After a decade of civil war and political violence, corruption has pervaded almost every sector of public life, with a system of patronage well entrenched in society. Among the other major factors, pervasive corruption in all public sectors hindered citizens’ ability to provide effective oversight to the government’s services.
Examples of corruption in education abound. Academic fraud, for instance, is rife and is regarded as a serious threat to integrity and reliability of certification in secondary education. Procurement wastage in the education sector, including school buildings, false maintenance costs and text books paid for but never received, costs the public dearly. And “ghost” or absentee teachers who feature on the list of active teachers in schools are a huge drain on parent’s funds (school fees in DRC are paid by parents). As a result, educational performance among the poorest populations is severely hampered and the system’s ability to deliver is harmed.
To solve this problem, the Centre de Recherche sur l’Anti-Corruption has established a system of integrity clubs; which cover a population of 130,000 in the territory of Uvira. CERC is the Congolese civil society organization that engage citizens to fight against corruption. It brings people together to end the devastating impact of corruption on men, women, and children in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The transparency may be the first casualty of corruption but integrity runs it a close second . Where access to services provided by the government have all fallen apart, Children are left vulnerable, unsafe and without future. Children already stressed by violence and poverty can be fragmented by corruption that never finds practical solutions. In such situations, funds dedicated to the construction and maintenance of education infrastructures, roads and hospitals in post-conflict villages are often lost due to fraud, corruption and mismanagement depriving children to gain the skills they need to secure their future.
Based on the model of the School Parliament, each Integrity Club is led by a panel of democratically elected community monitors and aims to monitor the progress of education services and development projects within their own communities. Outcomes may include improving the quality of infrastructures, access to information and users participation. There are now 20 integrity clubs in the territory. Integrity Clubs have had the unexpected benefit of giving local schoolchildren more status and voice in their communities.
For Yvette Rosalive Meucca, an Integrity Club leader, “the Integrity Club saved her life”.
Once formed in January 2018 by the CERC, a group of community monitors began monitoring the delivery of education services at their “Itara Institute” school in Luvungi. During the monitoring, they discovered that their school did not meet the minimum standards of education. Because the toilets and some classrooms were insufficient compared to the number of students enrolled. This means that some students are sitting at 3 or 4 on the same desk, reaching 70 or 90 students in a classroom built for only 50 students. In some classrooms, when it rained, water were pouring into the students. This situation means that classes have been interrupted until the end of the rain. In addition, there were only three toilets for 590 students.
Community monitors decided to act. They contacted the Headmaster but failed to convince him to build new toilets and classrooms. Then they decided to bring together all the key stakeholders to raise awareness on the issues in order to find consensual solutions. During meetings, they managed to convince school officials to build extra toilets and classrooms.
In October 2018, the new classrooms were completed and the construction of a block of 8 lattrines is under construction. While the school continues fundraising to rehabilitate other classrooms.
In this case, the Integrity Club succeeded in providing timely, locally and adapted solutions to the local problems, which prevented diseases and danger. While Integrity Clubs are not intended to replace the inspection services of the Ministry of Education, they clearly save lives and protect young schoolchildren.