My Rights, My Voice

Ethnic minority children take part in projects in Sa Pa, Vietnam. Credit: Oxfam Vietnam

While most children in Vietnam attend school, there are issues with the quality of the education system and with equitable access to education among different groups of children and young people. At the same time, there are few opportunities for dialogue between schools, local authorities, students and their parents, and limited opportunities to hold decision makers accountable for how they deliver education services, particularly for ethnic minorities.

Helping students understand their rights

Oxfam has implemented an education governance project in Vietnam since 2012. The project focuses on children and young people as dynamic forces who can transform their own lives, and the lives of their families and communities. It aims to empower students – in particular girls and ethnic minority students – to understand their rights and creates opportunities for them to communicate with education decision makers so they can help shape an education that meets their needs. The project also provides an opportunity to support good governance and accountability in public education.

Oxfam works with 18 schools in the provinces of Lao Cai, Dak Nong and Ninh Thuan – home to many ethnic minority groups – in collaboration with the Vietnamese NGO Live & Learn, provincial Departments of Education and Training, People’s Councils and the Women’s and Youth Unions. It is also part of Oxfam’s global “My Rights, My Voice” programme implemented in eight countries across the world.

Communicating needs and claiming rights

Our emphasis on education governance differs from traditional service delivery projects in several ways. First, Oxfam aims to build awareness among children – especially girls – of their rights. Through capacity building events in schools and local communities, children learn life skills such as teamwork, communication, presentation, leadership and negotiation, enabling them to express their needs and claim their rights with teachers and authorities.

The project focuses on building capacity in a fun and interactive way. This includes organising summer camps, fairs and dialogue forums where children deliver their messages to teachers, education managers and policy makers creatively through art, theatre and song.

Evaluations show that students’ understanding of their rights has increased significantly in all three project provinces – jumping for example from 4.5 percent in 2012 in Lao Cai to 80 percent in 2013. Ethnic minority children have also become more confident in communicating their needs and aspirations to teachers, parents, local authorities and public audiences.

Creating space for discussion

Oxfam helps to create space for children and their parents to interact with teachers, education managers and local authorities. This includes training school managers in communication and participatory planning that involves children and parents, and promoting child-centred teaching. In addition, the project organises policy dialogues between schools and district authorities on adapting teaching and budgets to better reflect local children’s needs.

Ensuring social accountability

Oxfam helps to strengthen the ability of national networks and civil society organisations to promote social accountability in education. The project team has, for example, worked with civil society organisations and government ministries to revise the Law on Child Protection, Care, and Education to include stronger provisions for children’s right to participation in matters affecting them and to develop a national programme on promoting child participation.

Based on many activities and lessons learnt, Oxfam has developed a model of effective school governance, which can be used to replicate good practices. Among the novel activities pioneered by the project are communication festivals, peer-to-peer training, and clubs for young journalists. Televised child forums, photography exhibitions and school mailboxes have also provided mechanisms for discussion, feedback and child consultation. Finally, game shows on child rights have helped to educate students and their parents and strengthen their presentation skills, while a ‘question bank’ on rights has proved a valuable resource for teachers, parents, children and project partners.

Future directions

Building on the success and achievement of the “My Rights, My Voice” project, Oxfam is expanding our efforts to build active citizenship among youth, to increase civic awareness of their roles and responsibilities in contributing to an inclusive and sustainable society.

Details

Project: Promoting social accountability in the education sector

Location: Lao Cai, Dak Nong and Ninh Thuan provinces, national-level advocacy

Time frame: 2012- 2015, project in development from 2016 onwards.

Funding: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Beautiful Store (Korea), Oxfam core funding.