Community Mobilisation In Education

Kushal Pokharel

Mainstreaming the voices of community in education and governance system is high on the political agenda throughout the world. Despite the fact that community participation is integral to the success of education, the problem of empowering communities by promoting inclusion and accommodating diversity looms large. While there is no denying that community ownership ensures the sustainability of educational programmes and outcomes, a long term strategy to build a tripartite collaboration among the government, school and the community has remained long overdue.

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Similar thoughts were echoed in a gathering of more than 400 people at a Teach For All global conference in Kathmandu recently. With the motto of ‘Putting Community at the Centre’, the conference brought together educators, entrepreneurs and social activists to deliberate on the different aspects of community mobilisation and its potential challenges. Organised by Teach For All- a network of 48 independent, locally led and governed partner organisations in various countries working to end education inequity, the 3-ay conference called on the need of engaging local communities in equitable sharing of educational responsibilities and benefits. Teach For All envisions enabling all of the children in communities to have education, support and opportunity to carve a better future for themselves and all the world by 2040.
Highlighting the significance of multi-stakeholder mobilisation in education, the participants explored the strategies of networking and collaboration among the partner organisations. Partnership between kids and educators, capacitating students to have their say in education and governance system, developing a strong feedback mechanisms for improving the education quality, garnering support of the community leaders, fostering local entrepreneurship among students were some of the key areas of intervention identified. The focus was on reimagining education to embrace the aspirations of all stakeholders in education-- students, teachers, parents and the entire community.
The gathering shed light on the growing prominence of creating locally responsible citizens by imparting education based on local context. The meet reiterated on community investment to encourage students to embrace the values of self-awareness and social responsibility.
Meanwhile, majority of the participants argued for envisioning an education for children from the perspective of the community where they live. Shifting away from the centralised approach that is often lop-sided and exclusionary, redesigning the curriculum and pedagogy helps in enabling children to be a part of their community or culture.
Various aspects of community involvement in education need further explanation. One of the most important one refers to the engagement with power. Needless to say, the high-handedness of local elites in the community has stifled public education in our context. Educating the underprivileged and marginalised children have been challenging. Particularly, the retention of such students in the school has received severe setback due to the socio-economic context embedded in the power structure. Until recently, the stronghold of a local elite in the School Management Committee (SMC) resulted in the concentration of power in the hand of local leaders. Hence, figuring out a prudent way to bridge the differences with the authorities to promote collective leadership in the community will be useful.
Another dimension of mobilisation is concerned with the level of awareness and the diversity of people residing in community. In a community consisting of poverty-stricken population, sending children to school on a regular basis has looked extremely difficult. In a situation where the family needs the support of kids to earn their living, parents’ investment in education has remained shaky although the general awareness about the value of education is increasing.
Poverty, exacerbated by cast discrimination and ethnic and gender structures have complicated the issue. Nonetheless, the level of community knowledge and heir preferences also affect the educational outcomes. For instance, an inherent belief among the rural communities that educating a girl isn’t as important as boys have resulted in gender discrimination.
No less significant is the role of government in creating a vibrant local community that can be an instrument of transforming education. Developing knowledge and skills of the community to deal with the myriad of problems in education from teacher management to student retention demands the government to direct its efforts towards capacity building, training and community education.
Ranging from the participation in the designing of curriculum to recruitment and selection of teachers, meaningful engagement of community is desired. Establishing a transparent and accountable system within the community is a must to materialise the vision of the locally grounded education.
Instead of ‘working for’ students, ‘working with’ them have become more relevant. This requires creating mutually empowering spaces to deepen the dialogue on inventing new knowledge. Fostering trust across lines of differences to achieve the ultimate goal of education will be the key in heralding this shift. 

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