A two day refresher training of citizens on financial management was held in Chegutu at Hartley 1 Primary school.The objectives of the workshop were to capture the impact of the trainings done with citizens, understand the level of citizens’ involvement in school governance processes and demanding transparency and accountability in management of school funds.The reflection meeting was done in a way that some schools had a time to give feedback on what they did after the initial training and the challenges they faced and coping strategies they have used. Before the oral feedback all participants wrote a pre-test and the district accountant gave a rundown on the learning arrears which were done in 2017 on financial management. One school head would lead a discussion to identify grey areas which needed emphasis. At day end a post test was written by all participants.
Case study one: Dombwe Secondary
Before the intervention
In 2016 an Audit was done and short fall of funds were noticed. The provincial Accountant handed over the issue to the district to address the challenge. In addition to the audit report Zimsec then raised an alarm to the district that there are learners who are not going to sit for the November 2016 exams. The district accountant and one school inspector were sent to investigate on the matter at Dombwe School. It was noted that the school head was not banking school funds and was working closely with the school clerk. The citizens had previosly raised alarm to the district hence the audit team was sent to the school. The then School Development Committee lacked adequate knowledge on their roles and responsibilities hence they assumed all duties to the school head. The then school head was business minded therefore when he used the school funds the citizens assumed it’s his money since he is into tobacco farming. In summary before the intervention of ECOZI the School Development Committee at Dombwe lacked adequate knowledge on their roles and responsibilities. The Citizens were not eager to understand how school funds are managed. The school head lacked accountability to the citizens and transparency was not there. Before ECOZI intervention Dombwe SDC was labelled as the school disturbing committee and viewed as having benefits such as incentives and food.
Feedback from one parent after the training
The training helped to give the skill of community mobilization and created sense of ownership. Since the former head used not to bank money the citizens advocated for an ecocash biller code. The eco-cash biller code will help increase transparency .Non formal education is now being done at Dombwe School. After the training, fundraising activities are being spear headed by parents so that the school function at a better way. Before the training school asserts were being used at community gatherings and funerals and the citizens were not worried. After the training and they were taught of assert registers and that it assert are valued to be money the citizens are now protecting their school asserts. Transparency is being exercised at Dombwe since citizens are allowed to see and ask for any clarity on the books of accounts. The citizens are now empowered to contribute ideas towards any school development project and to seek clarity on all grey areas they don’t understand. There is behaviour change as noticed with an increase of parents turn up at the school meetings. At Dombwe parents are now called for the Annual General meeting at most two weeks before and a reminder during the last one week. Inclusivity is being practised in the school set up.
Case study 2: Chirundazi Secondary
Before the intervention
At Chirundazi School there was no suggestion box and the school was operating in 3 silos the School Administration, the SDC and the citizens. There was no clear way of communicating and giving feedback. The citizens and the SDC members did not know much about their roles. They assumed the school belongs to the School Head and the SDC will agree with whatever was initiated by the School administration. Community mobilization was very low since the citizen perceptions were that the school belongs to the Head
After the intervention
One of the parents from Chirundazi Secondary explained what happened after the training on suggestion box. Mr Nyarai Sabau explained that after the training they disseminated information about the suggestion box to all citizens who attended the parent’s feed back meeting. The citizens held a meeting to select a committee for the suggestion box and to identify a place where the suggestion box could be placed. The committee which was chosen helps to uphold transparency since learners are also involved. Mr Sabau mentioned that the issue on suggestion boxes is also being discussed at community gatherings. The committee has opened the suggestion box twice but the most burning issues are in relation to bad behaviour from both learners and teachers. He added that the guiding and counselling teachers were involved to address the learner’s case and the school head to hold a meeting with the teacher’s bad behaviour and if there is no change the district office will be informed. Mr Sabau learnt that school finances are supposed to be budget for and withdrawn accordingly and signatories should be signed by two people one from the school admin and one from the School Development committee. He pointed out giving feed back is important especially at a termly basis since it increases transparency and communication. At Chirundazi the school Development committee was once labelled school destruction committee since there were no results noticed during the one year of office. After the training the SDC mobilised resources and a new learning block was built. Mr Sabau emphasized he learnt that money received in the school should be receipted on the very day and the client should get the receipt on the same day.
Case Study 3: Mafuti Primary
Before the intervention
The school had classroom block which was not completed since 2015. The selection of School Development members was done by one individual. The school head was always harassed and could not give feedback to parents. The service delivery from the school admin was half baked.
