opinionBy Stephen Mugisha
The World Bank defines Civil Society as "a wide array of non-governmental and not for profit organisations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethnical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations".
In his words Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura the UNESCO Director General believes Civil society organisation play a crucial role in complimenting government programs as he puts it "UNESCO believes that Education for all ( EFA) will be achieved only if it is rooted in a broad-based societal movement and nourished by viable government/civil society partnerships. Our reasons are based on both principle and realism. The full achievement of the EFA goals requires that the marginalised and excluded are provided with Educational opportunities. Civil society organisations are more capable than other EFA partners of reaching the unreached and, especially in the area of non formal Education, they have devised methods and approaches which are more attuned to the needs and life-conditions of the poor", (Koïchiro Geneva, 2001). In the same presentation Mr. Matsuura further reasons that in most developing countries, the public authorities are not able to satisfy the demand for free and compulsory primary Education of good quality f
or all children. Although in Rwanda, we have registered big progress towards big enrollment in our primary Education/ Education for All than most countries in Sub- Saharan Africa, the involvement of local civil society organisation would come in handy towards achieving the quality of Education which we all crave for.
Government cannot do it alone, common sense dictates that involvement/promotion of Local Civil Society Organisations will compliment government efforts towards achieving both Education for all and quality Education. So given the complexities and challenges of achieving these two major variables in Education the involvement and strengthening of Local civil Society Organisations is both important and indispensable as embedded in the significant roles they play; Civil society organisations are able to improvise and work within available resources through Innovations; both quality Education and Education for all means the participation of all for a different kind of Education. The civil society will play a crucial role in improving content and methodologies, improvisation through experience sharing through seminars and workshops.
This reference can be supported by the report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, Learning: The Treasure Within (Paris, UNESCO Publishing, 1996), which underpins the importance of local community involvement in Education reforms and implementation. Over the years Civil society organisations have proved their role as innovators, as sources of new thinking and new practices and helped to move the EFA vision forward by responding to changing learning needs through diverse initiatives and critical analysis of existing concepts and practices. A Partnership with government, if the civil society organisation are empowered and encouraged in Education, just like they are vibrant in other sectors or other ministries, they could act as partners with the ministry concerned (ministry of Education in this case) to engage in meaningful and developmental Educational programs. Also the involvement of vibrant LCSOs in Education will help to bring the voices from the grass roots
into the policy dialogue, build on the local best practices, inspire local initiatives and promote the up scaling or mainstreaming of certain activities like integrating and helping in implementing government programs within local communities.
Once these LCSOs are facilitated and promoted, once they are vibrant and strong, they will in turn play a cascading effect on capacity building for example on teacher training programs which is presently one of the challenges that the ministry of Education faces. Other areas these CSOs would help in building capacities are; Education content, pedagogy, best management practices, implementation of government policies and participating in policy dialogue and information exchange.
All in all, given the acknowledgement of the strong and genuine role of the LCSOs, particularly the Professional associations, community-based groups and other local civil society organisations in identifying Education demands, helping in mobilising resources, their role in capacity building practices, participating in best management practices and monitoring the development of Education content, policy partners with governments decentralisation programs. It is important that the government, International Non-government Organisations ( INGOs) and other stake holders in Education who would like to fast track the quality of Education in Rwanda give all the necessary support to promote and mainstream LCSOs in our Education programs.
The writer is an Educationist, author and Publisher.