Case studies

SMC Exposes School Corruption

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In the village of Mansoora in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh, father of 5, Afsar, and his School Management Committee (SMC) are transforming their local school. Ever since he became SMC President, Afsar has been working with PACS and partner Shramik Seva Kendra to ensure that he and the other SMC members understand their roles and the responsibility they have to monitor and improve the education their children receive. As part of this, they have used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to expose the misuse of funds, ensuring that more money goes to running the school.

The role of a School Management Committee

Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, every school in India should have a School Management Committee (SMC). 75% of SMC members should be parents whilst the Head Teacher, other teachers, children and members of the local authority should also be involved.

It is the responsibility of a SMC to manage, monitor and support a school in its functioning, and to ensure that it is meeting requirements as outlined under the RTE Act. This includes making sure that all children get a free lunchtime meal as part of the government’s Midday Meal (MDM) scheme.

“Functioning SMCs have the ability to ensure that every child is attending school and receiving quality education, ensuring that government resources are utilised appropriately,” explains Satendra Kumar - District Coordinator for PACS partner Shramik Seva Kendra (SSK). “Unfortunately, because of the ignorance of parents and negligence of teachers, most SMCs are either inactive or don’t have the skills needed to realise their responsibilities.”

Building the capacities of SMCs

Through the PACS programme, SSK have been involved in building the capacities of SMCs, ensuring that all SMC members understand their responsibilities and those of other stakeholders under the RTE Act. Specifically, PACS partners like SSK have been focused on ensuring that community members from socially excluded groups are involved in SMCs.

In August 2013, PACS and its partners organised a SMC Sammelan (convention) in Lucknow to teach SMC members about their roles. Vehicles were hired to go around the villages making announcements and playing jingles about the SMC Sammelan. Representatives from SSK also visited the villages, including Mansoora.

Fatima is one of the Muslim SMC members in Mansoora village. “We are all illiterates,” she says. However, thanks to SSK’s work, she was empowered to stand for election on the SMC: “I realised we did not have to be educated to hold the school accountable for delivering quality education. We already knew what was wrong in our school; now we had a platform to voice our concerns and monitor service delivery.”

 Fatima is one of the female SMC members who has been empowered to take up this role thanks to the work of PACS and SSK.

Equipping parents to play an informed role

Even Asfar, the SMC President, didn’t want to be involved at the start: “I never gave schools a thought since I thought it was best left to teachers.” However, thanks to SSK's awareness raising programme, he became interested...

“All this whet my appetite to do something,” admits Asfar. “I liked the idea of our school supporting the natural curiosity of children, of our classrooms as centres for active learning, of our teachers as empowered community change agents, whilst us - the parents - equipped to play an informed role.”

Afsar began to attend the monthly meetings of the SMC members. “As I began to learn more, I realised many parents were members of the SMC and did not even know it!” he says. “So I began to orient them about the SMC.”

A month later, in September 2013, Afsar was unanimously elected as the President.

Demanding accountability

For Afsar, there was little time to waste. “The first thing I wanted to rectify was the running of Midday Meals in the school,” he says. There were rumours that the MDM scheme was not being run properly and that MDM funds were being misused.

“One day, I counted the children in the school and found there to be 75, not the 358 children shown enrolled in the school register,” recounts Afsar.

In his role as SMC President, Afsar was asked to counter-sign the cheques and so he knew the school was getting MDM funds for all 358 children. “Soon I released that the Head Master and other teachers were misusing these funds. I immediately demanded accountability, but they refused.”

 SMC President, Afsar, has had to struggle to fight corruption embedded in the system.

Highlighting discrepancies

Afsar took up these issues at the SMC meetings. Thanks to the work of SSK, the SMC members knew the correct procedure and agreed to call the Education Department to bring the discrepancies to light.

The Assistant Basic Shiksha Adhikari (ABSA) – a local government official responsible for elementary school education - was sent to investigate the problem. “The ABSA listened to my problem. He promised to do what he could to resolve the situation and left,” recalls Afsar. However, nothing happened.

Despite intimidation from the Head Master and the teachers who threatened to lock the school if the SMC didn’t stop the process, Afsar called the Education Department again. This time, the Basic Shiksha Adhikari (BSA) came. He counted the children in the school and found the attendance that day was only 67, not 358. He also checked the register of attendance and MDM records and found large discrepancies.

However, despite Afsar submitting memorandums to the ABSA, BSA and the District Magistrate, a month later nothing had moved on.

Submitting a Right to Information request

As a last resort, Afsar turned to SSK. They supported him to use the Right to Information (RTI) Act to request figures from the government on the amount of money provided to the school for MDM.

“I filed a Right to Information (RTI) on April 30 2014 and gave it to the Jan Soochna Adhikari [Public Information Officer] at the Block Resource Centre,”explains Afsar.

At the SMC meeting in June 2014, the results of the RTI application were shared with the Head Master and the other SMC members. Along with the records of attendance, this information proved that money had been provided to the school for MDM, but not all of it had been used for this purpose.

It was finally agreed that the Head Master would use the extra money for school development. “We ensured that the money was used for repairing and improving the kitchen floor, repairing the school gate, and other general improvements,” says Afsar.

In addition, SSK have been working with the SMC on the PACS Behatar Shiksha Haq Abhiyan – a campaign to increase school enrolment and attendance. A new list of school children enrolled has been drawn up - there are now 311 children on the register.

The MDM supplies also now come from a reliable grocer and Afsar takes personal responsibility for the quality and quantity of the lunches.

As SMC member Rehana says, “Now no one – parents and teachers alike - can run away from their responsibility.”

 Thanks to Afsar and the SMC, students at the school in Mansoora Village are now able to study in a better environment... long may the school continue to improve!

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