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Advocating for Quality Education: Munshiganj DPF Bridges the Gap between Guardians and Schools

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

As a mother of a young student, Najma Akter, didn’t know much about her role as a guardian with regard to how her child’s school operated. However, after attending the meetings and discussion sessions conducted by the Munshiganj District Policy Forum (DPF), she realised guardians could have a more active role in their kids’ education, especially with the help of the Social Accountability Tools (SATs) like Right to Information (RTI) or the Grievance Redress System (GRS).

“I used to feel very intimidated asking about my child’s lessons or about things that are going on at school. But now, I know there are several ways to address these concerns,” she said.

“It would be great if more interactive activities like campus dialogue could have been included in the activity plan,”- Najma Akter, a conscious guardian, talks about the guardian's role in the school committee.

Md. Aynal Haque Shopon, a member of two school committees, said the DPF is the first of its kind in Munshiganj. “Thanks to P4D, this forum informed many people about the SATs, especially RTI and Citizen’s Charter.” Shopon also said that the two schools where he is a committee member provided the guardians with the headmasters' phone numbers in order to ensure accountability and access to information.

“This is something that we had never done before and probably would never have done had it not been for the DPF campaign.”

The District Policy Forum is Platforms for Dialogue’s (P4D) newest initiative that works to strengthen civil society and government accountability mechanisms in Bangladesh using four key Social Accountability Tools (SATs) – Citizen’s Charter (CC), Right to Information (RTI), National Integrity Strategy (NIS), and Grievance Redress System (GRS). Funded by the European Union and in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh’s Cabinet Division, P4D has formed 12 DPFs in 12 of the country’s districts focusing on three crucial issues – quality education, child marriage, and health care in community clinics. DPFs aim to bring together both the local government representatives and the community leaders for a more collaborative and unified approach toward community development using the key SATs. The Munshiganj DPF decided to focus its work on quality education. “We chose to work on this issue as the UN announced this as the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4),” said the forum president, Khaleda Khanam (pictured above).

P4D District Facilitator Bibi Ayesha played a key role in forming the DPF, which is comprised of 20 members including teachers, lawyers, and local government representatives. The DPF members were selected from the representatives of district-based NGOs, CSOs, P4D partner CSOs, or members from the Multi-Actors Partnership (MAP) groups, among other certain criteria. In keeping with the requirement to have at least one member from the local government, Munshiganj DPF has the Panel Mayor and Councilor of the municipality, Sohel Rana as its Vice President. Apart from president Khaleda Khanam and Secretary Hamida Khatun, the DPF has four other women among its ranks.

A university student, Wasiur Rahman Brinto (pictured left) said he did not know about SATs before attending a DPF-led event. “The DPF helped us learn about Right to Information, which is a very powerful tool. The meetings and training sessions also spoke about other tools that citizens could use to their benefit.” Brinto thinks that the next generation will be a smart one who can address corruption effectively. “The government must include these tools in the national curriculum if it’s not already done.” Having participated in DPF events, Riazuddin Rayhan, a master’s student and founder of a civil society organisation, organised several workshops and training sessions to teach school children how to use different kinds of devices and online tools for learning.

P4D organised a 15-day online training programme for DPF members on advocacy and activism. During this time, DPF members also learned about their roles and responsibilities in ensuring quality education in the district. Based on that knowledge, they designed a six-month action plan beginning with a position paper by Ichhapura Government Model High School Headmaster, Nasir Uddin, which highlighted the challenges in schools in the district. DPF members then visited several schools including Ichhapura Government Model School, Malkhanagar High School, and Shonarong Government Pilot Model School in order to include teachers in their activities.

The district’s Secondary Education Officer, Md. Benjir Ahmed, was also present at a DPF meeting. He said,

“quality education is a great theme to work on. Most importantly, using the government’s own tools for activism is something quite novel and rather constructive.”

The DPF’s activities included several discussions and meetings to mark special observation days and a monthly forum meeting. However, the one event they are all proud of is the public hearing where general people spoke their minds in front of government officials and brought up their complaints, which was a rare opportunity. The meeting ended with a profound pledge.

The additional deputy commissioner, who was present, assured the DPF that he would be directly involved in ensuring three crucial initiatives — parent-teacher meetings, multimedia classes, and strong and effective school committees — to improve education quality.

DPF Secretary, Hamida Khatun, said the biggest challenge to ensuring quality education in districts like Munshiganj is that the guardians are not aware of their children’s education.

“You won’t get the desired result of your advocacy if most of the guardians are not aware of their rights as citizens and their children’s rights as pupils. That is something we are trying to change with our campaign,” she said.

Khatun pointed out that such initiatives take time to bear fruit.

Members of the DPF, however, are steadfast in their commitment to keep working to improve the quality of education in their district even after the P4D project ends. As stated in their own words,

“quality education is not a goal; rather, it’s a process.”

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Platforms for Dialogue and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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