Schools should serve the interests of the communities in which they sit. All too often however they provide a take-it-or-leave-it service oblivious to the views and desires of parents. The parents themselves are not well-equipped, through lack of knowledge, poverty or low social standing, to make demands on schools.
Engaging with communities is an important element of any school improvement programme – gaining parental support will help to drive up standards. Typically, this involves creating and working with school management committees, making them more representative and improving their capacity for oversight. The engagement of other community groups to address issues such as girls’ education and out-of-school children is also a crucial element.
Community engagement can be a challenge for international consultants such as Cambridge Education. Schools and communities are by their nature dispersed and effective engagement takes time. By working with local NGO partners with established links in the relevant localities, we have been able to overcome many of these difficulties and reach these hard-to-reach populations. A necessary component of our programmes which involve community engagement is therefore capacity development for civil society organisations – to strengthen them organisationally and build their capability to operate effectively.