“There is a lack of awareness regarding the school budget in the community; even I myself have learned some new facts regarding school budgeting at the town hall meeting today. While more than 90% of parents are completely unaware of it. Both monitoring the use of the funds from the school budget and informing the relevant stakeholders about the whole process are crucial in this context.”
– Jahir Ali, the Headmaster of Sreemangal Govt. Girls’ High School, expressed his view at the Town Hall meeting in Moulvibazar.
In order to initiate equitable and quality education, the allocation and management of school budgets play a pivotal role. However, in reality, parents and school authorities often fail to collaborate due to multidimensional barriers. This has led to resources not being optimally utilized for the betterment of schools. It is important to empower communities for inclusive school budgeting, ensuring that education truly serves as the great equalizer.
Recognizing the importance of this issue, IID has embarked on a mission to democratize the school budgeting process by arranging town hall meetings at the community level. Following the previous town hall in December 2022, this year, on August 28, 2023, collaborating with MSEDA in Sreemangal and USS in Saghata, IID arranged two town hall meetings again, where stakeholders reassembled to assess progress and plan according to the local context. In total, 74 participants, including local policymakers, government officials, parents, SMC members, CSOs, CBOs, journalists, enthusiastic youths, and student council representatives, took part in two meetings.
The Upazila Assistant Education Officer of Saghata, Mr. Md. Mamunur Rashid said, “There is a lack of awareness among the general public about the education budget. It is also true that the School Managing Committee (SMC) of a school has only parent members who are known as public representatives. Unfortunately, even those who are added to this committee, do not want to participate voluntarily in the school meetings.”
The town hall meetings provided a platform for candid discussions on pressing issues in school budgeting. To ensure the budget is allocated effectively, participants discussed issues like the necessity of routine meetings between teachers, School Managing Committee (SMC) members, and parents. They emphasized the importance of collaborative budget formulation, which entails teachers, parents, and SMC members identifying the school’s needs collectively.
The participants also pondered over why some parents do not attend meetings despite being aware of it, and the solution was to make school authorities more accommodating to parents’ convenience. Mr. Md. Alauddin, Headmaster of MR. Khan Tea Garden School, said, “There are many parents who can talk and give good advice and opinions. But they cannot attend the meeting as they are busy with their profession or work. So it is important to set a convenient date.”
Moreover, a consensus emerged regarding the necessity of creating annual development plans to enhance the quality of education and school facilities. The Upazila Chairman of Sreemangal, Mr. Bhanu Lal Roy, said, “As the president of the Upazila Education Committee, I am committing to take appropriate initiatives to ensure budget transparency for every school.”
In closing, the town hall meetings concluded with a resounding commitment to the cause of inclusive school budgeting. Participants unanimously agreed to engage in continuous dialogues involving teachers, parents, and SMC members to ensure prudent budget allocation. These committed individuals also agreed to prioritize transparency by posting budgets on school notice boards, encouraging parents to provide feedback, and conducting monthly parent assemblies and courtyard meetings to enhance parental involvement.
IID organized the town hall meetings as part of its e!quality initiative with support from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).