of the school informed that each year around US $55,000 remain from the school’s budget, which is invested in the school’s various needs.
“This year we renewed the school’s canteen kitchen. We bought a new hot plate, a big oven and a vegetable and fruit cutting machine’, explains Mitrofan. “Before the ‘My School’ project”, he recalls, “I used to tell parents what was being done at the school, but it was not as detailed as it is now, with numbers, pictures and reports. Also, as the number of students increases so does the budget.’
For Natalia Zadeanciuc, the decisions on spending money are no longer burdens for the administration. “There is a proverb: two heads are better than one. When the decision is taken solely, there is always fear regarding whether the decision was right. Today, after taking advice from parents, students and teachers, we are at peace because it is a collective decision that favors the schools’ real needs”.
The material was compiled by the journalist, Mihaela Gherasim, as part of the ‘My School project - Social Accountability for the Education Reform in Moldova’, implemented by the Independent Think-Tank Expert-Grup with the support of the World Bank and of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability.