On November 13, 2017, the National Advocacy Committee for Public Policy (NAC-PP) held its first Education Sub-Committee round table to discuss objectives and strategy for this specific sub-committee, and identify possible collaboration and coordination between different civil society organizations which work on education in Afghanistan. The event was organized by Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (APPRO), the Secretariat of NAC-PP, following the NAC-PP Stakeholders Conference on October 12, 2017 in Continental Hotel.
Nine civil society organizations attended this roundtable discussion: Afghan Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation (AABRAR) Peace Training and Research Organization (PTRO), Afghan Youth New Era Organization (AYNEO), The Afghan National Association for Adult Education (ANAFAE) Organization for Harm Reduction in Afghanistan (OHRA), Women Participation Promotion Organization (WPPO) The chair of NAC-PP was also present.
Introduction and Presentation of Education Sub-Committee
APPRO’s Research Project Manager, Ehsan Saadat, opened the meeting with a presentation which included a brief introduction to NAC-PP, its background, structure, objectives and scope of work, followed by explaining the advantages of NAC-PP, specifically the Education Sub-committee. Those advantages include:
· Critical Mass and collective voice
· Effective advocacy based on evidence
· Protection due to critical mass
· Shared platform or better outreach
· Collective learning or professionalization
· More equal state-civil society relations and dialogue
· More access to state authorities
· More likely to influence policy process
The presentation continued with an introduction to Education Sub-Committee mandate which is to facilitate evidence-based constructive advocacy by civil society organizations to initiate an inclusive, ongoing dialogue between state and non-state actors to collaborate and explore possibilities of inclusive and quality education in Afghanistan. The presentation concluded with a summary of relevant legislative documents on education and threats to quality education.
During the discussion the participants discussed the most urgent issues regarding education in Afghanistan and possible advocacy strategies to address them. The participants acknowledged that there was a need for civil society organizations to share their existing capacity and resources and collaborate, through the NAC-PP platform, for the better implementation of the Afghan government’s policies for education.
Issues discussed included the need for a solid evidence base to support advocacy and engaging with policy makers. All those present recognized that the advocacy efforts needed to be coordinated from the local, grassroots level to the national level through well defined and functioning structures such as the district, provincial, and national advocacy committees under NAC-PP.
Effecting positive change in the education system in Afghanistan is a lengthy process and will require fully functioning structures at all levels, from district to national, for civil society and state authorities to engage, establish priorities, and work together to bring about change – Ahmad Shaheer Anil, APPRO’s Executive Director.
Participants pointed to persistent and structural challenges in the public education system including poor or nonexistent facilities and equipment, long delays in distribution of textbooks, long distances between home and school, administrative delays and corruption, lack of qualified male and female teachers, and high dropout rates particularly for girls at higher grades.
Some participants suggested that the strategy for the Education Sub-committee needed to have a strong media engagement component as a means to raise public awareness and create momentum for change. Another key area of focus was corruption. It was reported that, according to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Ministry of Education was the second most corrupt public institution in Afghanistan. The participants agreed that the strategy of the Education Sub-committee needed to identify specific areas activities against corruption. The next NAC-PP Assembly planned on November 30, 2017 will be used as a forum in which the issue of corruption across all sectors will be discussed and strategies developed.
The second part of the meeting was dedicated to answering key questions on developing a strategy for the Education Sub-committee. The answers provided by the participants will be used by APPRO as the Secretariat of NAC-PP to sketch out a draft strategy for discussion at the next meeting of the Education Sub-committee. This draft strategy will be sent to all sub-committee members in the next few days.
At the end of the meeting it was announced that APPRO will be conducting a certified course on policy and institutional analysis in December 2017. Members of Education sub-committee were invited to apply.