The government of Nepal (GoN) has declared the next ten years as the decade for strengthening public education sector. In improving public education system, school governance is the key aspect, among others. In fact, GoN has implemented a number of measures in line with this in the past few decades, but they have little been successful thus far. Besides, government policies and plans, school stakeholders assume key roles in maintaining school governance. In particular, making school stakeholders aware of their roles and responsibilities, enhancing their awareness and facilitating cooperation among themselves can potentially contribute for improving school governance at the local level. Mercy Corps in partnership with BASE, the partner NGO, is undertaking a project with thirty community schools of Kailali district for the past three years. As a result of the project interventions, there has been a considerable change in the school governance, and such improvement has been possible working in collaboration among stakeholders. To build on this, this article draws on the case study of a school. Initial Phase While initiating the project, Janata Secondary School, Gadaria, Kailali, established in 2014 BS was utterly in chaos. Located in the rural area, the meeting of School Management Committee (SMC) rarely used to take place. Despite many attempts, required number of SMC members rarely used to be present. At times, when the meeting just used to take place, the chairman would walk away in the middle citing the reason that he had other urgent works. And SMC members used to pay little attention to supervise and participate in school activities. At that time, teachers hardly used to abide by school rules and regulations. They used to enter school to teach for their subject only and would go outside afterwards. Students also used to go outside, roam around in the bazaar and then finally go home. Thus, the school administration was unable to enforce school rules and regulations as necessary. Similarly, school had no provision for basic facility either. For example, school had no facility for drinking water, toilet used to be dirty without running water, school environment and classroom used to be littered with waste papers, and desks and benches used to be in chaos and so on. In this sense, ineffective school leadership was giving way to deteriorating school condition gradually. In this context, the project was implemented in 2017, launching a variety of interventions in the school. Going beyond the specified roles, a project staff began to establish a good relationship with stakeholders. He started to visit stakeholders in their homes and work places, making relationship stronger by being with them during cultural rites such as marriage ceremony, raising awareness of the role of stakeholders and informing them about what they could do for the effective management and operation of the school. With the purpose of improving the school condition, the project conducted training on management aspects of school, child protection and so on involving SMC and PTA members, parents and students. These training supported them to analyse current situation and prepare action plans for the upcoming days to make them accountable. There was a continuous monitoring of whether those action plans were being achieved or not. In the whole process, the stakeholders were involved thoroughly. Similarly, different activities were launched in the school catchment area to raise awareness among them. These were training on parents for quality education, family dialogue, self-defense, street drama, etc. The main objective of such activities were to increase awareness about their roles on girls' education creating common understanding among them. In this way, the project activities supported to improve school condition and develop positive atmosphere among stakeholders. As a result, school environment gradually got improved, leading to the path of progress and success. Now, there has been a significant progress in the school governance over the last two years. Specifically, students and teachers abide by rules and regulations. For example, they attend school on time and spend school hour inside school, and attendance is taken at the assembly both for students and teachers at the beginning of school hour. In addition, SMC meeting is held as and when needed, and SMC and PTA members undertake regular monitoring of school, providing suggestion and feedback as necessary. Moreover, the participation of SMC and PTA has increased in school activities and the learning environment has been enhanced to fulfil students' right to quality education as envisioned in the constitution. Furthermore, teachers have adopted improved teaching methodology that has resulted into students' increased learning outcomes. The project has conducted teacher training to inculcate student-centric teaching methodology and to update them about innovative approaches of teaching and learning. At present, it is observed that school teachers hold monthly meetings to discuss about their common issues, including teaching and learning.
Lesson learnt The learning that can be derived out of this is that required change can be brought about by launching activity in an integrated manner and involving stakeholders thoroughly. In fact, school governance can be improved significantly conducting various activities that are tailored and targeted to improving overall school condition. Meanwhile, it is necessary to bring about changes in the perception of school stakeholders, raising their awareness through various campaigns, cooperation and collaboration. To realise this, the role of project staff is equally important as is observed in this case.
(Budhathoki education coordinator at the Mercy Corps Nepal)