Using data to improve the quality of education

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a vast country in central Africa (with a surface area of 2.3 million km2), rich in natural resources. Despite an abundance of natural resource wealth, citizens in DRC face high levels of poverty. The population of DRC is 70 million, 40% of which lives in rural areas, 90% live on less than $1.25 a day, and 9% of houses do not have electricity. It is ranked 175 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index of the United Nations (UNDP, 2020).[1]

Corruption in education has a significant impact on young people’s ability to access future opportunities and contribute to developing this rich natural resources country. Having to pay for school when it should be free, teacher absenteeism and a lack of resources to make education facilities more inclusive are examples of how corruption prevents access to and erodes the quality of education that young people should receive.

Even with the budget for education in DRC increasing from 6.5 % to 20 % in the past year, students, parents and communities lack the necessary information[2]and capacity to hold schools and teachers accountable for the services provided. Indeed, without data, the learning crisis remains invisible, goals cannot be set, and policy efforts cannot be guided or monitored for impact.

Our solution is to get data from schools and to use that data to enable education authorities to respond to accountability and education quality issues in real-time.

Centre de Recherche sur l’Anti-Corruption is an independent non-governmental organisation that tackle corruption by training youth students to act with integrity so that they are better placed to deal with corruption challenges; advocate for improved education services; and ensure public funds are not wasted. These actions aim to empower the students’ voice, increase a government’s accountability to its citizens, and reduce corruption in education services.

CERC engages youth through the “Integrity Club” to identify and monitor educations services.

Integrity Education programming in schools recognises that transformative change can only occur when young people are encouraged to act with integrity from an early age and are given the tools to do so. CERC select secondary schools to implement integrity Education and establish integrity clubs. These clubs hold regular meetings which enable students to discuss their experience of corruption and expand their understanding of the problem in context. From here, students become Young Integrity Builders and are better equipped to identify, raise, and monitor corruption issues in education services.

Integrity Clubs are not an unusual concept and can be found in various countries and contexts. Integrity clubs often share essential characteristics, such as promoting active citizenship and democracy and fighting societal corruption. However, CERC Integrity Clubs are unique as they combine learning about integrity with practising integrity. This takes the form of the innovative idea of monitoring. CERC applies behaviour changing tools and techniques to assist in designing programmes to encourage youth to act with and demand integrity.

CERC helped 54 secondary schools to embed anti-corruption and transparency protocols in the education system in South Kivu.

In 2017, CERC established 54 Integrity Clubs in South Kivu to empower 810 students aged 14-19 to learn about Integrity and monitor projects and services in their community, including their schools. They used our technology tool “EduCheck” to report issues and fixes.

As a result, Integrity Clubs allowed students, parents, and education officials to get information on critical parameters of the schools (water and library availability, class size, toilet suitability, number of students in a class, qualification of teaching staff), the school budgets and spending. They worked together to identify solutions to promote integrity in the management, allocation and delivery. Without directly investing any money in bricks and mortar, CERC helped students gain access to clean water and receive a quality education. When young people access quality education and actively contribute to their communities, development can become more inclusive and sustainable. In this way, Integrity Clubs supported the government’s education reform program by making schools more accountable and inclusive.

In 2020, we made progress in embedding Integrity Clubs in schools and education systems, making them sustainable long term. In South Kivu, education officials have accepted that Integrity Clubs are rolled out across all secondary schools in the region.

In 2022, CERC secured additional funds to set up 150 new Integrity Clubs. This programme aims to empower 2250 students (aged 14-19) with the skills and resources to monitor the  DRC Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016-2025 reforms in 6 municipalities of South Kivu and 6 municipalities of Kinshasa, with the goal for students, especially girls, receive accountable, inclusive and equitable quality education services.

What we learned from Integrity Clubs

  • The youth demonstrated to themselves and to others that the power to make a positive difference in their lives and their communities that they have the agency to make a difference.
  • Students (ages 14-18) have proven themselves to be extremely positive agents of change, exhibiting a motivation to improve the services and projects that are delivered to their communities.
  • Teaching youth the benefits of acting with integrity and the skills to practice and demand it in real-life situations gives them the confidence to always choose integrity over corruption throughout their lifetimes.
  • Youth are empowered to continue to participate in civil society throughout their lifetimes.
  • Project and service providers expect to be monitored by students, incentivizing them to act with integrity and improving the quality of goods they deliver.
  • In schools with active focal teachers and supportive headteachers, the climate for monitoring is positive, and there is some engagement in extracurricular activities organised by the Integrity Clubs.
  • Confidence levels and awareness of civil rights have increased for youth involved in monitoring activities.
  • Lack of family support remains a challenge, particularly for youth from more financially disadvantaged backgrounds. However, when families had attended sensitisation sessions, they were more likely to support monitoring activities.
  • Even in contexts where the status of girls is low, over 40% of monitors we have trained are female.
  • There is a lack of political engagement, whereby local political representatives lack the commitment to the activities undertaken by the youth. This is linked to low engagement from services providers the youth are monitoring and from community members. Low engagement affects the motivation levels of monitors considerably.

Some of the key recommendations :

  • Continuous training opportunities for monitors and teachers should be provided in addition to training to sustain interest. In addition to this, networking opportunities across different schools in both contexts will strengthen monitoring activities within schools and communities. This can be facilitated through exchange visits and sharing experiences with non-monitors.
  • Continue involvement of media to engage youth and community members and authorities. This will help to highlight the monitoring activities undertaken by youth.
  • Arrange with key stakeholders to increase community engagement and buy-in to the monitoring activities and Integrity Clubs. The local community needs to be sensitised on monitoring activities and the youth’s role in these activities. This will help to build longer-term sustainability.
  • Further, incentivise youth to attend Integrity Club programmes within schools and communities.
  • Conduct further research on sexual harassment and abuse reported by female youth workers.

Plan for 2022-2023:

  • Working closely with 10 parliamentarians, 50 senior education officials, and 6 NGOs to embed anti-corruption sector and transparency protocols in the education sector.
  • Establishing 150 Integrity Clubs and 150 Education Clusters in selected secondary schools in Kinshasa and South Kivu.
  • Training and supporting 2250 (14–19-year-old) students to become active agents of positive change championing anti-corruption and accountability behavior and demand that education reforms meet their needs.

Quotes from field

“With Integrity Clubs established in 54 secondary schools in South-Kivu, combined with the use by more than eight hundred students of the tech tool “EduCheck”, to monitor the transparency, students’ participation and efficiency of education services; now, parents and students have better ability to hold school officials accountable for the quality of education services promised,” Heri Bitamala, Executive Director.

“It is crucial to introduce this student-led monitoring approach in implementing the DRC Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016-2025, which introduced a free primary and secondary education system. As direct beneficiaries of the quality and inclusive education services this strategy promises, students have the legitimacy to hold the government and education providers accountable through this successful social accountability mechanism,” Musa Nzamu, MEAL Officer, CERC.

“The EduCheck app provides key information on operation, budgets and performance of schools for students, parents, teachers and the whole community, which can be used in policy debates, budgeting and setting development priorities at the school level,” Ngoya Bundu Harmonie, Teacher.

“Thanks to Local Education Clusters meetings organised in our secondary school as part of the CERC integrity building initiative, the entire budgeting and school management process became clearer and more transparent.” Kahindo Ndjungu, Principal