After the trainings
The School development committees were now aware of their roles and responsibilities. Their first action was to call for a parents meeting to explain the roles of the School Development committees and to reselect an interim SDC so that there would be transparency. The SDC went to the District office to complain on the way the school head has been treated by the local Councillor. The citizens asked the Education office to relook on the boundaries and guiding documents of how schools are operated so that every individual is aware of the boundaries. The Ministry of Primary and secondary Education engaged the local authority which is the Chegutu Rural district council to address the issue through the engagement of the ward councillor. A suggestion box was placed at the school and feedback was given through a parent general meeting where a committee for the suggestion box was selected. After the training the SDC managed to mobilise resources from citizen to complete the school block. Furthermore the school was audited and the SDC were now able to understand the audit report and share with parents and developmental projects. Parents consultative are now being done at Mafuti which was never done before the trainings.
Case study 4
Before the training
Chikanga Secondary is a church owned school; the School Authority is Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe. Before the training of Ecozi there was no feedback to parents on any school issues the school admin concern was that parents should pay school levies and that’s it. The books of accounts were said to be the custody of the school head only and no one else had excess to the information. The school development committee was just there for requirement sake but was not aware of their roles and responsibility. Community involvement was not into existence since the Local Authority is the church. The school did not have a suggestion box.
After the training
The school Head decentralised the documentation of the books of accounts and starting involving the school admin members on all the school information. Transparency is now being practised since all the teachers are now equipped with the information which the school Head has. The School Development committee and citizens are now aware of their roles and responsibility in school management process. This is evidenced by them visiting the school to understand on how funds are used and see how t=hey can help also the citizens are now coming forth for the meetings. The SDCs are now being accountable to the parents through feedbacks either in written form and end of term and opening of term update meetings. The school admin is now having monthly expenditures which are availed to anyone who would want to know how the funds received were used.
Case study 5
Before the intervention
The school administration decision was final. The School Development committee was attached to the School Administration. Citizens were not even involved in any meeting despite the Annual General Meeting. The books of finance were the bursars business and no one else was interested. The citizens were labelled to be ignorant since it’s a compound school.
After the intervention
The SDC were equipped with their roles and responsibilities hence they cascade information to the citizens. The citizens are now coming forth to school meetings and the percentage increase is 10%. Community involvement has helped in that the school property is now being protected and the citizens are coming to school to ask and share developmental ideas. On the school administration side all teachers at the school are now aware on how school funds are used it’s no longer a baser alone thing. The Head confirmed that for transparency they have used school invoices, the ledger cards and debt management books so that the funds which are paid by citizens are well documented. A feedback meeting is done after every training at district level so that no one is left behind. The school head noted procurement procedures are now being followed and after every school development at the end of the term or month parents are called so that they are updated on how the funds were used.
The questions which needed clarity
- Can the School Administration go and collect school funds alone without the school development committee?
Response: it is very impossible for the school admin to collect school funds without the knowledge of the SDC sing the signatures needed for the collection of the money should include one SDC member who is the chair person or the vice and the school admin signature either the School Head or the deputy Head. Also the collection of school money in cash should be very minimum since most recommended suppliers should be paid through bank transfers and all the information should be know by the SDC, finance and procurement committee.
- Who is responsible to call for an audit and what happens to the audit report?
Response- the citizens can call for an audit and provide for the cost. The auditor will provide three reports one for the district office, one for the school administration and one for the SDC. It is therefore the duty of the SDC to make a follow-up with the District office for any clarity not to confront the Head for any clarity. It is also the duty of the SDC to update the parents on any progress and harmonize the gaps.
- How is School Improvement Grants Budgeted for?
Response – SIG funds have regulations what can be bought and by when hence the school administration does not have control over the grant but the donor has. The school administration will have a guideline on how the funds are too be spent what is needed is for transparency and community involvement. The school administration is accountable to the SIG funders since they are very strict. The citizens should be proactive on their roles and responsibilities and demand accountability on their school levies
- Can a councilor send children to school and not pay school levies?
Response– the councilor should bring children out of school to learn since education is a right but there is need to find mechanisms that the school levy is catered for.
- Can we get clarity on section 27 of the constitution of non payment of school fees?
Response– the DSI explained that in the Education Sector they are guided by circulars the districted hasn’t received such information as yet so the school levy has to be paid.
- Inclusivity in the school set up
Schools were encouraged to have disability friendly environments and be accommodative to people living with disabilities
- Continuous monitoring after Audit has been done
If a school has been done and there are grey areas there is need for the district Accountant to have a follow-up if there are any changes and corrective measures being done. The citizens should have feedback so that they understand if the grey areas have been addressed.
- Interschool exchange visits
The exchange visits will help in cross learning from other school on their best practices in transparency and accountability from the service provider.
- More focus on debt management
The schools emphasized that they lack skill in following up on unpaid levies hence they loose a lot of money
- Provision of manuals and wall charts for the school
The citizens emphasized that it may be of importance to have a manual which stays in school for continuous reference or even pamphlets and wall charts to explain the roles of the SDC and citizens in school management