Boosting Accountability in the educational sector: Kudos for the CIAA and for Dr. Lava Awasti, former Director General of Department of Education

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The recent annual report of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) that was recently published clearly indicates that the education sector is by far the most corrupted public sector.

Misappropriations in funds and lack of accountability are widespread. You can choose from a wide range of options: from mismanaging the funds allocated for girls ‘scholarships to funds going to non-existent schools, the so called ghost schools.

Not that the picture is entirely negative. As you find cases of corruption at local levels you also find as well cases of extraordinary excellence despite huge constraints and challenges.

While there are plenty of teachers not doing a good job and members of School Management Committees taking undue advantages of their roles, there are plenty of teachers and School Management Committee Members doing a great service to the nation.

Having empowered communities with the task of handling local schools was a great idea but at the same time, despite tons of policies and regulations, weak accountability mechanisms in place at the local level meant that huge amount of resources went wasted.

The fact that political parties usurped their prerogatives at grassroots levels encroaching into the educational field, a sector that should be left exclusively to apolitical community members, certainly made the situation worse.

District Education Offices have been acting as paper tigers with no real teeth to enforce the implementation of policies and regulations. The work of School Supervisors and Resource Persons certainly did not meet the expectations and these positions should be drastically reviewed or entirely halved.

These are the factors that led the educational sector to become the most corrupt in the country. Here I am just referring to the management of basic education that, unlike the urban areas with a mushrooming of private institutes, is still a monopoly of the state. Having a monopoly does not ensure supposed “positive” competition among providers.

This means that far from towns, families have no choice but to rely on public schools to educate their children.

While offering them more options to choose from when deciding where to send their children to school would be welcome, at the same time we cannot say that having many private sector institutions in the education sector itself ensure better education. Corruption is ripe also within private institutions.

Therefore there is nothing surprising in reading the CIAA report. Fortunately things are getting better as the CIAA itself is making good on its pledge of curbing corruption from the public sector.

You can read almost every day about mass resignation of teachers left without any other option but being persecuted by the CIAA. You can read that ghost schools are being shut down. You can read that funds allocated for girls and dalit students are being better used. There is a huge scope to improve the management of education at the local level. Oftentimes headmasters and teachers have been forced to bend the rules in order to accommodate different needs and priorities. For example it is common to split the resources supposedly for scholarships to cover other important needs that the school faces. These minor acts of mismanagement for a good purpose have been normally tolerated. Even INGOs working with local partners to empower local schools have not been able to stop these practices. Should all these stakeholders raise a stronger voice against these malpractices or should the end justify the means?

For example what should be done when a headmaster decides to divert some money allocated for scholarships to pay for the roof of a classroom? Should her/his action be justified or condemned?

Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York, achieved a tremendous reduction in crime by adopting the so called “broken windows theory” by hitting harshly against small crime violations that normally were condoned as insignificant anti social behaviors not worthy of stern prosecution.

By inflicting high sentences on petty criminals, the theory goes, the basis for a more secure society were laid down making New York a much safer place

Should the “broken windows theory” also be applied to the education system too? Should we start stopping accepting minor infringement of rules and policies in order to have in  place a zero tolerance policy to make education free from corruption and mismanagement?

How can we “effectively” police the work of teachers, headmasters and members of school committees? Surely we cannot expect to have a CIAA officer in each DEO but we should push for a stronger accountability framework to be aggressively pursued by the Department of Education.

The recent transfer of Dr Lava Awasti as director general of the Department of Education is a pity. I am sure that the recent gains against malpractice in the education sector are thanks to a stronger involvement of the CIAA but surely also because of the work done by Dr Awasti to make local schools stronger and more effective. We should acknowledge and recognize Dr Awasti’s role and contribution in the education sector. Work ethics and positive personal attitudes are key assets of Dr.Awasti. Hopefully one day his work will be duly appreciated and he will be promoted to a Secretary.

The nation would greatly benefit from him being given the chance to reshape and change for good the way the education sector is managed in the country.


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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