Author: Nalwamba Chilumba. Institution: Ministry of Basic Education. Partners: Community Youth Mobiliztion (CYM), Provincial and District Education Authorities
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Community Schools have been in existence since the 1990s as a response to the unmet education demand as more and more children failed to access places in conventional schools. Community Schools are managed by communities. The increase in Community Schools has been compounded by the HIV and AIDS pandemic which has exerted notable pressure on the provision of education. Community Schools accommodate mainly orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) who have no chance of enrolling in conventional schools. The Ministry of Education through “Educating our future recognizes Community Schools as a contribution to education for Zambia’s children (1996). The quality of education in Community Schools is compromised depending on their localities since majority of teachers in Community Schools are untrained volunteers and schools generally have insufficient teaching and learning materials. Even with these challenges teachers in Community Schools are expected to integrate Life Skills, HIV and AIDS in all learning areas. Provision of life skills and HIV/AIDS education can reduce the vulnerability of OVCs in these Community Schools.
The objective of the evaluation was to assess the ongoing progress and performance of Community Schools Programme (CSP). In evaluating the ongoing progress and performance the team was to identify factors that contribute to the project’s success and identify the nature and magnitude of project constraints. The scope of the evaluation was all programme activities in selected Community Schools where Life Skills and HIV/AIDS Education was being implemented by CYM from 2007 to date in Central Province.
The empirical base for this report was derived from data collected through stakeholder interviews which were conducted between 30th November and 8th December 2009 and January 7th to 20th 2010. The evaluation was mainly qualitative to ascertain behavioural change. The evaluation targeted diverse categories of people, Trained Life Skills teachers, Peer leaders, and pupils of Community Schools, Staff of CYM, Heads of Community Schools, and District Education Board Secretaries (if available).
The Methodology embraced the following key elements:-
a)Document reviews: A total 20 policy documents and reports available on Life Skills, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS, Community Schools from CYM, UNICEF, National AIDS Council and operative NGOs dealing with HIV and AIDS in the respective districts were reviewed.
b)Focus Group Discussions: were conducted to solicit information from parents (32) and learners (39).
c)About 44 In depth, interviews were conducted to teachers in charge, Life Skills teachers and Co-odinators found on site.
d)Structured Questionnaires (12): were administered at major levels of programme implementation to ascertain the accuracy of information on CSP in Community Schools. The team approached the providers of education at district level, the District Education Board Secretaries, District Resource Co-ordinators(DRCCs), ZOCS, CYM the implementer of CSP and UNICEF(the financiers).
e)Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA) test was applied to gauge the overall performance of the programme. The OCA test uses various characteristics in different settings (countries, institutions, theories and communities) to assess behavioural change.
Findings and Conclusions:
Although the earlier section of the report indicates positive results for the CSP, the programme faced a number of challenges that need to be looked into for sustainability and expansion of the programme. It should be noted that the OCA scores (described later) reflect areas of certain requirements and the changing environment which could not have been perceived during the design. Such challenges may have affected the programme in realizing high levels of effectiveness, efficiency, relevance and sustainability of the CSP. Some of the challenges may be internal or external. Below is a list of challenges obtained from the focus groups discussions and structured interviews:-
1. Teaching of multi-grade classes affected the delivery of Life skills information by trained teachers as pupils are of different age groups are placed in one classroom and this affects interactive learning.
2. Community schools are also often crowded and this affects effective and learning to take place.
3. Inadequate teaching and learning materials as evidenced from the fewer books including life skills books from the Ministry of Education to support the learning process emerged a challenge for most Community Schools. Pupils needed to have a feel of life skills books in order for them to fully appreciate life skills and HIV/AIDS. This includes the challenge of integrating life skills in the school curriculum to ensure that the Ministry of Education Life skills books become user friendly to teachers in Community Schools.
4. Attaining gender equity in Community Schools still remained a challenge.
5. The high turn-over of teachers as they are not motivated and end up leaving anytime and children remain without learning for some time until the community has recruited another teacher, remains a challenge for the CSP. Therefore ensuring that sufficient numbers of Life Skills educators continue to teach in the Community Schools remain a challenge as teachers from Community Schools who are sometimes trained and have attained Technical Service numbers are transferred to basic schools.
6. Unqualified teachers in most Community Schools are a challenge for the programme- how do we ensure that Community Schools have trained teachers to bring about quality and efficiency?
7. Seasonality of some schools remains a challenge for the CSP programme. In certain districts Community Schools are seasonal as children have to been taken out of school to work in the farms or meet other chores such as picking caterpillars when they are in season.
8. The low commitment by the Ministry of Education to Community Schools is a challenge to the CSP.
9. The current capacity of implementers (CYM) to monitor all Community Schools where CSP has been introduced remains a challenge.
10. The poverty level of the communities is a challenge in sustaining the programme since community teachers are paid from community resources.
The evaluation report makes recommendations based on the findings and the lessons learnt from the implementation of the Schools Programme (CSP). Some recommendations are policy related while others are organizational related.
1.It is recommended that CYM should work with the community and MOE to facilitate the design of a comprehensive phase out strategy plan for continuity of CSP programme.
2.CYM should explore strategic partnerships that deal with young people in the community to sustain CSP.
3.It is recommended that MOE should work towards strengthening the system for monitoring the teaching of Life Skills and HIV/AIDS as Life Skills and HIV/AIDS as it is a catalyst for raising HIV/AIDS awareness in rural communities.
4.It is recommended that the Ministry and the Community should invest in capacity building teachers in Community Schools in order to make them effectively deliver quality education to learners especially the OVCs.
5.There is need for further research and rigorous programme evaluation which are critical to strengthening the evidence base and address knowledge gaps regarding the role of community involvement in Life Skills and HIV/AIDS programme beyond CYM.
6.It is recommended that in future the programme should define standardized flexible indicators of the impact of community involvement to ensure that there is strategic community participation throughout the life of the programme.
Lessons Learned (Optional):
For replication of the programme there is need for documentation of best practices. Lessons learnt from CSP were well elaborated by parents and pupils through focus groups. Lessons learnt, also reflected that Life Skills education becomes effective if it is taught as a standalone subject. Some of the challenging benefits have been documented through monitoring reports. There is evidence of lessons learnt through DVDs, one of which was presented to an international forum (HIV/AIDS Conference in Mexico, 2008) regarding the successes made by CYM in implementing community initiatives. This is a good sign as the project has only been under implementation for about 2 and half years and more lessons may be documented as the programme matures. There is still need to document more lessons since the programme has reached a good number of Community Schools of different typologies.
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