Shortage of classrooms had always been a big problem at Linthipe Primary School in Salima District in Malawi. To address this problem, in 2015, parents mobilized themselves and engaged a contractor to undertake the construction works. Unfortunately, the contractor abandoned work before completion but after receiving payment.
Following training by Africa Freedom of Information Centre(AFIC) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation(CHRR) on access to information and open contracting, a community monitor who happened to be a member of the School’s Parents’ Teachers Association (PTA) shared outcomes of the training with other members of PTA.
The PTA called for a meeting involving their Member of Parliament, Parents, PTA and the contractor. At the meeting, they demanded that the contractor completes the work or refund the money advanced. The contractor opted to refund 200,000 MKC, following which a new contractor was engaged to complete work on the abandoned two classroom block.
Upon completion, these brought the number of classroom at the school to six. 6 school buildings and accommodates about 100 pupils, the school in total has a population of more than 2000 pupils others sit under the trees on bricks. Before the construction of this school structure, parents realized the need for more school buildings, and started by collecting funds towards the construction of the school. However the contractor who was given the job, for 4 years, did not complete the job and run away from the community. Following the training on monitoring, the monitors realized the abandoned structure, and demanded for the search of the contractor, who was found and forced to return the given funds which he did and another contractor was hired to complete the job. Now the classroom is being used by 100 pupils.
The completion of the two classroom block was very important because the school has a big enrollment of 2000 pupils and only six classrooms, a ratio of 1:333 pupils per class!. In such a resource constrained environment additional classrooms is a big relief for pupils, teachers and parents. Hitherto, community members felt powerless to challenge the contractor and to get their Member of Parliament pay attention to their problem. Their ability to set the agenda on resolving this situation was quite reinvigorating.
The project identified, trained and deployed ten community monitors to track the implementation of projects within their community. It also assisted in identifying needed information, duty bearers and strategies to engage them.
A critical learning from this experience is that access to information and building capacities of local community members, is critical for effective demand for accountability and service delivery. Secondly, we learn that there are many abandoned projects worth million sof dollars yet nothing is being done about them due to lack of citizens access to information and participation. Critically, when citizen are empowered service delivery improves.