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The Road to Reform: Egypt’s Social Accountability for Education Reform Initiatives

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Karen Osborne
March 28, 2019

Since the 2011 Egyptian revolution, sparse resources continue to stall Egypt’s ongoing development efforts. These challenges have resulted in increased poverty rates, over population, high illiteracy rates and economic instability. These factors directly affect Egypt’s public spending on education.

The poor and crumbling infrastructure of schools and overcrowded classrooms of more than 40 students are the result of this continued lack of educational investment. This prompted the creation of the Social Accountability for Education Reform (SAER) initiative developed by the Youth Association for Development and Environment (YADE) to increase citizen participation in the improvement of education through public hearings and social accountability.

The initiative aimed to use social accountability tools to increase civic participation and to integrate Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), local government and local media professionals in education reform in ten communities in Egypt. A dynamic group of community-based organizations, traditional leaders, local media actors, local government representatives from the Ministry of Education, members from the Board of Trustees and citizens were brought together to begin discussing how to improve provisions for education in Egypt.

To begin, many members pointed to the lack of engagement from community members, particularly in rural governorates in Egypt, as creating a disconnect between citizens’ experiences and the decision-making process. Because of this disconnect, community members fail to see the role they must play alongside government officials to elevate the quality of education services and to monitor service provision in their communities. YADE made the decision to temporarily provide the training and tools necessary to allow citizens to actively participate and advocate for themselves.

An ordered training process was top priority. To start, YADE and the core project team received 90 hours of training via professional consultants and experts in good governance and social accountability. This training focused on the use of community needs assessments and mapping, public hearing skills and community dialogue, roles and responsibilities of public administration and policy analysis. This robust teaching and training process created the optimal environment for next steps.

The primary method of public participation was public hearings. The main hearing included a presentation of the issues and data collected by the experts, followed by a panel of parents, community leaders and primary school teachers who shared their points of view and testimonies. The hearing provided an avenue for community members to directly participate. It opened up the dialogue between decision-makers, civil society actors and community members to interact on the topic of education.

The decisions made during the public hearings lead to numerous successes including budget reallocations shifting resources to the governorates of greatest need, improved educational infrastructure including repairs to existing buildings and additional schools being built. This process improved the relationship between government and empowered citizens.

To learn more about this case and its methods, you can read the entire case here. To read about other innovative applications of public participation, visit www.participedia.net.

Author: Karen Osborne is a master’s student of public administration at Syracuse University and a graduate assistant for the Participedia Project at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Her academic focus includes nonprofit organizational management and collaborative governance. As a McLane and Sherwood Scholar, Karen plans to invest her career in community development.

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