Education is one of the most important weapon for change and development not only of the individual but of the society also. Not only that but the constitutional commitment of free and compulsory education to all children upto 14 years of age has made education a very important goal for all especially of the rural areas.
However, to achieve this priority objective especially in the rural areas, synchronizing the role of the service providers and the delivery mechanism at the grassroot level is very important to achieve maximum return. The Government of Nagaland has sought to do that through the communitisation of the education sector which is a partnership between Government and the community involving transfer of ownership of school facilities, control over service delivery, empowerment, decentralization, and delegation of responsibilities. It has been observed that communitisation has led to increase in school enrollment, reduction in school drop-outs, better attendance of teachers and improved school facilities which are the primary cause of concern especially Government managed schools both in the rural and urban areas. Communitisation of education has also given an opportunity to the community in the management, in investment and in owning the delivery of education.
If decentralization of authority from Government and making the community responsible for their own development is considered in development circles as the hallmark of “people’s empowerment” then it will be safe to say that communitisation in Nagaland is the ultimate end product of decentralization. And if grassroot level participation is the essence of democracy then the defining characteristic of communitisation is a unique partnership involving sharing of ownership between Government and the user community in the management of public institutions and delivery of their services.
All Government-run Primary and Middle Schools were “communitised” after the “Nagaland Communitisation of Public Services and Institutions Act,” transferring day-to-day management responsibilities of elementary schools in all aspects – academic, administrative and financial into the hands of the local community. The empowerment of the local community occurred at the most fundamental level of the Naga social fabric – the village.
Accordingly every village with a (communitised) Government school(s) **only primary and middle schools, it does not include high schools and above** set up a Village Education Committee (VEC), which was the legal authority to manage elementary education within its jurisdiction. Under the communitisation framework, a VEC constituted by the Village Council takes responsibility of the management and supervision of school(s) within its jurisdiction, including the implementation of a “No Work, No Pay” policy for errant teachers. The purpose and functions of the VEC range widely at the administrative, academic and financial levels. More specifically, in a human development context, ensuring universal enrolment and retention in schools of children up to age 14 or Class VIII is one of its key functions.
Administrative Academic & Financial Function of the VEC (village education committee)
#Ensure regular and effective running of schools.
#Ensure discipline and regularity of teachers by withholding pay or enforcing ‘No Work, No Pay’.
#Recommendations in transfer and retention of teachers.
#Construct and maintain school buildings.
#Compile and furnish annual reports of schools.
#Ensure universal enrollment and retention in schools children up to the age of 14 or class VIII.
#Ensure daily running of classes and implementation of annual plans.
#Make available free school uniforms, free text books and other learning materials.
#Receive grants from Government, generate resources and operate an education fund.
#Disburse monthly salary of teachers and other staff, deduct salary not due, based on a “No Work, No Pay” principle.
#Maintain proper accounts of income and expenditure, assets of the school.
#Get accounts audited and bring out authentic report of the same.
Constitution of the VEC (village education committee)
Since the primary objective of constituting VECs was to ensure the participation of the community and create within it a sense of ownership, the model incorporates diverse stakeholders as its members. This includes, besides a chairman elected by the Village Council, the following:
* Village Development Board (VDB) Secretary
* Head Teacher of the communitised school
* Three parents/guardian representative (with at least one woman)
* Two teacher representatives
* One Village Council member
* One representative from different church denominations in the village
* Two members from the village community (preferably an educationist, at least a woman nominated by the village community)
* Sub-Inspector of the school area
* Head teacher of the Government Middle School (GMS) or senior most teacher where GMS does not exist.
Members are enrolled for a term of three years, and meet at least once in three months. In cases where more than one village share a communitised middle school, a Common Education Committee (CEC), which include the VEC of the host village and three representatives from each VEC served by the school, is constituted.
The VEC was mandated by the Rules to open two bank accounts: a current account for salary transaction and a savings account for transactions related to the development fund. All grants by the State Government and other incomes are credited to the savings account. This includes funds for functions such as purchase of text books, furniture, construction of buildings and such. Since the entire amount for the school(s) are remitted to these accounts, the chance for leakage during financial transactions is greatly reduced.
The VEC accounts are subjected to an annual audit by a team instituted by the Government at the district level. The accounts are also open to internal audits by the State Government. An overall District Coordination Committee (DCC), at the district level, monitors and reviews the exercise of communitisation programme in the villages, as well as to improve upon its implementations.
It should be noted here that although through communitisation VECs undoubtedly form the basic building block of the programme, the overall charge of elementary education in the State rests with the Directorate of School Education, State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), and the Nagaland Board of Secondary Education (NBSE). Thus, an analysis of this communitisation model necessarily requires an examination of not only the role of community, but also – in equal measure – that of the State Government as an enabler.
The Communitisation Act came into being when the State’s education system was completely centralized. The State Government oversaw all responsibilities for running the system, placing a disproportionate amount of burden on its overworked State-level machinery. Responsibility and accountability was replaced by corruption and inertia. The transfer to a system of shared ownership with the community was a complete change; more so because it occurred at the most basic, village level through the VEC mechanism.
There are indications that the overall management of communitised schools are showing marked improvement through key indicators. Communities have been voluntarily contributing towards the management of local schools and positively involving themselves in the management of a public resource. The State Government also maintaining its upkeep through training and capacity building services. However, shortage of teachers in rural areas, remoteness of many villages, lack of transport and communication to many villages as well as the absence of an effective monitoring framework are denting its prospects and successes.