At the end of June in Burkina Faso, the international development organization, Plan International, brought together education advisors from their country offices in Benin, Burkina Faso, Canada, Cameroon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, the U.S. and Togo.
I joined them for a three-day workshop on the vital role of civil society in the Global Partnership for Education – and to discuss ways for civil society actors to not only participate in the development of national education plans, but to ensure they are implemented with the full ownership of citizens, communities and organizations.
The workshop, entitled, “Education Advocacy and Policy: Opportunities and Strategies for National and Regional Engagement,” allowed Plan International’s staff to explore their own role in helping to represent the public interest in national education policy processes.
Empowering local communities to advocate for their education rights
Plan International is taking a proactive role to ensure that the communities where they work are heard and served. The organization is a member of the Local Education Group and partners with national education coalitions in advocacy campaigns and budget tracking, developing strong evidence-based policy recommendations and ensuring that education sector reviews benefit from local input.
By placing a high priority on strategic advocacy to protect and guarantee education rights, Plan International and other civil society actors recognize that civic oversight and local ownership are just as vital as service delivery if the benefits of education are to be enjoyed by all.
An engaged and informed citizenry, equipped with the tools and capacity to advocate for their education rights is the only antidote to the inertia of policies which lack resources or political will to be implemented— as a participant aptly remarked “We need to stop acting like a text will solve the problem.” The concept of ‘national ownership’ must expand beyond official arenas by moving from the capital cities to the school communities, where education stakeholders are best placed to monitor the realization of their right to education. Good education governance requires that this experience then informs the national policy dialogue and influences the practice of development actors.
Recognizing this, the Global Partnership for Education has developed a framework to guide education actors at the country level, including ministry officials and bilateral donor agencies, to ensure that the public interest is represented at the education policy table. But while civil society participation is being codified throughout GPE policy, only the active engagement of partners like Plan International and other civil society groups will ensure that the seat for an informed citizenry is occupied and the policy of truly national ownership becomes practice.