Over the past three years (2015 – 2018), the British Council has supported Zambia’s Ministry of General Education (MoGE) with Technical Assistance under the Zambia Education Sector Support Technical Assistance (ZESSTA) facility. Funded through both UK aid and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), and delivered by the British Council, ZESSTA was tasked with enhancing MoGE’s capacity to deliver quality education across a broad range of areas including public financial management, human resources, institutional leadership, teacher education, curriculum and assessment, to name a few.
“Do with, never for”
The results across all areas have been significant and a legacy of high quality knowledge products will remain with the Ministry; as will strengthened skills in evidence based policy and planning.
However, what makes ZESSTA transformational is the way in which the technical assistance facility operates.
From the outset the ZESSTA team have been steadfast to their commitment to ‘do with, never for’, meaning that all support is requested directly by MoGE and joint working with Ministry colleagues is a prerequisite. In that way it is truly responsive to Zambia’s needs.
The contributions ZESSTA has made to the education sector in Zambia have been noted by Ministry staff at all levels as well as development partners and were commended in the independent evaluation of the broader sector budget support program in 2017. This is testament to the buy-in ZESSTA has achieved.
Ultimately the success of any technical assistance facility comes down to relationships. Being responsive, flexible and trusted is essential and evolves from an understanding, not only of technical issues, but also the context.
The ZESSTA team have worked hard to successfully create and nurture those relationships. There were, of course, bumps along the road and the ZESSTA team and the British Council have learnt valuable lessons.
6 factors of success
The ZESSTA team has identified the six most important determinants of success for a TA facility:
- Strong and committed leadership within the ministry that will host the TA facility.
- A rigorous design phase for the TA facility led by the donor in consultation with the ministry; with formal agreements on key financial responsibilities and integration of the TA facility in the ministry’s structure.
- An appetite within the ministry for reform and learning.
- Availability of resources (earmarking) to fund activities that are supported by TA.
- Access to a large pool of skilled national and international TA, with the relevant technical skills/expertise; regional (ideally country-specific) knowledge; and the predisposition to work in a collaborative fashion.
- Good working relationships between facility managers, TA and MoGE partners.
Operating a TA facility like this can be challenging but ZESSTA has shown that buy-in and long-term capacity development is achievable through responsive, flexible technical assistance.
Listen to a podcast that celebrates the positive strides made by the Ministry with ZESSTA support, named ‘Green shoots of growth in the education sector’.
The ZESSTA team has also developed a legacy pack so that all stakeholders can learn from the experience and build on it for future technical assistance. To learn more, visit www.britishcouncil.org.zm/zessta.