UNICEF Improving Classrooms With Smart Data

How user-friendly data is mobilising communities for better quality education.

The Ministry of General Education with support from UNICEF, are developing school profile cards, which will give a detailed overview of the challenges schools are facing, mapping out where needs are greatest. With this relevant and user friendly data, the cards will help school leaders to identify gaps and track progress, while giving parents the information they require to demand a better eduction for their children. 

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Elvin Musonda is a parent who has been at the forefront of pushing for better education in Zambia. Elvin grew frustrated with Zambia’s education system as he witnessed the deteriorating quality of his youngest child’s education. His children attend Malama Primary School in Zambia’s Northern Province, which caters for around 3,000 learners yet receives as little as 1 Kwacha (US $0.08) per child per year in government funding. “When I went to school, things were quite different. The school provided everything for us and there were only 35 students per class,” he stated. “Now, there are up to 100 students in a class. Teachers focus on fast learners and most children feel neglected,” he continued. 

The school profile card’s will paint a more objective picture of how schools are doing in comparison to others. With data at a glance parent, parents can see that the learning outcomes in Malama Primary for English, science and maths are well below those of other schools in the district. The school needs more classrooms, desks, toilets and textbooks. 

Aware of the pressing challenges at Malama Primary, the Parent Teacher Association called for an extraordinary meeting, with nearly 800 parents showing up. 

At the meeting, Elvis used school profile cards to help parents understand what was in the way of their children’s learning. Although parents had a sense of existing limitations, being shown a picture of exactly how many classrooms, desks and toilets are available per child was a true eye opener. 

“For a total of 3,400 children, there are only six toilets for boys and eight for girls, which means there is always a long queue - and children are late for class. Also, there are only 13 classrooms for over 3,000 students, which impacts the quality of learning.” 

Parents were shocked at the statistics and realised the magnitude of the problem. The Parent Teacher Association has responded by writing 37 letters to political leaders and businesses in the district, requesting support.

Progress is on the way. Since parents mobilised on behalf of children, two new classrooms have been completed. 

School profiles are part of the Data Must Speak initiative, supported by UNICEF in eight countries across the globe, and adopted by the Ministry of General Education in Zambia. Extracts and images taken from original article by UNICEF

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