Corruption remains a huge barrier to young people having equitable access to quality education. In Nigeria, 10.5 million children remain out of school while the country is ranked 144 out of 177 by Transparency International. This should not be the case as corruption is a crime that can be effectively controlled, most especially with the help of modern technology.
Everyone has a right to education
Corruption remains a problem because people don’t know their rights. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights clearly state that everyone has a right to a quality and timely education. In the past, young people and students have often tried to hold school systems and governments accountable through strikes and demonstrations (which are not always peaceful). The most recent demonstration happened in Nasarawa State University where students protested about lack of water and electricity. These methods have not been effective as students end up losing school years and sometimes even their lives. As a result, parents and students have become despondent about ever improving accountability and transparency in the education system.
How technology can hold government accountable
Connected Development [CODE] is a non-governmental organization whose mission is to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa. We strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue and enabling informed debate. We build the capacity of marginalized communities to bring about social and economic progress, and we promote transparency and accountability through innovative approaches to information exchange via experimentation, research and technology.
We aim to change the sentiment that nothing can be done about corruption.The group believes that every person, especially youth, can contribute to ensuring accountability and transparency.
This inspired our report ‘Education in Crisis’, which triggered the launch of the ‘Education Budget Tracker’ – a web-based tool integrated with an SMS platform for reporting on education spending with support from The Indigo Trust. The Education Budget Tracker includes analysts, journalists, legal practitioners, activists, information managers, students, academics and development consultants.
We received over 200 reports on funds released for education projects on the education budget tracker coming from students, parents, and other stakeholders. The tracking of education projects has led to the exposure of misappropriation of funds, construction and rebuilding of schools as well as providing basic amenities like water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH) facilities in two schools in Northern Nigeria.
Getting local communities involved
One key component of our work is to reach out to local communities to map and translate results in local languages. This usually leads to positive responses from parents, community leaders, teachers and students.
Eyele, a community in the North-Central part of Nigeria, has poor school facilities. In January this year, we carried out a community outreach and highlighted the poor school standards. We engaged young people on Facebook and Twitter to help amplify the voices of these children to hold policy makers to account and get them to take swift action to address the problem. A few weeks later, policy makers responded and now, the primary school is being reconstructed to higher educational standards, including library, toilets etc.
It can be done! No grand act necessary
Although it’s a daunting task, transparent and accountable education systems can be built. There is a lot we can do to improve accountability in communities.
You must not start with a grand act! Little things like reading and understanding education policies at the community and local level, visiting schools and facilities and carrying out formal and informal needs assessment are a good start.
Another step is engaging policymakers and other stakeholders and starting a group to monitor service-delivery on education projects in your community. Twitter and Facebook are also great tools to engage others, give voice to the communities and put them on the government’s radar for educational interventions.
Imagine what we can achieve when working together with governments, international development partners and other key stakeholders. There are (almost) no limits.
Let’s get informed, act and change our world! And use the tools that are available to you.