Civil society actions push reforms in Mauritanian schools

In Mauritania, citizens and civil society organizations are working together to ensure that the policies meant to address the country’s learning crisis are implemented effectively and produce results.

July 20, 2022 by Ann-Sofie Jespersen, Global Partnership for Social Accountability, Grace Sinaga, Global Partnership for Social Accountability, and Saad Filali Meknassi, Global Partnership for Social Accountability
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4 minutes read
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During the Review of the TOME project (Transparency Of Mauritanian Education Budget).
During the Review of the TOME project (Transparency Of Mauritanian Education Budget).
Credit: ECODEV

Parent-teacher associations—supported by the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), and Eco-Développement (Ecodev)—are collaborating with the Ministry of Education to ensure it is accountable in providing quality education for the most vulnerable children. This is a great example of how citizen action can lead to better education outcomes locally and nationally.

The TOME project

Progress in Mauritania’s education sector is hampered by a high degree of centralization and a lack of financial resources. To support the country’s education system, in 2017 the GPSA provided a US$605,000 grant to Ecodev, a national civil society organization, to lead actions that strengthen school governance and improve learning.

The project, called Transparency of the Mauritanian Education Budget (TOME), piloted a partnership with parent-teacher associations, working within multi-stakeholder school management committees (Comités de Gestion des Écoles, or COGES) in 40 primary schools in 2 provinces. The project promoted the participation of girls and women in the committees.

TOME developed a framework, in which civil society and Ministry of Education staff collaborated to improve the quality of basic public education. The project introduced offline and online monitoring tools used by all partners at school, local and regional levels, and an online platform called Medrassety.net in participating schools.

Medrassety allows school directors to check teacher attendance, teachers to view the program and homework assignments, and parents to see their children’s schedule, teachers’ notes and school events, among other functionalities.

Ecodev conducted trainings with parents and teachers to increase the capacity of school management committees. Some trainings were jointly organized with COMEDUC, which receives support from the GPE Education Out Loud fund. With 40 member organizations, COMEDUC seeks to elevate the voices of local communities into the national policy dialogue.

Elevating the voices of local communities

The TOME project strengthened the interface between the state and citizens through the establishment of participatory committees, which is making the education system more efficient and accountable.

The project engaged with a total of 260 people, including parents, teachers, school principals, administrative service staff and even mayors at the school and regional levels. At the national level, the project worked with representatives of the Ministry of Education, parliamentarians and civil society groups like Ecodev and the Fédération nationale des parents d'élèves de la République Islamique de Mauritanie (FENAPERIM).

“The TOME project has trained us on how to value the relationship between the different educational actors and the role of each one. This training has made our relationship fluid and homogeneous,” says a head teacher in Tidjikja.

The effectiveness of stakeholder collaboration and participation in monitoring improvements to school governance was an important catalyst for the adoption of key legislation by the parliament.

The Ministry of Education also issued several decrees and policies, including:

  • Decree No. 2019-038 regulating teachers’ absenteeism in public primary and secondary schools,
  • Decree No. 2019-039 creating school management committees (COGES),
  • Decree No. 2019-040 establishing a strategic review of the skills of primary school teachers to ensure a minimum level of competency for basic education teachers,
  • a new regulation on truancy,
  • the establishment of a monitoring mechanism for COGES and the launch of 1,000 committees,
  • the regular evaluation of teachers in Arabic, French and mathematics,
  • the increase in resources allocated to education in the 2020 budget (+10.6% compared with 2019),
  • the introduction of distance learning.

In addition, Ecodev introduced a new integrated school feeding and nutrition program covering 2019-2024. These initiatives underline the positive result achieved through enhancing citizen engagement in the Mauritanian education sector.

Using TOME outcomes to respond to COVID and inform a new project

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Medrassety.net platform was repurposed to address the crisis. Not only did the platform help parents and teachers maintain children’s learning, it also assisted them in escalating their concerns to education authorities at the regional level.

Additionally, some of the improvements piloted by TOME have informed the Basic Education Support Project (PASEB II). PASEB II started in 2021 and is co-financed by the World Bank and GPE; it includes support to the school committees introduced during TOME. PASEB II aims to encourage the government of Mauritania to undertake transformational education reforms.

The key drivers ensuring that the TOME project results can be scaled up include:

  • Putting citizen feedback on the top of the agenda
  • Strategic and early engagement with key players
  • A team combining a variety of stakeholders in civil society and government
  • A conducive political context
  • Building a strong local example of best practice in one school.

Social accountability as a frontier for educational institutions

Scaling up the results from the TOME project requires new structures or forums for formal policy dialogue, and dedicated spaces for civil society’s participation.

TOME has taught us that working with local education actors can have a ripple effect, contributing to improved governance, better service delivery and increased effectiveness, and empowerment.

By listening to parents and teachers, giving them training and formal and informal platforms to collaborate, the education sector in Mauritania has been reinforced, for the benefit of all learners.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Mauritania

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